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Celek Aims To Make Most Of Opportunity

Here is the way to approach your job, the way Brent Celek is doing it as the starting tight end of the Eagles. He reports to the NovaCare Complex four, sometimes five, days each week. He is diligent in the weight room. He takes care to detail his work and to watch his diet and to make sure that he is a better player one day after the next.

This is what you want in a young man who worked his way up from a fifth-round, who-is-he? draft pick out of Cincinnati whose career has progressed steadily -- he played a little bit as a rookie, he became a starter midway through his second season and he is working harder than ever now to keep the starter's role and to build on the success he had in 2008.

"I am very excited about this chance, and I'm doing everything I can to make the most of the opportunity," said Celek, who was right back in the weight room after completing the post-draft mini-camp over the weekend. "I don't want this opportunity to pass me up and some day down the line say, 'What if I had done this? What if I had done that?' I'm doing everything I can to solidify this spot and make sure I'm here for years to come."

Isn't that the way every athlete should be? Shouldn't they all be grateful to have the opportunity to make it at this level, and then to actually go out and do something about earning their keep?

Celek was raised the right way. His parents follow his progress everywhere and they attend as many Eagles games as they can. They share in his success and what they are seeing is a young man who has grown into the role as the Eagles' starting tight end in a system that can certainly help a player at that position put up significant numbers and help the offense.

"This is a great scheme and it's one that I really started feeling completely comfortable in late last season. I was healthy, finally (Celek had shoulder surgery following his rookie season) and I felt like I fit in and did what they wanted me to do," said Celek. "The playoffs is when it really clicked for me. I would say it started in that Dallas game and then carried through the playoffs. It's a little bit of a faster game and the crowds are different and the coaching is different in the playoffs, and to get the chances I got, that really helped my confidence. There are no doubts now. I feel like I'm getting better every day, that I belong in this offense and that I can do a lot of things to help."

As with everyone else, Celek understood the landscape at tight end moving forward. He had "a feeling" that L.J. Smith would not return. And he knew that he would be "the guy," barring the acquisition of a veteran in the off-season.

The Eagles did add to the position, drafting Cornelius Ingram and signing converted defensive end Eugene Bright. The Eagles' actions at the position clearly showed their faith that Celek would be a good starter, that he would be able to catch and run and block and be a productive player at tight end.

"I told myself last year, once I became the starter, 'I don't want to lose this job.' Going into the off-season, I said, 'I'm going to do everything right,' so I started eating right, I've worked out as much as I possibly can without overtraining and I knew I needed to work on getting faster, getting a little bit stronger. That's what I've been doing.

"I'm at about 250 pounds, right about where I want to be. I'm better toned. The weight that is going on is good weight. I feel great."

Celek knows he has work ahead. The speed part of his off-season is next and he'll concentrate on sprinting and more running and, yeah, continuing to build strength. He knows he has to improve as a blocker -- he has heard that *so *many times -- and he has to keep his focus.

There are still three months to go before training camp kicks in, so a lot of improvement is on the way for Celek. Once the pads go on, everybody is going to watch how he runs, how he catches, the routes he takes and, yeah, the blocking.

Always the blocking.

"I agree that I need improvement there," said Celek. "I know I can do it. I struggled with that early last year, and once I got into the starting role I think I picked it up a little bit. It is something that I'm going to get into this year and I'm going to do great with it. I'm going to get better. It's not a strength thing. It's technique. It is about being consistent and working at it, and I'm going to work and work at it. I'm going to make myself into the best player I can be."

Celek is a lot like former Eagles Pro Bowl tight end Chad Lewis, although Celek is a stronger player and a better runner after the catch. Lewis' strength was that he ran great routes and almost never dropped a pass. He was a go-to receiver in a small window for quarterback Donovan McNabb.

The Eagles didn't get that kind of consistency from Smith, who signed with Baltimore as a free agent. Now Celek is up. His time is now. He has the chance to do what kids dream about: Taking another step forward in the NFL. Having a starting job and making sure to take the most from the moment.

"I'm enjoying this so much. I love putting in the time, working as hard as I can. Not a lot of guys get this chance," said Celek, "and I intend to do everything I can to make it work for the team and for myself."

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