K8878 BC-ELN-FBN-EAGLES-OBAMA 11-05 0879
McNabb and Dawkins say Obama’s victory will spur people to dream
By Ray Parrillo
The Philadelphia Inquirer
Brian Dawkins and Donovan McNabb were among the Eagles who showed up for practice on Wednesday at the NovaCare Complex without the proper amount of sleep as they prepared for the biggest game of the season, Sunday night’s clash with the Super Bowl champion New York Giants.
History was being made late Tuesday night, and it was intensely personal to both of them. Barack Obama had just become the first African American to be elected president, and there was no time to doze off.
"I just thought I’d never be alive to see that," said Dawkins, 35. "I really did not. So it’s emotional for me to say that this is the America we live in today."
"It was historic," said McNabb, 31. "It reminded me of when Martin Luther King spoke and the message he spoke about. He really reached out. It left me teared up."
Dawkins said he stayed up until 2 a.m. watching the election coverage, and as he listened to Obama speak, he thought about how far the country has come since he was a boy playing Pop Warner football in Jacksonville, Fla. Back then, his grandfather told him about "how things worked" for African Americans, and his father tried to shield him from racism.
"And to live to see this day, to see an African American as the president ..." Dawkins said. "You’re talking about maybe 40 years ago, there’s no way possible something like this would have happened. But here it is. Here he is.
"And for me, I’ve always been one that, as I grew up, I said that I can make it and play professional football because I saw people in professional football that looked like me, that talked like me. You hear people say, ’I want to be a doctor’ because you’ve seen doctors that are African Americans, that you want to be a lawyer because you’ve seen lawyers that are African Americans.
"But people who said, when you were little, ’I want to be president,’ the likelihood of that happening was not ... now it is. Not just for African Americans, but for minorities in general."
McNabb, a native of Chicago who went to high school near Obama’s current home, has a personal connection to the president-elect. In spring 2005, the quarterback met Obama while attending a dinner in Washington that was also attended by New England quarterback Tom Brady At the time, Obama was a U.S. senator from Illinois. Obama told him he was a fan of McNabb’s and had followed his career. McNabb said he and Obama had their photo taken together.
"He had the opportunity to watch me in high school and college, and now, obviously, in the pros," McNabb said. "We talked about that a little bit. He said he was a big fan of mine and, being a senator, it was nice, and now you look up and he’s president."
McNabb said he hopes to again speak to Obama, this time in February — after the Super Bowl.
"What would be special is if we make the Super Bowl and win, and I get the phone call from Barack Obama. That would be excellent," he said. "I got a picture with him. ... Maybe he’ll get a chance to sign an autograph for me."
McNabb, who said he voted for the first time in this election, acknowledged he did not think it was possible for an African American to be elected president.
"No, not at all. Obviously, growing up and seeing and hearing how some people felt about maybe having an African-American president, I didn’t think it was possible," he said. "But when you have the kind of individual who people can truly look past his skin color, that’s a positive thing."
McNabb, who has absorbed a fair amount of criticism and been the center of controversy during his 10-year career with the Eagles, added that he has drawn inspiration from Obama through the way he dealt with criticism during the campaign.
"I think it was similar in his process and the things he went through with the criticism he received," McNabb said. "People going back into his past and trying to characterize him and figure out what type of person he was. For people to make assumptions without even talking to the guy or getting to know him, it’s similar to everything I’ve been through."
Dawkins said the memory he will take from Tuesday night was the diversity on the stage from which Obama spoke, and the emotion displayed by his supporters.
"You saw everything on that stage, people shaking hands and loving each other and having respect for one another, and then they showed the pictures in the stands of people celebrating, and you saw people with tears," the free safety said. "African Americans, whites, you had everybody happy and celebrating. You couldn’t say that 30 years ago, but that’s the America we live in today."
"Anything is possible," he said. "History was made."
(c) 2008, The Philadelphia Inquirer.
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