Updated: July 25, 2009 at 12:00 am
ENGLEWOOD • There are some differences in Brian Dawkins and John Lynch.
Dawkins grew up in Florida, while Lynch’s roots were in California. Lynch is a bit older and entered the NFL three years before Dawkins. And, as Dawkins pointed out, Lynch outweighed him by about 10 pounds and is more of a heavy hitter.
Those are minor details. On and off the field, they’re practically the same man.
Each is married with four kids. Both safeties became beloved icons in their longtime NFL home, Dawkins in Philadelphia and Lynch in Tampa Bay. They are lauded for their charity work, respected for their leadership in the locker room and absolutely feared on the field. Each has won the Byron “Whizzer” White Award from the NFL Players Association recognizing community service. Lynch won in 2006 and Dawkins won this year.
“Our careers are very much parallel,” Lynch said.
And both men came to Denver near the end of their careers, amid concerns they were too old, hoping for a memorable finish with the Broncos.
Denver can only hope Dawkins continues on Lynch’s path. Lynch had four Pro Bowl seasons in four years with the Broncos, left a legacy with his locker-room leadership and also made his mark by bringing his foundation’s charity work to Denver. Dawkins was Denver’s biggest free-agent addition this offseason.
“I hope I can have the same effect he had coming here,” Dawkins said. “I know what he was able to do here.”
Lynch and Dawkins, not surprisingly, became fast friends when they were teammates on NFC Pro Bowl teams.
Lynch recalls how impressed he was when the competitive Dawkins volunteered to play cornerback one year because the NFC team was short due to injuries, and how Dawkins held his own.
Even their kids hit it off at the Pro Bowl. Jake Lynch and Brian Dawkins Jr. became quick friends at a camp for the kids while their dads practiced during the week.
“He was kind of a quiet, fun-loving guy,” Dawkins said. “When his family is around, he’s with his family. And it’s not a fake thing. When he’s with his family, he enjoyed having them over there, as I did with my family. So you see the connection there real quick, that we’d hit it off.”
They also respect each other’s on-field accomplishments. Lynch has Dawkins beat 9-7 in Pro Bowl appearances, but Dawkins has four NFL first-team All-Pro selections to Lynch’s two.
Lynch said he thought the Broncos made a great move signing Dawkins. Lynch said he felt some sadness leaving the Buccaneers, but found a new football life in Denver.
“I’d tell him it’s fun,” Lynch said. “It rejuvenates you being in a new place.”
Lynch said he likes Dawkins’ aggressiveness, unselfishness and how he keeps himself in top shape. Dawkins said he admired Lynch’s hard-hitting style and emotion.
“You can tell he loved the game,” Dawkins said. “It wasn’t a job for him, he loved it.”
Others recognize the similar greatness of Dawkins and Lynch. Last year, then-Broncos safety Marlon McCree was asked about Lynch’s retirement from the NFL.
“The reason why safeties today are able to make the salaries they make is because of guys like John Lynch and Brian Dawkins, guys that only come around once or twice a decade,” McCree said.
And two of them came to Denver.