Brian Dawkins, beloved former Eagle, will be handed a gold jacket and enshrined in history this weekend when the Pro Football Hall of Fame welcomes its 2018 class on Saturday night.

After being selected in the second round of the 1996 draft, the nine-time Pro Bowler spent 13 of his 16 years in the NFL in Philadelphia. Dawkins is still the only defensive player in league history to record 25 or more interceptions, sacks and forced fumbles.

Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie unabashedly calls Dawkins "probably my favorite player of all time."

"He had a love for the game of football, and everything around it," Lurie said. "He shared that love with the fans, and they gave their love to him. You could almost feel it shifting back and forth between them during a game."

Dawkins suddenly left Philly after the 2008 season, even though he wanted to stay. He moved on to Denver, where he spent three more seasons before his career ended. His number was retired by the Eagles in a ceremony in September 2012.

Despite the messy end in Philly. Dawkins has made peace with it all. Paul Domowitch details how the legendary safety felt then, and how he feels now.

Brian Dawkins and his wife Connie have been married for 24 years.
Phelan M. Ebenhack / AP
Brian Dawkins and his wife Connie have been married for 24 years.

Brian and Connie

"There was a lot of pressure on him after he was drafted by the Eagles," Connie Dawkins, Brian's wife of 24 years, said recently.

But just how much? At times, Dawkins considered suicide. He said he came "very, very, very, very" close to ending his life.

Without Connie, he might not be here today. That's what Dawkins' former coach Andy Reid thinks.

"I think there was a point in his life when he was young when he was going in the wrong direction," he said. "She kind of straightened him out. He owes quite a lot to her."

Read Domowitch's story on what Brian was going through and how he relied on his wife and the mother of his children.

The hardest season

In April 2007, Brian and Connie's twin girls were born premature. Offseason training took a backseat to making dinner and picking up the two elder kids. And it showed once the games started. But Dawkins' worst season was an outlier, and it tells you about the type of man he is, as Mike Sielski explains.

The men who shaped Dawkins

Where would Dawkins be without Emmitt Thomas and Jim Johnson?

Thomas, the Eagles defensive coordinator when Dawkins was drafted, was like a surrogate father.

"He wanted me to do things great on a consistent basis, because he saw that in me. I didn't see that but he did," Dawkins said recently.

When Thomas was let go, he left behind a player who was ready to be molded. Enter Johnson.

"Brian was like wet cement to Jim,'' said former Eagles cornerback Troy Vincent. "He was able to mold him based on what he saw (from opposing offenses) and what he felt Brian could do."

Dawkins might not be in the Hall of Fame without the education Thomas and Johnson provided.

More Dawkins stories

• Where did it all get started? Yancey Park in Jacksonville, Florida. But back then, playing at the park around the corner from his childhood home, Dawkins wasn't a safety. He was a center. And he hated it.

• Dawkins shared earlier this year that he'd be leaving his post in the Eagles' organization to pursue a new adventure: "I just started getting a calling to step out in a bold way to bless people on a grand scale," he said.

• Dawkins had an important role in the Eagles' pursuit of their first Super Bowl win, working with players throughout the season to improve.

"Brian hasn't tried to overstep his boundaries, but he pulls guys aside and constantly gives us tips on how we can improve our game," safety Malcolm Jenkins said in February.

About the ceremony

The enshrinement ceremony begins at 7 p.m. on Saturday night. You can watch on the NFL Network and on ESPN.

• If you're going to Canton, you'll be able to see a handful of special Philly artifacts in the Hall's gallery: the ball Nick Foles caught during the "Philly Special" play during the Super Bowl is on display, along with a real-life Eagles championship ring.

Terrell Owens’ Hall of Fame ceremony

Terrell Owens is (finally) in the Hall. Domowitch dives into what went differently this time around. Let's just say T.O. owes a big thank you to Jeff Garcia.

On Saturday, Brian Dawkins will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Want to thank him for the memories? Share with us your message for or about the Eagles legend and we'll feature the best on Philly.com. Email your messages — and photos in your Dawkins gear — to us at audience@philly.com.