Brian Dawkins ’96 wasted no time in making a name for himself once he set foot on campus at Clemson. He spent his freshman season on football special teams and earned a starting role at free safety his sophomore year. Three years, one all-ACC honor and one second-team All-America honor later, Dawkins was selected by the Philadelphia Eagles in the second round of the 1996 NFL draft.
He played in the NFL for 16 seasons with both the Eagles and the Denver Broncos, earning Pro-Bowl honors nine times. He was named to the Philadelphia Eagles 75th Anniversary Team and the NFL 2000s All-Decade Team, and he holds the record for the most fumbles forced by a safety — 36 during his career. He is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2018.
Though Dawkins’s NFL career has ended, his impact continues to grow. In 2009, he and his family established the Dawkins Family Scholarship Endowment at Clemson to provide scholarships to students from underrepresented populations.
“Your athleticism will last as long as your body can hold up, but education is the most important thing,” Dawkins said. “To me that was the more important part of this gift — to give to those individuals who might be lacking and to help them achieve a greater version of themselves than they probably could without this gift.”
Many students have already benefited from the Dawkinses’ generosity, and more will follow in their footsteps. For Jelani Murray, receiving a scholarship from the Dawkins family allowed him to attend Clemson and to meet people who share his interests. He now plans to pursue a career in sports business.
“My scholarship is a large part of the reason that I came here,” Murray said. “It made it financially easier to go here than the other school I was deciding between. I just want to give a huge thank you.”
Haley McKee has a similar story: “When I applied to Clemson, the costs associated with being out of state were really scary. The scholarship that I received allowed me to be here today. Without this scholarship, I don’t think I would have been able to have some of the best experiences I’ve had yet in life.” After McKee finishes up her nursing degree, she hopes to work in a pediatric hospital, potentially in hematology or oncology.
Though many students have discovered their talents and awakened their professional ambitions at Clemson, their journeys may not have included the University if not for the generosity of scholarship donors — which is exactly why Dawkins chose to give.
“Clemson is the place that gave me an opportunity,” he said. “They took a risk on me. I know what it feels like for someone you will never meet to bless you with something, and that was one of the most powerful experiences I have had. I wanted to give students an opportunity to experience something they might not experience otherwise.”