By Ryan Penagos*
Photos by Burke Loxley
There's a beast on the loose. An animal unleashed. He stalks his prey ruthlessly and without hesitation. Most football fans know him as Brian Dawkins, free safety for the Philadelphia Eagles. But if you ask him, he's the NFL's very own Wolverine—Weapon X—an unstoppable force of nature.
And now, thanks to the folks at the NFL, ESPN and Marvel, his vision of becoming the razor-clawed mutant who's "the best there is at what he does" has come just a bit closer to reality.
ESPN, working with the Philadelphia Eagles, the NFL and Marvel, tapped superstar Marvel artist John Romita Jr. to create a few drawings of the 'Ol Canucklehead in Dawkins-esque positions—his signature on-field entrance pose and tackling a hapless opponent. ESPN filmed JRJR at the Marvel offices as he gave life to the drawings and then hoofed it to Philly to show Dawkins the goods. The complete segment will be shown on ESPN Monday Night Football, Monday September 17!
We hung out Drew Gallagher and the good folks at ESPN while they were in the Marvel offices and they later gave us a taste of just how dedicated Dawkins is to his man Wolverine.
"The reason why I became a fan of Wolverine," says the footballer, pausing, "if you're able to check him out, you'll understand. First of all, he's not that big in stature. Maybe 5'4" at the most. But when it comes to anything that has to go down, he's going to be the first one in line. He doesn't hold back punches, as a matter of fact, he has sort of a dark side to him. Along with his senses and his claws, he has to be in close proximity to get down. So it's basically, you know, he has to be right up on you to use his powers against you. And his power is just brute strength. He's ferocious. And he never stops. Very seldom do you ever see him get tired, even when he's getting whooped. At some point, he's going to continue to get up, he's never going to stay down. So there's a lot of reasons I like him. And I kind of try to emulate myself after him."
And while Marvel fans are more than a little familiar with Wolverine's origins and identity as Weapon X, they'll find a kindred spirit in Dawkins, the NFL's Weapon X.
My locker started with a couple of Wolverine/Weapon X figurines," he says, assuring all that they're definitely not dolls. "I started off with a couple of them and then fans start sending them. I guess it was in a write-up somewhere that I was a fan, so fans began to send in comic books. Even my kids now, when they go to the toy store now with their mom and I'm not there, they'll look to see if there's a Wolverine that I don't have. And they'll buy it for me and I'll put it up in the locker."
And when Dawkins gets on the field, more than just a little of that Wolverine spirit flows through him. "When I step on the football field, I'm so excited, so prayed up. I'm so anxious to do something on that doggone football field that whatever I feel like doing I do. I don't hold back any punches. If I feel like dancing, I'm going to dance. If I feel like celebrating after a hit I'm going to celebrate. Whatever I feel like doing I feel like doing on the football field, so I just completely turn into a different person when I touch that field. Not that I am invincible, but because I am so prayed up I feel like there is nothing on that field I can't do."
For the full piece and more on Dawkins, check out ESPN Monday Night Football. And take a gander at more behind-the-scenes photos of JRJR with the ESPN crew below.
*Extra special thanks to Drew Gallagher, ESPN, ESPN.com, Brian Dawkins, the NFL, the Philadelphia Eagles and John Romita Jr!