By Antoinette Colon

Connection Staff

It was a positive message that Philadelphia Eagle Brian Dawkins delivered on March 7.

Dawkins, the keynote speaker at the TriCounty Area Chamber of Commerce annual dinner, described what dedication, hard work and perseverance can yield. He shared what he has learned from being an NFL football player and a man of God.

With its recent five-star accreditation, which places the chamber among only 332 other chambers of commerce across he U.S. with the same rating, TriCounty staff had much to celebrate this year.

Co-sponsored by Cabot Supermetals, Exelon Nuclear and National Penn Bank, the annual celebration highlighted the 2005 Ambassador of the Year and 2005 Volunteer of the Year awards.

Dawkins spoke about his early years in the game of football. "I didn't play football 'till I was 13 [years old]. I hated football - I loved basketball. But I stopped growing and my right hand grew bigger than my left, so everyone knew I would dribble right."

Dawkins joined the game that has shaped him as a person. He spoke of the dedication, commitment, confidence and hard work.

Dedication was mentioned when his father taught him the lesson to never quit. "I did not want to block or play center. I wanted to quit and my dad said, 'No, you are gonna finish what you started'," Dawkins said. "Then the next year I played running back and kept getting hurt. Finally I got on the defensive line and could now deliver the punishment rather than receive it."

The burn of the soles of his feet after running miles as punishment for dropping the football during a drill would infuriate Dawkins. But his high school coach was trying to help the players develop a work ethic he only now understands.

"The coach didn't want us to be the ones to get tired in the fourth quarter. We won the state championship because of it," he said.

Realizing a grade point average of 1.6 was not going to get him a football scholarship, Dawkins became committed to his studies by getting a tutor to supplement his regular studies.

His zest for life is apparent when he candidly describes how he defeats nervousness with his overwhelming excitement for the game.

"I have to take pills before big games to sleep because I can't get any rest," Dawkins said. "I don't want to be a decent, pretty good or great player. I want to be better than that. It's not about who gets the glory but a level of norm that is excellent."

Talk of becoming a minister was shared during a question and answer portion of Dawkins speech. Dawkins referred to how blessed he was as a man to have all he has in this world, including his family.

The heartfelt mention of his wife and two children warmed the audience.

Although Dawkins doesn't encourage his son to play football yet, this is only because he didn't start young and turned out OK. "I won't not let him play, but right now he needs to learn the technique without the contact. I know what football does to me - how beat up, exhausted and emotionally drained I get. I know how I feel on Monday and Tuesdays and I don't want that for him," Dawkins said.

Dawkins shared another life lesson taught by the game of football. "You can't always take the big shot - you gotta choose the spots for the big hits. I consider myself a sure tackle, not a good hitter."

Positive energy quickly dissipated, however, when Terrel Owens was mentioned.

"The Eagles are done with T.O. But he will go on and he will perform. That is what he does," Dawkins said. "As much as you might not like the guy, he is a person. I don't agree with a lot of what he does, but to see how guarded he has become by what he caused - I just hope he changes that other stuff."

Reflecting on a failed season that was worse than anyone could have predicted, Dawkins said, "Last year was so embarrassing. Just be prepared. With all the things that happened last year, the injuries were the biggest thing - even without T.O., without all of the injuries we could've went to the playoffs. We have what it takes."

It was that positive attitude that served as an appropriate theme for celebrating the TriCounty Chamber of Commerce's new five-star accreditation, a sign of the organization's zeal when it comes to promoting the region's businesses.

Contact reporter Antoinette Colon

at 610-367-6041, ext. 255 or

alcolon@berksmontnews.com.

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