When you think about some of the great players who have worn a Philadelphia Eagles uniform over the years, Brian Westbrook is certainly one of them. In the midst of getting ready for the season opener against the host Cleveland Browns on Sunday, Sept. 9, the Eagles recognized Westbrook at the NovaCare Complex last week in a special ceremony as he retired as a member of the Philadelphia Eagles.
Westbrook had his family from Fort Washington, Md., along with Villanova head coach Andy Talley and other members of the Wildcats athletic department to honor him on that special day. And rightly so, he was clearly a great player. Andy Reid, Eagles head coach, had some great things to say about Westbrook.
“I’ll tell you, I’ve never coached a player as smart as this guy right here,” Reid said. “Unbelievable, a tribute to his parents, number one, and to Coach (Andy) Talley and that Villanova program and education that he received as number two. Nobody loved to play the game like Brian did. I mean, this guy he could do it all.”
Westbrook indeed did it all. That’s what made him special. He was one of the NFL’s great all-around players. He wasn’t just a good runner, but a terrific pass receiver and blocker. Westbrook, a two-time Pro Bowler, finished his career with the Eagles in 2009 as the franchise leader with 9,785 total yards from scrimmage. He is one of six players in league history to post 30-plus rushing (41) and receiving touchdowns (30) in a career. His best season came in 2007, when he led the league with 2,104 scrimmage yards, which earned him Pro Bowl and All-Pro honors.
Westbrook played in 107 games (85 starts) in eight seasons with the Eagles (2002–09). He currently ranks second in Eagles history in rushing yards (5,995), and third in receptions (426) and total touchdowns (68). Among Eagles running backs all-time, Westbrook played in 11 playoff games with the team, ranking first in club history in career rushing yards (591) and total touchdowns.
By the way, he could return punts, too. In 2003, he returned a punt 84 yards for a score with 1:34 remaining against the New York Giants. It was one of his signature moments as an Eagle.
“It’s hard to pick one,” Westbrook said. “The one that sticks out, the first thing when you asked the question is the play at the Giants and really, (Merrill Reese’s) call kind of is the sound and the voice that I hear in my head. It’s one of those things where it’s a total team play.”
Westbrook had a way of lifting his team’s level of play. He was a key player in the Eagles march to the Super Bowl. But long before that, he was a tremendous athlete. He played football and basketball at DeMatha High School in Hyattsville, Md. At 5-foot-10 and 203 pounds, he had to overcome a torn ACL in high school as well as knee surgery in college. Despite the injuries, Westbrook was the premiere player in NCAA Division I-AA. At Villanova, he was a threat to score any time he touched the football. He set the all-time record with 9,885 all-purpose yards.
In 2002, the Eagles selected him in the third round of the NFL draft. Westbrook was as good as most first round picks. In fact, he should have been a first rounder. Nevertheless, he never let injuries or any obstacle stop him from being successful.
“I tore my ACL my senior year,” Westbrook said. “It’s hampered me my whole, entire football career, but in the same way that it’s kind of held me back. It’s been a blessing as well. It told me the value of hard work, discipline, how to do things the right way and so when I was there, I was just focused on being the best that I could be and I tried to focus on that my entire career. I’ve been blessed. I’ve been lucky. I came to a good organization and a good coaching staff that knew how to use me the right way. I learned so much at Villanova, how to catch the ball, how to run the ball, how to be an effective blocker. Every step of the way has been a blessing. I’ve learned so much every step of the way. I’m just thankful.”
After leaving the Eagles, Westbrook, 32, played one season for the San Francisco 49ers (2010). He had a tremendous career. He will be honored again in front of the fans at Lincoln Financial Field on December 23 during a halftime ceremony against the Washington Redskins.