JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A hometown hero returned Monday to Jacksonville to deliver a powerful message at his old stomping grounds.
Pro Football Hall of Famer Brian Dawkins visited Raines High School and spoke to an auditorium full of students.
Dawkins led a successful football career as a safety for the Philadelphia Eagles and Denver Broncos before receiving his gold jacket with his Pro Football Hall of Fame induction this year.
Dawkins told students at his alma mater that they need to keep their dreams in mind, despite the chaos around them. A 19-year-old was fatally shot and two other teens were wounded by gunfire outside the Raines football stadium after a game last month.
Dawkins, who graduated from Raines in 1992, can relate to the current students at the school, even when it comes to the violence they've seen.
Dawkins got personal with the students Monday, sharing his experience with gun violence and depression.
"That's something that I've witnessed firsthand -- even here at Raines. When I was here, I lost a classmate after a game. He was killed, so it's not something that's foreign to me,” Dawkins said.
But Dawkins said he came back to remind the students not to give up.
“The thing that I hope they realize is how much is out there for them -- there's so much out there for them," he said.
Raines football players said Dawkins' success and message gives them hope for the future.
"It was very inspirational. It was nice for him to come back to talk to us and give his opinions on certain things he went through and how he overcame them,” Raines running back Brandon Marshall said.
Dawkins spoke about how he separated himself from negative influences and kept pushing to accomplish his goals. He said it will take a community effort to support Jacksonville's youth and lead them to success.
"Passion and having anger about a situation is one thing, but it's hard to get things done when you're operating only on anger,” Dawkins said. "Begin to look out for No. 1. You, yes, but also other people around you. Begin to treat people a different way, treat others the way you'd have them treat you. Be respectful when it's all said and done and then dream huge dreams.”