Had Brian Westbrook not attended Villanova University, there is a very good chance he wouldn’t have caught Andy Reid’s eye. Which means all those yards he racked up in midnight green could have easily come in a different-colored uniform.
Of course, that all is revisionist history now. Westbrook played at Villanova, grabbed the attention of Reid and was drafted in the third round (91st overall) of the 2002 NFL draft. One round too late, if you ask his college coach.
“I think the Eagles did a great job hiding their card because they took him in the third round, which I thought was a steal, because he should have been a second-round guy,” said Villanova coach Andy Talley.
All Westbrook did was shatter franchise records and captivate fans with electrifying plays, like his 84-yard, season-saving punt return to beat the Giants in 2003.
“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,” Westbrook said, when asked to name his favorite Eagles moment.
Westbrook officially retired as a Philadelphia Eagle Wednesday morning at the NovaCare Complex. The team presented the running back with a short film highlighting his biggest plays, then presented him with a framed No. 36 jersey. He’ll be honored again Nov. 23 at the Linc when the Eagles host the Washington Washington Football Team.
“To the Eagles fans, thank you for all of the memories,” Westbrook said. “You’re the best fans in the world and I hope the passion that I played with on the field and how I carried myself off of the field represented you guys well and made you guys proud.”
A humbled Westbrook thanked just about everyone in the room, from team owner Jeffrey Lurie all the way down to the lunch staff in the cafeteria. His parents and extended family sat in the front row beaming with pride.
“I’m blessed to be here and I’m thankful to be here,” he said. “I spent eight good years, eight of the best years of my life in Philadelphia playing for the Eagles. It was, and still is, a great organization.”
Reid also gushed praise on No. 36.
“I’ve never coached a player as smart as this guy right here,” the coach said. “Unbelievable.”
But the proudest in the room might have been his college coach. Talley, who tutored Westbrook for five years at Villanova, admitted that he used to get chills when he heard Westbrook’s name introduced over the loudspeakers at Lincoln Financial Field.
“It was such a great source of pride. He became a household word, in the Philadelphia area, from Villanova,” Talley said. “You know when they would introduce him in the Linc, they’d scream out, ‘From Villanova’ — that would give us the chills, that’s an awesome feeling. People still ask me today, ‘You coached Brian Westbrook?’ Yeah, I coached Brian Westbrook. I dealt with him for five years.”