During Brett Brown’s tenure with the 76ers, numerous guests with powerful backstories and messages have been invited to address the team.
Tuesday, one of the most iconic, beloved figures in Philadelphia sports history joined the list, as former Eagles safety Brian Dawkins met with the club for about half an hour prior to its final practice ahead of Wednesday’s pre-season opener.
The All-Pro, whose No. 20 jersey was retired by the Birds five years ago, held a captive audience inside the players lounge of the Sixers’ training complex, where players, coaches, and front office staff gathered alike to listen.
The speech focused mainly on the role that faith, character, and accountability have played in Dawkins’ life, and career.
“He’s a man’s man,” Brett Brown said of Dawkins Tuesday. “The attitude, the toughness, the teammateship, the healthy lifestyle, the commitment to his organization, where do you stop?”
Over the course of his talk, Dawkins stressed the importance of hard work, and the responsibilities that come along with being a professional athlete, especially in a city as passionate as Philadelphia. He pointed to parallels between the rise of the Eagles to perennial Super Bowl contender during the early 2000s, and the current state of the Sixers.
“To me, there are some similarities, what you guys are starting up right now,” Dawkins told the Sixers players seated before him. He then issued a challenge to the group.
“Going forward, it’s up to you. It’s up to you then to decide what direction this is going to be.”
Dawkins’ remarks hit home with a big NFL fan who grew up across the state.
“He’s obviously one of the best to do it,” said Pittsburgh native T.J. McConnell. “You’re kind of in awe to see how humble and how hard he worked. It makes you open your eyes, and show how hard you have to work to be great.”
Among the final words that Dawkins left the Sixers with were these:
“I don’t want to encourage you, I don’t want just inspire you, come here and be hyped for a practice or two, or the first couple of games. I’m talking about when the season is in the grind…will you remember this conversation, and will you have these conversations amongst yourselves during that time, of remembering where you came from. Because having goals and aspirations are wonderful, but if I’m not willing to consistently put in the work, have the conversations, hold one another accountable, it will not work. It’ll be just another dream.”
Dawkins, now 43, currently serves as the Executive Director of Football Operations for Player Development with the Eagles.
Said Brown, “You want to chose somebody that can best reflect what we’re trying to do here, and the spirit at which we want to approach things – compete and play, bring the city along with us, have the style of play mirror the personality of the city – he’s a heck of a spokesman to be able to share stories to our young guys. We’re just grateful for him giving his time, his message was timely, and we appreciate him and the Eagles allowing all of this to happen.”
Check out the podcast below for to hear an interview with Dawkins, in which he discusses his visit with the Sixers, his thoughts on the team, and the Eagles’ early-season success.