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A Day For Westbrook, And RBs

This all started long before Ted Williams moved from tight ends coach under Ray Rhodes to running backs coach and inherited Ricky Watters, who had signed with the Eagles as a high-profile free agent and went out and had his third straight 1,000-yard season in Philadelphia.

Look back into the history of the Eagles and you see names like the late Steve Van Buren -- the best of the best, perhaps -- and Timmy Brown and Tom Woodeshick and Tom Sullivan and Wilbert Montgomery and Herschel Walker. Not all of them made the Pro Bowl. Some of them played on really lean teams that lost a lot of games.

Since Williams became the guru of the running backs, he's churned out one standout after another. The latest, LeSean McCoy, is an offspring of Brian Westbrook, who was an offspring of Duce Staley and Correll Buckhalter, who learned largely from Watters.

"Ricky kind of thought he was Duce's father," said Williams, laughing. "It's gone on like that for years and years. I've been blessed. Each of these men has a willingness to be molded. I tell each of them, 'I can help you.' They have to be willing to allow me to help them, and they've done that."

Wednesday was a mix of the past and the present as Westbrook held his press conference and officially retired as an Eagle. He followed the announcements from Brian Dawkins and Tra Thomas as a generation of players embraces the organization and the fan base that has long embraced them. A third-round draft pick from Villanova in 2002, Westbrook gave a wonderful speech and thanked everyone who walked into the NovaCare Complex in his eight years as an Eagle. In the audience were the likes of former players Thomas Tapeh and Hollis Thomas and Hugh Douglas and Staley and Buckhalter and current players like Jason Avant and Todd Herremans and, of course, LeSean McCoy.

"He's my mentor," said McCoy.

That's the way it's gone for so many years here, and Williams has been at the helm of the position. Williams recalled Westbrook's workout in the pre-draft days of 2002, calling it "extraordinary." When the Eagles used a third-round pick on Westbrook, Williams knew he had another good back to help mold.

"I remember we had a rookie quarterback throwing to Brian that day and the ball was all over the place and he really wore Brian out. Yet Brian caught everything, did everything and he did it so well," said Williams. "The thing that Brian did so well, better than most, is what happened when the ball touched his hands. He gets to the next gear real quick. He was astute about spacial relationships on the field. He knew where everybody was and he could maneuver to a position on the field where he could be successful, and he could do it quickly.

"I feel blessed to be here, and to think that I could enhance all of these players' chances to be successful. They all have the will to be successful and the skills to accompany that determination."

In his final year as an Eagle, battling injuries, Westbrook took McCoy under his wing and huddled often with the second-round draft pick and helped show him the NFL ropes.

McCoy learned quickly, of course, and has become one of the premier backs in the league. Should he stay healthy for the next several years, McCoy will own all franchise rushing records. Nobody will be more proud of that than Westbrook, who ranks first in yards from scrimmage, second in team history in rushing yards, and third in rushing touchdowns.

"That's what we teach and what we expect from our players," said Williams. "Hopefully, we're doing the same thing with LeSean. There's always 'the next guy.' That's a life lesson for everyone.

"I wouldn't miss this, today, for the world. It means so much for me to see Brian here, in this position. I'm proud of him. I'm proud of all of these men. They've worked hard to reach the NFL and to have success here and each one of them has made this organization proud."

 Westbrook certainly did, in every phase of his life. At a time when the Eagles needed him to be Mr. Everything, he was. Not the biggest guy in the world, Westbrook lined up all over the formation and the Eagles revolved their scheme around him. Defenses had to account for him on every play.

Even with that attention, he managed to make a couple of Pro Bowls and skip around enough tacklers to lead the franchise in all-time yards from scrimmage. It was a remarkable career, a continuation at a position of strength for this franchise, one that should continue well into a successful present and future.

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