Trey Burton knew from the moment he signed with the Eagles as an undrafted rookie in 2014 that he needed to follow in the shadow of fellow tight end Brent Celek.
"He is the definition of what a professional is all about," says Burton, one of three interchangeable and highly productive tight ends on the Eagles' 53-man roster. "The way he goes about his business on a daily basis is something that every player can learn from. I did. I still am. He just knows how to prepare himself for the grind of the season."
The grind of this season is Celek's 11th since the Eagles made him a fifth-round pick in the 2007 NFL Draft. Celek's ability to adapt and adjust, to make himself a valuable commodity, has kept him in the league for so long. Once upon a time, at the head of his career, Celek was a pass-catching tight end who had 76 receptions for 971 yards and eight touchdowns in 2009.
But over the years, Celek's targets have decreased. It isn't that Celek is any less of a threat – he runs as he's always run and his hands are as reliable as ever – it's just that the options are plenty and the variability of the tight end position has changed over the years.
Celek is not a Next Gen tight end. He's Old School Tight End Gangsta, the guy who thrives blocking at the line of scrimmage and sacrificing his personal numbers for the greater good.
"I learned a long time ago that the best players are the ones who do anything the coaches ask for the better of the team," Celek says. "I know how important it is to block when I'm called upon to do that. If they need me to make catches, I can do that. "The great thing about football is that it takes the entire team to win games. It's not about one player. I don't look at it like I'm sacrificing anything. I'm just trying to help the team win."
That's the kind of attitude that endears Celek to his teammates and puts him in line to start and finish his career with one team. Celek's contract runs through the 2018 season and he would love nothing more than to finish his NFL playing days where they began – in Philadelphia.
"I'm an Eagle and this is the community that I've played in my whole career," Celek says. "I'm going to raise my family in this area, so, yeah, my roots run deep."
The respect Celek has garnered throughout the NFL and in the locker room here cannot be overstated. He's a role model on and off the field.
"He's done it all, so of course a player like me listens to everything he says and how he works so hard to stay at the top of his game," tight end Zach Ertz says. "We're all tight in that room. We work for each other, push each other. We try to make each other better. It starts with the example that Brent sets. He's a true professional."
And a true Eagle – from the start of his career to the very end.