Before being signed as a free agent by the Denver Broncos on Feb. 28, Dawkins had played in 182 games after being drafted by the Eagles in 1996. A seven-time pro bowler, Dawkins recorded 898 tackles, 34 interceptions and 21 sacks during his 13-year career in Philadelphia. He became just the 10th player in NFL history to own at least 20 interceptions and 20 sacks in a career when he reached that milestone in 2008.
The 35-year old will more than likely become Clemson's first pro football Hall of Famer when it is all said and done. Harbison, who coached at Clemson previously from 1995-'97, knew right away Dawkins had a chance to be a pretty special player when he first met him.
"He is a student of the game," the Clemson coach recalled. "When a guy is a student of the game and they understand what is going on then they will play fast."
Dawkins definitely played fast in that one season under Harbison. As the strong safety, he led the ACC in interceptions with six, earning him second-team All-American honors and a second-round draft pick.
"I'm proud to be a small part of Brian's career, but I can't take all the credit. He worked hard at it," Harbison said.
Harbison uses Dawkins as an example when he coaches his players today. Though he has inherited a talented secondary that has players like Chris Chancellor, Crezdon Butler, Marcus Gilchrist, Byron Maxwell, DeAndre McDaniel and Sadat Chambers, Harbison is preaching to them that talent does not mean a thing if they do not commit themselves to working hard.
"These guys here are getting there, but Brian is a guy that is in a different class," he said. "These guys have to continue to work to get there, but once that light comes on, it will be special."
Harbison is starting to see a little light. He says his guys are doing a pretty good job of studying and learning the new scheme, but they still have to get their speed up when it comes to communicating.
"When Brian left here and went to the Eagles, the way he worked, that put him there," said Clemson secondary coach Charlie Harbison, who coached Dawkins at Clemson in 1995. "If you work hard, you get good results. You have to put your time in. You have to work and good things will happen. Brian did that." (Getty Images)
"They are working hard and I'm appreciative of that. They are great guys to coach and teach, but they have to continue to work hard to get them where I want them to be."
Harbison said the biggest hurdle is getting his secondary used to the way he likes to do things. All of them have spent at least two seasons under former coach Vic Koenning and though some things schematically are the same, Harbison has a different way in which he does it.
"They can draw a lot from what they did before, but the thing is it is still two different systems," Harbison said. "What they have to do is flip everything and they are doing a good job with that. They are learning the speed of the game the way I like it.
"We have talent, but we have to continue to work to get what I want out of them. It is one thing to play a particular coverage, but play it tighter."
The biggest thing players have learned about Harbison is that he has a totally different approach when it comes to teaching his system compared to the way Koenning coached.
"There isn't too much difference in the two, especially considering both push you hard to get better, but Coach (Harbison) is a little more laidback," McDaniel said. "He is a cool coach. He wants you to learn, but he expects you to work for it."
What more does a coach need to ask? That's all he asked of Dawkins, and look what it got him.
"Things that come to you take a lot of work and sacrifice," Harbison said. "Guys have to put time in."