The NFL and Jacksonville’s Finest

Posted: April 25, 2012 in NFL
Tags: , , , , ,

Jacksonville has produced nearly 50 young men who spent some time playing in the NFL. The late Bob Hayes, a wide receiver for the Dallas Cowboys, is the only Pro Football Hall of Fame member from our city.

Canton needs to make room for another Jacksonvillian. Brian Dawkins announced this week his retirement from the NFL after 16 seasons playing safety for the Eagles and Broncos. Nine of those seasons ended with Dawkins playing in the Pro Bowl.

Dawkins, in fact, may be the greatest NFL player ever to come from Jacksonville. This certainly isn’t meant as a putdown of Hayes. Hayes’ speed – which earned him an Olympic gold medal as the world’s fastest human — caused NFL defensive coordinators to create zone pass coverage. He won a Super Bowl with the Cowboys and remains one of the league’s greatest deep receiving threats of all time.

But no NFL player from Jacksonville played as long and as consistently well as Dawkins. Certainly former Eagles wide receiver Harold Carmichael and Packers safety LeRoy Butler belong in the conversation but their sterling careers fall slightly short of Dawkins’ career.

Dawkins was considered the prototype safety. He snared interceptions, he sacked quarterbacks and he delivered hundreds of bone-jarring tackles. He also was the locker room leader of an Eagles’ team that played in four consecutive NFC Championship Games. The Clemson alumnus excelled away from football as well, often cited for his community involvement.

He belongs in the Hall of Fame.

For the record, Carmichael and Butler can make strong Hall of Fame arguments as well.

Among former NFL players from Jacksonville who also left impressive marks are wide receiver Al Denson (Denver, Minnesota), punter Greg Coleman (Minnesota), offensive guard Sam Davis (Pittsburgh), wide receiver Shawn Jefferson (San Diego, New England, Atlanta, Detroit), wide receiver Ken Burrough (Houston, New Orleans), linebacker Sam Cowart (Buffalo, Jets, Minnesota), wide receiver Dez White (Atlanta, Chicago) and fullback Boobie Clark (Cincinnati).

Current NFL players of note from Jacksonville include Jaguars cornerback Rashean Mathis, Seattle running back/kicker return Leon Washington, Eagles cornerback Lito Sheppard, Washington wide receiver Jabbar Gaffney and, of course, that backup quarterback with the Jets, Tim Tebow.

Now, if you want to talk about the best known NFL player from Jacksonville then Tebow deserves to be at the top of this list.

 

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Comments
  1. charlie waters says:

    rashean mathis?!?!?!?! put down the crack pipe.

  2. charlie waters says:

    rashean hasn’t been relevant for a very long time. if he spent half as much time hitting somebody as he did looking “pretty”, i’d agree with you. otherwise, he’s just a mediocre player.

  3. Travis C says:

    How does Butler’s career fall short of Dawkins? I personally think Butler is the best NFL safety from our city.

  4. Travis C says:

    Looking at the stats, it’s a lot closer than I thought! Average wise they are just about the same. Butler does have more Int’s in 4 less seasons though. Both have same # of 1st Team All-Pro Team. Dawkins 8 PB compared to 4 for Butler. But All-Pro definitely holds more water.

    • lammatlarge says:

      Like I said, it’s a close call, but Dawkins did play more seasons — 16 to 12 — at a high level. I also said both deserve strong consideration for Hall of Fame along with WR Harold Carmichael. I’d have been thrilled to have either Butler or Dawkins on my team.

  5. Wyman says:

    This reminds me, for years I have said if the Jaguars just drafted local players and in-state players, the team would probably be a whole lot better than it’s been most years. I’ve been saying that since Tom Coughlin was coach. Thankfully, they did draft Fred Taylor, who was at least a Florida resident. Rashean Mathis, who I consider average at his position at best, has had a run of good luck, while showing the value of drafting local players. I also think being a Jaguar helped make Rashean Mathis’ career what it’s been. So, picking the local kid has turned out to be a win-win situation. The Jaguars should do more of this to build team pride and city pride in the Jaguars.

    I’m not a diehard football fan who knows the game as well as many do in this city, but Lamm has listed a number of players, who belong in the Football Hall of Fame, in my opinion. I feel the Jaguars has ignored its own local talent, hurting the Jaguars in the process. Some of these retired Hall of Fame caliber players, should have been made part of mainstream Jaguar life, even if only for PR reasons. Although relationships with Jaguar players might have infused the Jaguars with a greater sense of a destiny in need of fulfillment. So, whether Brian Dawkins goes to the Football Hall of Fame or not, bring him home and make sure he is associated with the Jaguars in some way.

    In fact, even though many of these Jacksonville natives may live elsewhere now, spend the money to bring them home a few times each year, while celebrating the NFL accomplishments of local players. Then draft, sign, or trade for a few local players, when the opportunity presents itself. The Jaguars have always suffered from a disconnect with local fans. I believe this in part is why. After the Tebow fiasco that led him to the Jets, I can only hope, in this case the Jaguars made the right decision, rather than it being the case of the Jaguars unceasing ability to demean locals, whatever their talent. Time will tell, but while were waiting, the Jaguars could be bringing in a slew of former local high school players, who are part of a Who’s Who list of former NFL players. Do the right thing, Jaguars!

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