When news broke Thursday night that Brent Celek was planning to announce his retirement on Friday, it was something that both made total sense yet surprised me a little. The former Eagles tight end was still physically healthy, and would have contributed to several locker rooms right away should he have chosen to re-sign.
But, he didn’t. And in his heartfelt open letter to the Philadelphia Eagles organization, former and current teammates, and fans, explained a little bit about why he chose to retire.
“It’s a big decision, but it’s not a tough one: Though I know I’m still capable of playing football at a high level, and though I had offers to continue my NFL career, my heart told me that this was the time. The bottom line was this: When I thought long and hard about the prospect of putting on another uniform, it just seemed wrong. In the end, I couldn’t do it. My career began, and ended, with the Philadelphia Eagles - and man, did we go out in style.”
The tight end detailed draft night for him, and being on the other end of a call from Andy Reid announcing his fate. Celek talked about playing alongside Eagles legends like Brian Westbrook and Brian Dawkins, and watched some of the G.O.A.T.s during the early years of his career. It was in these moments that the foundation was laid for the leadership role he’d later take as a veteran.
“I remember the Miracle at the Meadowlands 2, and the Snow Bowl. I also remember beating Dallas to get into the playoffs at the end of the 2008 season. I’d tell you that felt awesome, but it would be an understatement. It wasn’t all good, though. I also remember being knocked out of the playoffs four times in my career, and how crushing those losses were. As the ups and downs came and went, I could always feel the frustration of the fans. They only cared about one thing: a Super Bowl. They had been through NFC Championship losses, a Super Bowl loss, and they just yearned for a chance to win it all. After all, Philadelphia is a blue-collar town that loves its football. I could see that the day I got here. Living in South Philly the last 11 years, I got to listen to the Keenans tell me all the team news before I knew. Everybody has their opinion and that’s what makes it great. In most cities if the team isn’t good they just don’t go to the game. In Philly they all still go to the game; they just “boo” the whole time. I love it. It shows their passion. They show up rain or shine and tell you exactly how they feel. Over time I have grown to love and respect that. It’s why I constantly said in interviews that the only thing that mattered to me is winning the Super Bowl. I appreciate all the energy and passion the great Philly fans brought every week.”
Celek has always been a man of the fans, and was laser-focused on giving the city and it’s people a reason to celebrate as World Champions. In 2017, he and the Eagles did just that, and it was the feather in the cap of his career that made walking away that much easier.
“Led by Nick Foles, we beat the best team in the league, the five-time champs, and the great Tom Brady to win our first championship. It was legendary, and yes, the aftermath was amaaaaaaaazing. Being a part of that parade was so special. To see all the fans crying with joy and then to see Kelce deliver an epic speech that summed it all up. It was a perfect ending to a perfect season.”
He continues to talk about all the traditions he’s going to miss, and game day memories, not to mention all the inside jokes and special moments he’s shared with his teammates and friends. The list of things that Celek found special over his 11 year-career pulls at the heart strings, and really shows what this team and city has meant to him in his adult life.
“Philadelphia, I thank you for making me one of YOU. I hope this is just the beginning of our journey together. And know this: I’m at peace with this decision, because as stressful as the beginning of my career was – before I got the call from Andy Reid that day in my parents’ basement – the ending was as blissful as I could ever imagine.”
From a young, scared kid from Cincinnati to Super Bowl Champion, it’s been a wild ride for Brent Celek and the Philadelphia Eagles, but one that will go down as legendary.
Cheers to Brent as he takes the next step toward a new career, and here’s hoping he finds his way back to The Linc more often than not.
UPDATE: Statement from Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie.
“Brent Celek embodies everything it means to be a Philadelphia Eagle. He will obviously be remembered as one of the most accomplished tight ends in Eagles history, but his impact on our franchise goes far beyond the statistics he compiled over the course of his career. Brent was one of the toughest, smartest, and most selfless players who has ever stepped on the field for us. He led by example not just in the way he played the game, but also in how he prepared and the way he carried himself around the building and in the community. He was genuine, honest and accountable and he always represented the organization with class. He gave everything he had to the team. No matter what he was asked to do, Brent always embraced his role in a way that set a wonderful example for his teammates and young athletes everywhere. It was a pleasure watching him grow into the player and man that he became. There is nobody more deserving to finish his career as a Super Bowl Champion. We are excited for him and his family as they embark on the next stage of their lives. Our doors are always open to Brent and he will be an Eagle forever.”