PHILADELPHIA - Brian Westbrook wasn't supposed to last nine games in the National Football League, let alone nine seasons.
Considered too small and too brittle, Eagles coach Andy Reid took the Villanova University running back in the third round of 2002 hoping he could become a solid returner and possible change-of-pace back for Duce Staley.
Just as he had done in college, Westbrook surpassed expectations in the NFL. He developed into one of the league's most exciting and versatile players during his eight-year stint (2002-2009) with the Eagles. He also played one year (2010) with San Francisco, but retired as an Eagle during a ceremony Wednesday at the NovaCare Complex.
"When I think of myself, I think of all the good days and all of the bad days," Westbrook said Wednesday. "A third-round pick who was too small, who would only be a special teams player, to an All-Pro (in 2007), to a two-time Pro Bowl selection, to the franchise leader in total yards from scrimmage. It's been a great ride and I thank all everyone that has been here with me every step of the way."
The good times far outweighed the bad ones for Westbrook, who will be honored at halftime of the Eagles' game against Washington at Lincoln Financial Field on Dec. 23. Along with top players such as safety Brian Dawkins, tackle Tra Thomas and quarterback Donovan McNabb, he was a key component of the Eagles teams that won NFC East titles between 2001 and 2008, reached five NFC championship games in that span and reached the Super Bowl in 2004.
Besides his talent as a runner, he was also viewed as a tremendous receiver, outstanding blocker and fantastic returner. When asked to name his favorite career moment Wednesday, he picked his 84-yard punt return for a touchdown in the final minutes of a 2003 victory over the New York Giants on Oct. 13, 2003 that was dubbed "Miracle of the Meadowlands II."
"It's one of those things where it's a total team play," Westbrook said. "It was actually 10 guys blocking on that play. I made a couple of players miss here and there, but it was 10 guys blocking. It was guys just doing their job and that was really my whole career. My success is built solely on the shoulders of guys just doing their job and I'm appreciative of that."
Westbrook was also known as one of the team's smartest players. He spent hours studying opponents and their tendencies and brought that intelligence onto the field. On Dec. 16, 2007, he essentially clinched a 10-6 victory over Dallas by deliberately falling down at the 1-yard line after a 24-yard run. Because the Cowboys were out of timeouts, McNabb was able to run out the clock with three kneeldowns.
"I'll tell you, I'll never coached a player as smart as (Westbrook)," Eagles coach Andy Reid said Wednesday. "Unbelievable. That's a tribute to his parents, and to Villanova coach (Andy) Talley and the education that he received. Nobody loved to play the game like Brian did. This guy, he could do it all. He'll go down as one of the alltime great Philadelphia Eagles."