Clemson University

Welcome to Denver, Brian Dawkins

The quintessential Philly tough guy is hoping the second act of his career is truly a Rocky Mountain high.

After establishing himself as one of the NFL's all-time greatest safeties with the Eagles for 13 seasons, Brian Dawkins is looking to help rejuvenate Denver's defense.

The Clemson Hall of Famer will turn 36 on Oct. 13, but he has defied the aging process in making the Pro Bowl four of the past five seasons, including in 2008.

His team-high 11 tackles - playing with a cast on his broken right hand - during his Broncos debut in Sunday's 12-7 win at Cincinnati is a good indication he's still gulping from the fountain of youth.

Another look into his disposition reveals his love of superhero Wolverine from the X-Men. Dawkins has commandeered the adjoining locker in Denver and filled it with Wolverine memorabilia.

"That's the Weapon X locker," Dawkins said during a Wednesday phone interview. "The guys love it. They're always asking me questions about different figurines I have.

"I've always enjoyed watching the X-Men, and from the first day I saw it, Wolverine became my favorite. He has an edge to him, he's always ready to battle, he recovers fast from injuries and he has an animal instinct to go after people.

"All that stuff kind of plays into what I do for a living as far as being an aggressive safety."

Dawkins has long carried the reputation as a punishing hitter and one of the league's toughest competitors. He's started less than 10 games only once in his 13 seasons, and his seven Pro Bowl appearances are fourth most by a safety.

Advanced age hasn't done anything to temper his nasty disposition when it comes to intimidating play and motivating his teammates. Ornery as ever, Dawkins was brought to Denver to try to instill toughness in a squad that finished 29th in total defense and 30th in points allowed last season.

"He's an emotional guy; I've never seen anything like it," Denver quarterback Kyle Orton said.

Broncos cornerback Andre' Goodman, a South Carolina product, began to adopt Dawkins' work ethic as he admired his new teammate's drive from the moment he arrived.

"Every practice is a game day for him," Goodman said. "He makes me want to meet his level of play. If this guy can play like this at his age, why wouldn't you want to follow him?"

The league-wide admiration that Dawkins has garnered was felt immediately in Denver, where his teammates voted him a team captain despite being with the franchise less than eight months.

"To know the guys here have so much respect for me and depend on me the way they depend on me on the field and off the field is a huge responsibility," Dawkins said. "It's one that I welcome, and it's definitely a privilege to represent these guys as a captain."

Dawkins admits he's surprised to be able to play with nearly the same speed and aggressiveness he's displayed his entire career, and his love for the game keeps him as spirited as teammates a decade younger.

Dawkins still is seeking a Super Bowl ring after having led Philadelphia to five NFC championship games and one Super Bowl.

"I never thought, coming from Clemson into the NFL, that I would be playing this long at this level and still have the impact on the game that I'm able to have," Dawkins said.

"I'm blessed to be anointed to what I do for a living. There's still the skill and thrill for me to run into a guy full speed. I still have a lot of God-given ability left, and I still have a great time doing it."