Playing football in Philadelphia is not easy. It takes thick skin and an open mind to understand the passion of Philadelphia Eagles fans. Eagles fans expect nothing but greatness and that adds extra pressure to players. The lack of greatness may be overlooked if a player shows hard work, grittiness, and determination just like the people of Philadelphia. Some players can handle life as a Philadelphia Eagle and then there are those players that can’t. Former running back Brian Westbrook checks all the boxes. Aside from being one of the greatest backs in team history, he was also one of the hardest working. His standards may have been even higher than that of Eagles fans.
Strength in Adversity
A native of Fort Washington, Maryland, Westbrook was considered one of the top running backs in the region during his junior year at DeMatha Catholic High School. He was being recruited by many major football powerhouses but during the summer before his senior year, he tore his ACL, and the interest from those major schools dwindled. “I only played 5 games my senior year. In the end, I received offers from Villanova, Richmond, UMD, and Wake Forest. Villanova gave me the best opportunity to receive a good education, play early on in my collegiate career and get a job after school,” Westbrook said in a recent email interview.
Westbrook finished his Villanova career with 41 Villanova records, 13 conference records, and five NCAA records. It did not come easy though. After his sophomore year, he tore his ACL once again causing him to miss the entire 1999 season. Westbrook said in a recent email interview how he kept his drive going after injuring the same knee he injured in high school. “Drive is something that is built within over time. Your hunger to better yourself and not settle is something that you have to look deep inside of yourself to find. There will always be opportunities to quit but those are the things that I knew I would regret. I had a great support system as well. I was also trying to lay the ground for my brother (Byron)”, Westbrook said. He came back stronger than ever. In 2001, he won the Walter Payton Award as the top offensive player in NCAA I-AA football after leading the nation in all-purpose yards and scoring.
Strive for Greatness
In 2002, the Philadelphia Eagles drafted Westbrook in the 3rd round of the National Football League (NFL) draft. He was the 8th running back chosen in the draft. To put things in perspective as to how much of a steal he was, Westbrook played 121 games in his career. Only one running back taken ahead of him played in more games; Maurice Morris with 145 games played. If that is not enough, Westbrook is a two-time pro bowler and one-time first-team all-pro. The seven running backs chosen ahead of him combined to make the pro bowl twice and zero first-team all-pro selections. The list goes on and on, but the point is, the Eagles ended up with one of the most versatile running backs in NFL history. Besides being a dynamic running back, he was also a receiver, kick returner, and punt returner. His last year in midnight green was 2009 and to this day he still holds the franchise record for total yards from scrimmage with 9,785, is third in offensive touchdowns with 66, and third in rushing yards with 5,995. As great as his Philadelphia Eagles career was, his post-NFL career might end up being greater.
Brian Westbrook officially retired from the NFL on August 29, 2012. It did not take him long to start the next chapter of his professional career. At the beginning of the 2013 NFL season, Westbrook became an analyst on Comcast SportsNet’s Eagles Postgame Live among other Eagles related shows. In 2014, Westbrook started working at Philadelphia’s sports radio station 97.5 The Fanatic as co-host of the midday show. Since then he has been a regular contributor to the station as well as co-hosting The Brian Westbrook Show and the Eagles Pre-game Show during the NFL season. Westbrooks fellow co-host, Devon Givens, answered the question that many people ask regarding star athletes. What is he like? Givens responded, “So down to earth! A great man. You look at an athlete and you never know what to expect when you finally meet them. Brian has definitely not disappointed. As great of a football player he was, he is easily a much greater person and friend.” When asked about the most important lesson he has learned during his time working with Brian Westbrook, Givens said, “Always be yourself. You will be judged by what you say and do in this profession. Stay true to yourself, be prepared, and everything will take care of itself.”
Built to Inspire
Brian Westbrook never stops trying to improve himself and providing a great future for his family. “It’s our belief that anything worth having is worth working for and broadcasting to me was always worth it. My goal is to continue to improve while being able to spend as much time as possible with my family,” he said. If you follow him on Instagram you will see just how much of a devoted family man he is.
In the distant future, you may see someone with the name “Westbrook Jr.” on the back of his football jersey (hopefully midnight green). Brian Westbrook Jr. might grow up and want to play football like his dad. I was interested to see what advice Brian Sr. would give. He said “I will push him to play other sports until he is about 14, but I would give him the same advice that I would give him about anything in life. There are a few ways to approach this. 1) If you sign up for it you will never be able to quit; if you start something you always finish it, 2) You could go out and just have fun; if you do that it will be rewarding up to a certain point because even if you are having fun, losing isn’t fun, 3) Try to become the best player you can be and find a way to always help your team win. In doing that you will want to improve your game and get better consistently.” This is great advice whether you are a child or an adult.
Broadcasting is not his only venture. He is a member of SeventySix Capital’s Athlete Venture Group, where he invests and works directly with top sports tech startups and entrepreneurs. He is also the founder of The Brian Westbrook Foundation which serves underprivileged youth, offering them the opportunity to enrich their financial knowledge, leadership skills, and life skills through character training and vocational training. He also has a horse farm which he is transitioning to be the home of his foundation. When asked where he sees his foundation 10 years from now he said, “Our foundation will be the go-to place for young minority equestrians that also want to learn how to be successful in the world that we live in.” Brian Westbrook has been an inspiration to many people throughout his football career but in my opinion, the best of B-West is yet to come. Stay tuned.
What is your favorite Brian Westbrook memory? Where do you think he ranks among Eagles running backs? I would love to hear your thoughts. Please comment below.