In 2011 we brought you the top 20 best athletes in Philly, right now as we here at Brotherly Love Nation see it. It was fun to break down a list of our cities greatest athletes and figure out who should hold the crown as #1. A lot has changed in a year, with time passed comes success and failure, incredible achievements and progress and painful loss. City staples say goodbye and new stars adorn our colors. Stay tuned to find from #20 to #1 who stayed, who left, who dropped, and who sky rocketed towards the top. Who is the best athlete in the city of Philadelphia in 2012!?!
BLN's 2012 Best Athlete in Philly: #20 Brent Celek
Throughout Philadelphia sports history there are players who fit well in Philly and those that flat out can’t cut it. It is the blue collar, work hard, down and dirty, tough as nails athlete that thrive in the City of Brotherly Love and the phans respect and love them for that. They may not win gold gloves or make the All-Pro team but they do whatever it takes to help their team win. From Jim Thome to Keith Jones, John Runyan to Carlos Ruiz, players that we love to love! #20 on our Best Athlete in Philadelphia countdown is just that. It belongs to Eagles tight end, #87, Brent Celek.
Celek, a fifth round draft choice in 2007 is as tough as they come. Celek is known around the NovaCare Complex for being the first to arrive and the last to leave every day. At 6’4 255 pounds, he is tough nosed, hard working, and relentless. Every yard he earns is earned with force that the Incredible Hulk would turn green over. He drags helpless defenders for yards as they wait for the cavalry to arrive and attempt to bring #87 to the grass. He doesn’t fall down or avoid contact, he initiates it.
“When you’re getting extra yards, fighting for it, not letting one guy bring you down, it gets the team and crowd going,” Celek said. “That’s what I want to do, energize this team.”
He is a reliable target and catches anything within a fingertips reach (Mind flashes to Celek batting the ball out of the air as he falls onto his back against the Redskins, the ball falling right into his chest as he hits the ground). With the way DeSean Jackson’s speed commands the safeties deep it leaves the middle of the field wide open for Celek to control, making him a prime target for Michael Vick.
In 2009, in only his third season in the league out of Cincinnati, Celek produced one of the most impressive seasons by a tight end in Eagles history. He set career highs in receptions with 76, yards with 971, and TD’s with 8. It was the second highest single-season totals in all three categories in team history among tight ends. It earned him top 5 in yards and touchdowns among NFL tight ends for 2009. It was a monster year that earned him a six-year contract extension, keeping him in midnight green through 2016.
2010 was a tough year for Celek statistically. But if you look at his contribution to the offense he was everything he needed to be and more. His receptions and yards per game dropped by 30 and his touchdowns were cut in half but Celek did what was needed to be done and that was to protect Michael Vick. With the struggles of the offensive line Celek was relied on more heavily to protect. In 2010 his snaps as a pass blocker increased by more than a half. It is not a sexy statistical contribution but it is part of being a tight end and it is something that Celek does extremely well.
He has developed every year and has become a viable weapon in this Eagles offense. Celek despite being underused in 2010, was rediscovered by Vick in 2011 and it paid major dividends. With the likes of Jackson, McCoy, Maclin, and Avant the tight end often gets lost in the shuffle. But with teams leaving the middle of the field wide open for the Eagles it is downright silly not to take advantage of it, and Celek is the perfect guy for the job.
Jackson's speed opens up the field for Celek
After a slow start to the 2011 season, only 9 catches through the first five games, Celek started becoming a more vocal point of the offense in week 6. In a week 7 rout of Dallas, Celek hauled in 7 catches for 94 yards and a score. He followed that performance up with another 7 catch game versus the Bears in week 8. In a week 14 blowout of the New York Jets Celek had 5 receptions for a career high 156 yards. The most for an Eagles tight end since Pete Retzlaff’s 204 yards in 1965! Including a career long 73 yard catch and run in the third quarter.
Celek finished 2011 with 62 catches, for 811 yards, and 5 scores. He finished tied for first on the team for receiving touchdowns and second in receptions. Not bad for a guy who seemingly disappeared from the Eagles game plan in 2010.
“I think he’s the best all-around tight end in the NFL right now,” NFL analyst Brian Baldinger had to say. “When you combine his blocking, pass protection, and pass-catching ability, he’s the whole package. He gets tons of yards after the catch, he’s tough and he does it all. I challenge you to try and name a tight end that blocks better than him. There isn’t one.”
High praise for a guy that plays the game the way it was meant to be played. He works his butt off, he’s earned everything he has gotten, he’s tough as dirt, and he does whatever it takes to help the team win. That is why Brent Celek starts off our list at #20 of the Best Athletes in Philly.
Stay tuned for #19, and we would love to hear your comments and feedback as we go through our top 20 Best Athletes in Philly for 2012!!