I can clearly remember the day I was drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles. I was in the basement of my parents' house. So many friends and family members over, and lots and lots of food. I didn't eat much. Not sure if I was going to get drafted, I waited, feeling panicked. I mean, I wasn't even invited to the combine. Then the phone rang: It was a 215 area code. As I answered, the person on the other end of the line said he was a representative of the Philadelphia Eagles and that he was going to hand the phone over to Coach Andy Reid. Listening to Coach Reid say they were selecting me with the 162nd pick was life-changing. I vowed to him, and to the organization, that from that day forward they were going to get all of me. Nothing less.
Eleven years later I was part of a team that won the first Super Bowl in Philadelphia history. It has been an amazing journey - a journey that is now coming to an end. 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.
For the last few months, as I arrived at this decision, I have been able to reflect on my career. There have been so many influential people and so many great memories, I couldn't possibly put them all into words but here are a few that stand out to me:
I came to the Eagles when they were loaded with veteran players like Dawkins, Westbrook, Runyan, and McNabb. I watched these guys on a daily basis just trying to learn what it meant to be a pro. I wanted to be the best teammate I could be, as I didn't want to let any of them down. What I learned is that you have to work hard. Real hard. Every day. And then you have to inspire your teammates to do the same thing. I tried my best to inspire my boys on the field and to have some fun. Mission accomplished, on both fronts.
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.
As I look back at the incredible 2017 season there are a few things that happened that I will never, ever forget. The first sign that things were different came when I was sitting in the cafeteria at NovaCare in April. I was across from Alshon Jeffery, who I had just met for the first time a few days earlier, and as we sat there I said, "Man, we haven't won (expletive) in this city. Can you imagine how this city would act if we won the Super Bowl?" Alshon replied, "If?? You mean WHEN?" I get chills thinking about that. He was right. We had to have a different mindset. Treating it like it was our last year. EVERY year has to be like that, and going into last year it felt like we all brought that mentality. Then the season started and Wentz was unstoppable, having an MVP season, and leading us with his energy and passion. Beating the Giants with a Jake Elliott 61-yarder was a catalyst for a locker-room vibe I'd never experienced. It was a mindset that was fueled by guys that had done it before. Guys like Chris Long, LG, Malcolm, Chris Maragos, Torrey Smith, and Corey Graham. We also had a fearless leader in Doug Pederson, who wasn't afraid to ride or die with his players. We could feel that. Last year felt like the perfect storm. With the amount of injuries we had to key guys, and the fact that we could still overcome it –that just showed the type of team we were. Unselfish guys that just wanted to win. We knew that just getting there wasn't enough. We had to win it all. Anything short would be a failure. We had guys like Wentz, Sproles, Maragos, Hicks, and JP, who'd helped us get to the Super Bowl and couldn't be out there, and we couldn't let them down. As we stood there on the field in Minnesota and the clock hit 00:00 with the score showing 41-33 – EAGLES 41, Patriots 33 – I honestly thought I was part of a dream. 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.
The one thing I will miss the most is the interactions with my teammates on a daily basis. Those TE meetings where Ertz, Trey, and I would talk about being a group that the team could count on. Those Saturday Night talks with the O-line and running backs, when guys got emotional and talked about what we meant to each other. I will miss those casual moments before practice when we are in the training room trash talking with each other. Or yelling with Beau and Mack while playing Rocket League. I won't forget hearing Stout yell on Wednesdays that we needed to have a great practice. I won't forget the legendary speeches that Donnie and Jon Dorenbos used to give us, or messing with Feeley and Herremans about the funny weekly escapades. I won't forget how I got to play with three of the same teammates that I had at Cincinnati (Kelce, Cole, Barwin)—B-E-A-R-C-A-T-S. I won't forget listening to Jmac, DJacc, and Shady argue about who was the best basketball player in the NBA. I'll always remember Vinny Curry breaking us down with the Ric Flair. I won't forget all those monster trucks Fletcher would drive into work each day. I'm also going to miss getting hyped before games while JP is the DJ playing all the new hot songs. I won't forget Duce pumping us up into an altered state before every game. To the players that I played with through my 11 years I just want to say, Thank you. You guys are the reason I came to work every day. I love you.
I won't forget walking into the facility and hearing Karen and Harold's crazy laughs, or watching Troy stretching in the training room, always saying he was ready to cover me lol. I won't forget listening to Greg deal with 53 people, making sure their wardrobe was on point during gameday. I'll remember Barry Rubin saying, "Hey bud, why don't you come get some arms in after practice?" I won't forget T4 and all his perfect hairdos, or talking to Keith about the latest hot Netflix show. I won't forget Tim remembering 1,000 guys' breakfast orders every morning in the cafeteria, or walking to Joyce's office to get something notarized and talking about our families. Or drinking Kombucha with Kelce and Mate after practice, just trying to solve the world's problems. I'll remember doing P90X with Rick, Peduzzi, and Joe. I won't forget Howie just pushing me to be a better leader, or hearing Coach Reid tell us the night before the games to let our personalities show – and that he was going to treat us to a cheeseburger and Haagen-Dazs when the meeting was over. I'll remember sitting in Dom's office like he was my therapist, eating Frangelli's donuts. I definitely won't forget when Jeffrey Lurie, the best owner in football, would walk the locker room before games wishing every player good luck. I have created relationships there that will last forever. The organization is truly a part of my family.
On gamedays I won't forget looking up in the southwest corner of the Linc and seeing my family and the Brassingtons cheering me on, or seeing Steve Meyer yell for me in the tunnel as we walk out for kickoff. I'll miss hanging at Chickie's and Pete's after every game reminiscing with the guys about the battle that just ended an hour earlier. (Let's be honest – I'll probably still go to Chickie's and Pete's after games.) Most of all, I will miss being on the field on gamedays with my DOGS. It's a feeling and bond that can't be duplicated.
I want to thank my parents for always being there for me, providing me with anything and everything I ever needed to be successful. I watched my Mom run three hair salons while raising five kids – I'm still not sure how you did it. I won't forget living in that crazy house with seven people, supporting each throughout the years and watching my sisters become great mothers. My brother Garrett is going in his seventh year in the NFL, and I look forward to finally getting to watch him on Sundays. My brother Tyler, who relocated to Philly, is one of my best friends. I texted my Dad two weeks ago telling him I was thinking about playing a 12th season, and he texted me right back: "Retire." He was right. I want to thank my wife, Celeste, for listening to me and being my best friend. A voice of reason that I needed when things were tough. All while taking care of our babies. I'm so excited to spend more time with my kids and to teach them all the lessons I learned from all the people I have interacted with over the years.
So, what's next? My love and passion will always be football. I have committed to this organization for 11 years, and that will continue, hopefully forever. I will be supporting the players from a new perspective. I'm very excited about that. In addition, I have always had an interest in real estate. It runs in my blood. My mom's dad is a custom home builder, and my dad's father has been assessing and selling real estate a majority of his life. I got my license last offseason because this is something besides football that I am very passionate about. I am still learning on a daily basis, but I am ready to put all that energy and passion that I put into football into selling real estate.
Thank you to all the fans who have supported me along the way. I was just a kid from Cincinnati with a dream to play in the NFL, a kid who wasn't invited to the combine and wasn't a top pick. I was guaranteed nothing, but I believed in myself – and now I bleed green, for life. To all the young kids out there: Dream Big. Work hard, and believe in yourself. Anything is possible. 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.
Take a look back at the best photos from the illustrious career of tight end Brent Celek.