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Brian Dawkins selected to Pro Football Hall of Fame


MINNEAPOLIS --While the wait goes on for John Lynch, it ended Saturday for Brian Dawkins.

Dawkins was selected as one of five modern-era inductees to the Pro Football Hall of Fame class of 2018, giving him a fitting reward for a 16-season career in which he earned nine Pro Bowl selections -- including two with the Broncos -- and four first-team All-Pro nods.

One of the game's best defensive weapons during his years on the field, Dawkins melded instinctive pass defense with in-the-box thumping as well as any player in the modern era.

A member of the All-Decade team for the 2000s, Dawkins is one of four players in league history to post at least 25 sacks and 30 interceptions in his career. One of the other three players, Baltimore's Ray Lewis, will join Dawkins in the 2018 class.

After 13 seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles -- who have since retired No. 20 in his owner -- Dawkins jumped to the Broncos as a free-agent signee in 2009. He immediately made an impact and had a late-career renaissance with the Broncos, earning a second-team All-Pro selection and a Pro Bowl nod for his 2009 performance.

"It [was] a blessing for them to open the door the way they opened the door for me when I got here, knowing that I was a guy coming off my 13th year and a lot of people were saying at the time I should retire then," Dawkins said in 2012 as he reflected on his Broncos years.

"They gave me that opportunity to come here and just be me. It [was] a blessing to be able to play for another organization that, to be honest with you, I feel loves me, and that's what you really want as a player, somewhere you really feel appreciated. I really felt appreciated."

A team captain throughout his three seasons with the Broncos, Dawkins returned to the Pro Bowl after the 2011 season before he announced his retirement after 16 pro seasons.

Dawkins will become the first pure safety to have played in the last 30 seasons inducted into the Hall of Fame. Last year, the Hall selected Seattle's Kenny Easley, a Seniors Committee nominee whose career ended after the 1987 season.

Easley and Dawkins give the Hall safeties in consecutive years for the first time since 1978-79, when Larry Wilson of the St. Louis Cardinals and the Detroit Lions' Yale Lary -- who was also a punter -- were a part of successive classes.

The addition of Easley and Dawkins to the Hall's ranks represents a good pair of steps toward ensuring the safety position is properly represented in Canton. But with Lynch, Steve Atwater and others still waiting for their chance, there is a long way to go.

"We'll see," Dawkins said. "It's just frustrating for me, because I think what has happened with the safety position, I believe that everybody that has basically started to quote the same things: 'Last line of defense,' [and] 'He's an eraser of mistakes.' Well, there are a lot of safeties that are way more than that, and I consider myself to be one of those individuals -- game-changers. So we have game-changers that are still waiting in the [wings] right now.

"A guy that I model my game after in Darren Woodson, he was a game-changer for the Dallas Cowboys; he won himself a couple of Super Bowls. Hopefully the narrative begins to change and we look more at the effect they had on games, not just as a center fielder. You can put anybody in center field. But it takes a special guy to be able to change games on a consistent basis, and I believe a lot of those guys who are still waiting did that."

Lynch was passed over for induction despite being a finalist for a fifth consecutive year.

With Dawkins joining the Hall, Lynch becomes the only defensive player with at least nine Pro Bowl selections and two All-Pro appearances eligible for induction who is not a part of the Hall of Fame. Lynch is also the only player to earn at least four Pro Bowl selections with two different teams who is not in the Hall.

Lynch is a member of the Broncos Ring of Fame and Buccaneers Ring of Honor, making him one of the few players to be a part of two teams' elite collection of players.

He was one of the pillars of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' dominant defenses in the late 1990s and early 2000s before being released in 2004 after 11 seasons with that team.

During Lynch's first three seasons in orange and blue, the Broncos allowed fewer touchdown passes than all but one other team (Baltimore). Teams didn't want to throw at Champ Bailey on the outside and didn't want to test Lynch across the middle; together they made Denver's defense one of the most feared in football.

But Lynch's contributions to outstanding defenses with two teams were not enough to push him over the goal line and into the Hall of Fame this year.

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