When you think about some of the great players who have worn a Philadelphia Eagles uniform over the years, Brian Westbrook is certainly one of them. In the midst of getting ready for the season opener against the host Cleveland Browns on Sunday, Sept. 9, the Eagles recognized Westbrook at the NovaCare Complex last week in a special ceremony as he retired as a member of the Philadelphia Eagles.
Westbrook had his family from Fort Washington, Md., along with Villanova head coach Andy Talley and other members of the Wildcats athletic department to honor him on that special day. And rightly so, he was clearly a great player. Andy Reid, Eagles head coach, had some great things to say about Westbrook.
“I’ll tell you, I’ve never coached a player as smart as this guy right here,” Reid said. “Unbelievable, a tribute to his parents, number one, and to Coach (Andy) Talley and that Villanova program and education that he received as number two. Nobody loved to play the game like Brian did. I mean, this guy he could do it all.”
Westbrook indeed did it all. That’s what made him special. He was one of the NFL’s great all-around players. He wasn’t just a good runner, but a terrific pass receiver and blocker. Westbrook, a two-time Pro Bowler, finished his career with the Eagles in 2009 as the franchise leader with 9,785 total yards from scrimmage. He is one of six players in league history to post 30-plus rushing (41) and receiving touchdowns (30) in a career. His best season came in 2007, when he led the league with 2,104 scrimmage yards, which earned him Pro Bowl and All-Pro honors.
Westbrook played in 107 games (85 starts) in eight seasons with the Eagles (2002–09). He currently ranks second in Eagles history in rushing yards (5,995), and third in receptions (426) and total touchdowns (68). Among Eagles running backs all-time, Westbrook played in 11 playoff games with the team, ranking first in club history in career rushing yards (591) and total touchdowns.
By the way, he could return punts, too. In 2003, he returned a punt 84 yards for a score with 1:34 remaining against the New York Giants. It was one of his signature moments as an Eagle.
“It’s hard to pick one,” Westbrook said. “The one that sticks out, the first thing when you asked the question is the play at the Giants and really, (Merrill Reese’s) call kind of is the sound and the voice that I hear in my head. It’s one of those things where it’s a total team play.”
Westbrook had a way of lifting his team’s level of play. He was a key player in the Eagles march to the Super Bowl. But long before that, he was a tremendous athlete. He played football and basketball at DeMatha High School in Hyattsville, Md. At 5-foot-10 and 203 pounds, he had to overcome a torn ACL in high school as well as knee surgery in college. Despite the injuries, Westbrook was the premiere player in NCAA Division I-AA. At Villanova, he was a threat to score any time he touched the football. He set the all-time record with 9,885 all-purpose yards.
In 2002, the Eagles selected him in the third round of the NFL draft. Westbrook was as good as most first round picks. In fact, he should have been a first rounder. Nevertheless, he never let injuries or any obstacle stop him from being successful.
“I tore my ACL my senior year,” Westbrook said. “It’s hampered me my whole, entire football career, but in the same way that it’s kind of held me back. It’s been a blessing as well. It told me the value of hard work, discipline, how to do things the right way and so when I was there, I was just focused on being the best that I could be and I tried to focus on that my entire career. I’ve been blessed. I’ve been lucky. I came to a good organization and a good coaching staff that knew how to use me the right way. I learned so much at Villanova, how to catch the ball, how to run the ball, how to be an effective blocker. Every step of the way has been a blessing. I’ve learned so much every step of the way. I’m just thankful.”
After leaving the Eagles, Westbrook, 32, played one season for the San Francisco 49ers (2010). He had a tremendous career. He will be honored again in front of the fans at Lincoln Financial Field on December 23 during a halftime ceremony against the Washington Redskins.
Kayla Michele Jackson, junior champion golfer, recently hosted a free introduction to golf clinic for local kids at the Germantown Boys & Girls Club, 25 W. Penn St. Jackson, 16, went over the fundamentals of golf with the youngsters at the event. The clinic was sponsored by the Youth Athletic League of Philadelphia, founded by Rodney S. Burrell, in association with Perfect Smiles Comprehensive Dentistry.
Offensive tackle Tra Thomas retires as an Eagle
After being drafted out of Florida State with the 11th overall pick by the Philadelphia Eagles in 1998, Tra Thomas went on to become one of the most accomplished left tackles in team history as he earned three Pro Bowl berths and one All Pro selection in 11 seasons with the team. He also was selected as the starting left tackle on the Eagles 75th anniversary team in a vote by the fans. Thomas has retired as a Philadelphia Eagle.
During his years with the Eagles, Thomas helped anchor an offensive line that paved the way for five 1,000-yard rushing seasons for Duce Staley (1998–99, 2002) and Brian Westbrook (2006–07), including a 2007 All Pro campaign by Westbrook in which he set a team record and led the league with 2,104 total yards from scrimmage. In addition, Thomas spent the majority of his career protecting the blindside of quarterback Donovan McNabb, who went to five Pro Bowls and set every major club passing record playing with Thomas as his left tackle.
Thomas finished his career with the Eagles in 2008 ranked second in club annals in games played by an offensive lineman (166) and fourth overall, missing only eight games due to injury during that time span. In fact, he and former tackle Jon Runyan started 134 games together, the most by a tackle tandem in franchise history. In addition, Thomas started 17 career playoff games with the Eagles, including five NFC championship games and one Super Bowl appearance. Only Brian Dawkins made more playoff starts with the team (18).
Thomas, 37, played eight games (three starts) for the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2009, finishing his career with 174 games played and 168 starts. The Deland, Florida, native currently resides in South Jersey with his wife, Rose, and his three sons. Thomas is also the founder and owner of an athletic training facility in Medford, N.J., called 7 Deuce Sports (www.7DeuceSports.com).
“Tra Thomas is one of the best offensive linemen to ever put on an Eagles uniform,” Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie said. “He was an anchor at the left tackle position for many years and played such an integral role in our success, though he probably never got all the credit he deserved. Besides being such a great player, Tra is an even better person and someone I’ve always had a great relationship with. I’m proud of what he has done with his career after football as he has remained very successful while keeping his home in this area. We are very happy that he is retiring as an Eagle.”
Michaela Peterson wins 2012 Arthur Ashe Essay & Art Contest
The United States Tennis Association (USTA) announced that Michaela Peterson of Philadelphia, is one of 14 winners of the 14th annual USTA/NJTL Arthur Ashe Essay and Art Contest in the girls 11–12 essay category. Peterson, along with the other winners, ranging in ages from 10 to 18, was selected from over 1,100 essays submitted earlier this summer. Each winner will receive a New York City travel package from August 24 to 26.
Peterson, daughter of David Peterson and Diana Moro, has been involved in the Legacy Youth Tennis and Education NJTL Chapter for three summers and started tennis as an eight-year-old. She will receive a round-trip coach airfare to New York City for themselves and a parent/legal guardian. The trip also includes two nights at the Grand Hyatt 42nd Street, and President’s box tickets to the 2012 Arthur Ashe Kids’ Day presented by Hess on August 25 at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. The weekend will wrap up with an awards luncheon on August 26, hosted by former New York City mayor and USTA board member David Dinkins, where the winners will receive an honorary plaque.
To enter the contest, children were asked to write an essay of 350 words or less, responding to a specific question about Arthur Ashe and his great accomplishments. This year’s question: “If Arthur Ashe were alive today, what do you think would give him hope?” A USTA sub-committee selected the winning essays based on their knowledge of Arthur Ashe, message clarity and writing style.
Donovan McNabb made it official on Monday, retiring as a Philadelphia Eagle during a press conference at the NovaCare Complex in South Philadelphia.
Jeffery Lurie, Eagles chairman and CEO, made the announcement and talked about McNabb’s brilliant career with the Eagles.
“We’re really honoring one of the greatest players in the history of the Eagles,” Lurie said. “He’s certainly the greatest quarterback in the history of the Philadelphia Eagles. Simply put, when all is said and done, this man, No. 5, Donovan McNabb, was a franchise changing quarterback. Those words are not spoken very often.
“On the field, the numbers speak for themselves. He’s the franchise leader in every major category: yards, completions, touchdowns, quarterback ratings and most important — wins. He led the team to five NFC East titles, seven playoff appearances in his 11 years here, including five NFC championship games and one Super Bowl. Donovan ranks among the all-time greats in the NFL.”
McNabb will be inducted into the Eagles Hall of Fame and have his No. 5 jersey officially retired by the team on Sept. 19 in front of the fans at Lincoln Financial Field in a nationally televised game against the Kansas City Chiefs. That should be a special moment for McNabb. Former Eagles head coach Andy Reid is now the head coach of the Chiefs. Reid drafted McNabb in 1999 out of Syracuse with the second pick overall in the NFL Draft.
McNabb played 11 years with the Eagles. He is one of the top passers in NFL history. He became one just four players in NFL history to throw for 30,000 passing yards, 200 touchdown passes, 3,000 rushing yards and 20 rushing touchdowns in his career, joining Pro Football Hall of Famers John Elway, Fran Tarkenton and Steve Young. The six-time Pro Bowler has a special place in Eagles history.
The Eagles had a video presentation of McNabb’s career prior to the press conference. The showed some of his greatest highlights as an Eagle. McNabb was really touched by the recognition.
“I want to thank Jeffery Lurie and the Eagles organization for this unbelievable honor,” McNabb said. “To be mentioned with the likes of Reggie White, Jerome Brown, Chuck Bednariak, Tommy McDonald, Brian Dawkins and others players who have paved the way for me and for former teammates and the current players. It’s truly an honor to not only be the first pick in the draft in 1999, but to be your starter for 11 years. But most importantly, to be inducted into the ring of honor and have my number retired.”
Serveral of McNabb’s ex-teammates were there to support him such as running back Brian Westbrook who reflected on their playing days with McNabb.
“I enjoy being your friend,” Westbrook said. “A big part of my career was playing with you. So many times there was a duo in sports. [Michael] Jordan had [Scottie] Pippin. I had Donovan McNabb and to be able to say that is a special thing to me.”
McNabb finished as the Eagles’ all-time leader in pass attempts (4,746), completions (2,801), yards (32,873) and touchdowns (216).