From Comcast SportsNetENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) -- Veteran safety Brian Dawkins is retiring from the NFL after 16 seasons.Dawkins posted the news on his Twitter account Monday, thanking the teams he played for, his coaches and teammates and fans. Dawkins spent his first 13 seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles and his last three with the Denver Broncos.He suffered a serious neck injury in December that sidelined him for the stretch run and the Broncos' two playoff games."I would like to thank the Eagles & the Broncos 4 believing in me," he tweeted. "I would like 2 thank all my teammates & coaches that I have been blessed 2 go to battle with. Along with u, the fans 4 helping make my career 1 that I have enjoyed tremendously. In other words. I am announcing my retirement from the NFL."Broncos boss John Elway replied via Twitter: "Congratulations on a Hall of Fame career, Dawk!!!"Nobody played safety longer in the NFL than Dawkins, 38. The only other safeties to log 16 seasons in the pros were Hall of Famer Paul Krause and Eugene Robinson.Longevity isn't normally associated with the position where the hardest hits are both received and delivered."If you look at the majority of the huge collisions, they come in that second level back there," Dawkins said last season. "Safeties are 15-20 yards deep sometimes, we're coming down running full speed at somebody that's running full speed at us a lot of times, so those collisions are very, very hard. And so to play the game the way that I play it for this long is an absolute blessing."Dawkins was a six-time All-Pro and made nine Pro Bowls, including last season as an alternate.As a member of the NFLPA executive committee, Dawkins pushed for new league rules that limited full contact during camp and also in the regular season. He credited those changes for keeping him fresh at the beginning of what turned out to be his final season, which he played a year after laboring through sprains to both knees.
Tommy Wingels remembers his Chicago youth hockey days. A native of Wilmette, Wingels said the leagues were pretty good then but nothing like the opportunities area kids have to play hockey here now.
“This city has so many youth programs, so much ability for kids to play at every level. If they want to travel, pursue it professionally, if they want to go to college or they just want to enjoy it because their buddies play it. You can do it everywhere around here, and it’s such a unique aspect,” said Wingels. “I think the expectation has changed now. Kids think everyone can make it now. Back then, nobody thought they would make it.”
Count Wingels among those who wasn’t sure he’d make it. But he did, and on July 1 he made a childhood dream come true when he signed a one-year deal with the Blackhawks. Wingels was elated when Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman and coach Joel Quenneville called him about his potential signing. The details of those calls? Well, those are a little sketchy.
“I don’t even remember half the stuff they said to me because you’re on cloud nine and you’re saying, ‘Yeah, when can we sign and where?’” Wingels said at the Blackhawks convention on Saturday. “My wife commented on how big of a smile I had [walking] off our porch and back into the living room. It was very exciting.”
As a kid growing up in the Chicago area, Wingels played plenty of travel hockey. He watched the Blackhawks when he could, trying to catch what games were on television at that time. But the thought of playing in the NHL, let alone suiting up for the Blackhawks someday, wasn’t in his mind at that time.
“I wouldn’t say until the middle of high school did I ever think playing professional hockey was a possibility,” Wingels said. “Coming into high school you think college might be one [possibility]. But not until then did I ever talk about it or think about it.”
Wingels said he talked to a good deal of teams in 2006, the first year he was eligible for the NHL Draft, but he wasn’t selected that summer or the next. It wasn’t until the 2008 NHL Entry Draft that former Blackhawks defenseman/now San Jose general manager Doug Wilson picked Wingels, then playing for Miami University, in the sixth round. Wingels was a steady presence for five-plus seasons with the Sharks, putting up career numbers in goals (16), assists (22) and points (38) in the 2013-14 season. Wingels is forever grateful to Wilson for the opportunity.
“He’s the No. 1 reason why I’ve had an NHL career,” Wingels said. “[He had] the confidence to draft me and he was extremely patient in developing me through my years at Miami. He’s one of the best guys I’ve met in the game and I’ve enjoyed all the interactions we’ve had with him. He’s a guy I’ll definitely keep in touch with while I’m here and for many years.”
On the ice, Wingels should help the Blackhawks’ penalty kill and add some necessary grit – “bring in some sandpaper, finish checks and at the same time chip in some goals, all kind of things I think [Quenneville] and Stan expect me to bring here,” he said. Wingels has gone on long postseason runs (2016 Stanley Cup final with the Sharks and the 2017 Eastern Conference final with the Ottawa Senators), and he can be another veteran voice and presence for the Blackhawks’ young players.
“Your star players will lead and be the best players that they are. But for a young guy coming up on the third or fourth line sometimes it’s tough for those guys to relate to the star players, not because what the star players do but they’re guys who are up and down and they’re guys who have different roles. [I’ll] be a part of that group who can help transition the young players, who can play a similar role to some of those other players and be a sounding board for guys as well. I’m 29 now. I feel young but somehow I’ve become a veteran. So I’ll just try to help out any way I can.”
As excited as Wingels is to be home, he said his family may be more so. His parents, Bob and Karen, get to spend more time with Wingels’ 1 ½-year old daughter. The Wingels are close to Scott Darling’s family, and know from the Darlings how great it was to have their son play here.
Wingels grew up wondering how far hockey would take him. Now it’s bringing him back home.
“It didn’t take long to decide this is where we want to be. My wife is extremely happy – she lived here a couple of years out of college and knows the city very well – and I have a ton of friends here with my family being from here,” Wingels said. “It’s going to be a fun year for us and I can’t wait to get started.”
CSNChicago.com preps reporter "Edgy" Tim O’Halloran spotlights 100 high school football teams in 100 days. The first 75 team profiles will focus on teams making strides across Chicagoland and elsewhere in the state. Starting Jul. 31, we’ll unveil the @CSNPrepsTop 25 Power Rankings, leading up to kickoff on Friday, Aug. 25.
School: Lake Park
Head coach: Chris Roll
Assistant Coaches: Keith Lukes, Kyle Reehoff, Bill Erzig, Bill Modelski, Chris Benak, Tom Redlin, Larry Orrico, Peter Catalano, Kevin Johnson, Chris Salerno, Charlie Witt
How they fared in 2016: 2-7 (1-7 DuPage Valley Conference), missed the 2016 IHSA state playoff field
2017 Regular Season Schedule:
August 25th @ Waubonsie Valley
September 1st vs Wheaton South
September 8th @ DeKalb
September 15th @ Naperville North
September 22nd vs Wheaton North
September 29th @ Metea Valley
October 6th vs Glenbard North
October 13th @Neuqua Valley
October 20th vs Naperville North
Biggest storyline: Can Lake Park make some noise in it's final season in the DuPage Valley?
Names to watch this season: Senior QB Jackson Behles Senior WR Diamante Smith
Biggest holes to fill: The Lancers bring back experience (15 returning starters) but will need to find more depth at a few key spots this summer.
EDGY's Early Take: Lake Park had a rough 2016 season and will rely on an experience senior class this season. The schedule remains as brutal as ever both in the DuPage Valley slate along with a tough Week 3 non conference game at DeKalb. Look for the Lancers to battle all comers and make a run at a state playoff berth this season.