Pat Waters has been a heavy hitter in the Philadelphia area sports collectibles market for over two decades.
Waters began his career in the industry as the COO with BCC Sports Collectibles over 20 years ago. Now working with The Sports Vault, in Exton, PA, he has been at the forefront of the business and responsible for appearances and signings with some of the biggest stars in sports.
The 1996 NFL Draft changed his career trajectory forever. That year, the Phildelphia Eagles drafted a safety out of Clemson named Brain Dawkins. “BDawk” went on to become Philadelphia sports royalty and Waters went from being the guy handing Dawkins Sharpies at autograph sessions to a trusted confidant and friend with a front row seat to the Hall of Famer’s professional and personal journey.
The Downingtown, PA native shares powerful stories of Dawkins’ influence on and off the field in and around the City of Brotherly Love.
TR–You have been Brian Dawkins right-hand man for two decades now. How did this partnership, and now close friendship, begin?
PW-It goes back to my start in the sports collectibles and sports memorabilia business. I started with BCC Sports Collectibles. I was the COO of that company. We were a Philadelphia-based company. The 1996 draft came around and Brian was a second round pick that year. We always identified future players. Bobby Hoying, among others, were the names that year.
I didn’t know much about Brian and my guys loved the way he played at Clemson.
We always tried to get the fans in front of the Eagles athletes. We successfully did signings with the first four picks, including Brian. He was a very shy, quiet guy. I couldn’t believe this was the same crazy guy that all of my guys were inspired by. He came out right away and was a humble guy. He was an amazing person.
I remember his wife Connie, his soulmate, would attend signings with him. She would keep tabs on everything. I could see even then that there was a special relationship developing between the fans and Brian.
As he got on the field over the next few years we continued that autograph signing relationship. It was very quickly that the fans sunk their teeth into Brian. At the time my contact with Brian was strictly through his contract agent. I would meet up with him at the events. We started to build our bond and our relationship from those first two or three years of doing signings together.
TR–Brian is one of the most beloved figures in Philadelphia sports history. What story comes to mind that could best illustrate that fact?
PW-I eat, sleep and breathe sports. We look to who is the hot seller all the time throughout the business and it continues to be Brian throughout time. There are some great players that have come through Philadelphia in their respective sports that have done well. Chase Utley, Carson Wentz and others. Fans can be fickle with the ups and downs. When players retire they level off or diminish but Brian’s drop from his peak playing time here to where he is now, well, he hasn’t dropped off. It’s amazing. The demand for Brian from his rookie year to today, really hasn’t diminished or fallen off in any way. He has consistently stayed relevant.
Going to restaurants and going out with Brian is like no other. We will get private rooms just so we can talk and catch up on business. If we are out in public people have a hard time not coming over. It happens everywhere. The protective side of me comes out but I can tell you Brian accepts each and every compliment as a blessing, he truly does. People just feel a need to connect with the guy. They feel the need to come over and talk to him. He is so approachable. People want to come up and thank him because he has impacted them not only through sports, but what he has done throughout his life. The buzz when Bran Dawkins walks into a place is still alive and well. They all want to see him. They all want to touch him. It’s always been something that has been amazing to me.
TR–The Pro Football Hall of Fame ceremony is as special as any event in sports. What are your fondest memories from that time with Brian the year he was inducted?
PW-Brian brought my while family up there (to Canton). He put my whole family on the guest list. He had us sitting with his family in the second row for the biggest moment of his life. How humbling is that? It was really flattering from a guy who started out making sure he had the right pens for an autograph signing. He had a private party the night before the ceremony. There was a lot of singing and dancing. Brian was enjoying the moment. He lost his voice from that party we were at. There were a lot of Hallelujahs belted out that night. You could hear how raspy his voice was the next day. Just seeing how genuine he has always been, being a part of that every step of the way through the process to sitting right in front for his heartfelt speech and sharing it with my fifteen year old son Ryan, as a dad, it was a badge of honor to be able to let my son witness that.
TR–What is the most memorable interaction you’ve seen between Brian and one of his fans?
PW-The Hall of Fame holds an autograph signing at pavilions the afternoon during the day of the ceremony. Brian had committed to doing it. We knew there was going to be a ton of fans from Philadelphia. I really felt it was a great opportunity for fans to come out and met him. He took my recommendation and agreed to it. He comes to the event and that was the day after his party. He was pointing to his throat gesturing that he had no voice. There were probably 300 plus fans lined up to get his autograph. It was thrown together at the last minute. Brian, always being prepared the way he is, he had four or five index cards with writing on them. He wrote out “Thank you”, “God Bless”, “I lost my voice”, “Have a great day” among others. There was thought into each card. He laid them out in front of him at the table. As the fans would come through he would point to certain cards. It was pretty cool. What struck me in that was a girl who was a freshman at Clemson. She went back in time to watch his videos. She said she followed him on social media. She made it a point to tell him how much his message meant to her. She had lost friends to depression. I could see they were taking time looking at each other, and I knew she was getting pretty emotional. She was there with her dad and she had a Clemson jersey for him to sign. I was holding the jersey for Brian to sign and it literally felt like raindrops on my arm. I looked up and it was her leaning over and tears were pouring off her cheek on to my arm. It was powerful. Even though Brian couldn’t do it with words, he has an uncanny way to connect with people. That is the one thing I have watched from the very beginning. Autograph signings can be like a cattle shoot. The five or ten seconds people have to get something signed, people feel like they had a connection with Brian. That one was pretty powerful.