No One Takes Losses as Hard as Eagles' Celek
November 18th, 2011
To see original article by Reuben Frank-Comcast Sportsnet click here.

Brent Celek’s Take Flight Foundation, prolanthropyIt’s late Sunday afternoon in the Eagles’ locker room at the Linc, more than an hour after the Eagles had fallen to 3-6 with another disastrous loss, another fourth-quarter collapse, this time to the Cards.

Most of the players had left the locker room, the young guys off to the clubs in Old City, the older guys heading back to their families.

And still Brent Celek sat at his locker, half-dressed, speaking to no one. Hurting. Not physically as much as mentally. Emotionally.

Maybe it’s not fair to conclude that if all 53 guys on the roster cared as much as Celek the Eagles might be 6-3 right now instead of 3-6. But it is fair to say that nobody cares more about this team than the sixth-year tight end from Cincinnati. And nobody hurts more when they lose. And that if there are maybe five or six guys on this football team who can say they’re doing all they can, Celek is one of them.

And that’s why Celek takes losses so hard. Because he gives a damn.

“I put my heart and soul into everything I do,” Celek said. “When I’m not successful and the team’s not successful, it almost feels like you do all that for nothing, and so it just hurts.”

Celek is only 26 years old, but he’s already among the top tight ends in franchise history and closing in on the No. 1 spot.

With 192 catches, he trails John Spagnola by 64, and his 2,300 receiving yards are 533 behind Spags. His 16 touchdowns put him seven behind Chad Lewis.

But for Celek, it’s never been about the numbers. It’s about doing what he can do to help the team win. If that’s a big catch, great. If it’s a big block, that means just as much.

These days, Celek is doing both at a high level. In 2009, when his 971 receiving yards were second to Jason Witten among NFC tight ends, he still wasn’t a great blocker. Last year, when he evolved into an outstanding blocker, his receiving numbers went down.

This year, he’s finally becoming the complete tight end he’s always wanted to be.

“I take great pride in that,” Celek said. “You see some tight ends, where he’s just a pass catcher or he’s just a blocker. I want to be a complete tight end. I want them to be able to rely on me in the run game, in the pass game, pass blocking, and that’s something I work on in the off-season. Day in and day out. I want to be the best I can be and one of the best tight ends in the league to help this team win football games.”

He’s doing all he can. And lately, Celek has started to look like his old self catching the football, too.

He has 26 receptions for 249 yards and two touchdowns in the Eagles’ last four games, and that’s his best four-game stretch since the first month of 2009.

Since the start of the 2009 season, only five NFL tight ends have more receiving yards than Celek – Witten, Antonio Gates, Vernon Davis, Tony Gonzalez and Kellen Winslow.

Celek is one of only two Eagles who’s played every game since the start of 2007. The other is long snapper Jon Dorenbos.

It means a lot for Celek to be out there every game, every snap.

“I take pride in playing in every single game and I don’t ever want to come out because I’m hurt,” he said. “Sometimes I just have to play through it, and it’s tough sometimes, I’m not going to lie. It is a physical game and you get banged up.”

The Eagles, 3-6, face the 6-3 Giants Sunday night at the Meadowlands in what’s really a last-gasp opportunity to salvage something out of a lost season

Celek may take losses harder than anybody in the locker room, but he’s also as optimistic and positive as anybody in the locker room.

He hasn’t given up.

“Mathematically, we have a chance,” he said. “Our goal is to win the Super Bowl, and to get there, it starts this week.”

The Eagles have lost six of their last eight games, despite having the lead in the fourth quarter in five of them, and there’s a chance they’ll face the NFC East-leading Giants without quarterback Michael Vick, who has two broken ribs.

“[The Giants have] a very good football team, they’re leading the division right now, and if we want to turn things around and make a statement, this is the week to do it,” Celek said. “There is no waiting anymore. It’s do-or-die right now and I think everybody on this team knows that.”

Celek is also quick to point out that in his opinion, much of the anger and frustration and blame pointed at head coach Andy Reid is pointed in the wrong direction.

“I think it comes down to us as players,” Celek said. “I’ve been around a lot of coaches in my life, and Andy is definitely the best. That guy is first class in everything he does, the way that he inspires guys on the team, so what I see is that we as players need to come together, we need to play as a team, and play for each other, and I think if we do that, we’re going to totally be fine.

“We’ve got a great coaching staff, the best coaching staff in the league, and they’re putting us in position to make plays. We just aren’t making them. And that falls on us. ...

“This is a time where we as a team just need to come together. If we do that, we’ve got the most talented team in the National Football League, in my opinion, but we’ve got to come together and not worry about what anybody on the outside is saying and just play as a team. Play for each other, play for the city, play for the organization.”

No profile of Celek would be complete without acknowledging his tireless charity work with the Take Flight Foundation, which he founded to provide support and resources to needy children and families.

Tuesday night, Celek was joined by numerous teammates and local celebs at Morton’s Steakhouse in Center City for a huge fundraiser for his foundation.

Considering the events of the past few weeks a few hours west of Philly, Celek’s commitment to helping kids has more meaning than ever.

“Philadelphia’s really given me everything that I have and I feel it’s my duty to give back in any way that I can,” Celek said. “My heart is with the kids that are at CHOP or St. Christopher’s and some of the children’s hospitals. You go into these hospitals and see these kids, and a lot of these kids don’t have much to smile about, so anything that we can do just to put a smile on their face, that’s our whole goal at the Take Flight Foundation.”