Updated Reid quote at 2:18 p.m.
Brian Westbrook started his retirement ceremony on Wednesday by thanking a building full of supporters, ranging from team owner Jeffrey Lurie to head coach Andy Reid to the trainers to the public relations staff to those who serve food in the cafeteria. Nearly seven minutes of thank yous included his eight seasons in Philadelphia, his career at Villanova and his life growing up in the Washington area.
"When I think of myself, I think of Brian Westbrook from Fort Washington, Maryland, to DeMatha, injuries, to Villanova, injuries, to Philadelphia, injuries," Westbrook said. "All the good news, all the bad days, a third-round pick that was too small, would only be a special teams player, to an All-Pro, to a two-time Pro Bowl selection, to a franchise player in total yards from scrimmage. It's been a great ride, and I thank all you people and everyone who's been here every step of the way.
Westbrook recounted the journey in which he overcame injuries and a lack of size. Reid said he "never coached a player as smart" as Westbrook, and credited Westbrook's parents and Villanova. Westbrook's father, Ron, told a story of how when Westbrook was younger, he came home with a report card with one C. His mother didn't want him to play in a championship basketball game as a result.
"She ended up letting him play, but education has always been the key for her and myself," Ron said.
That translated onto the football field, where Eagles running backs coach Ted Williams said Westbrook did not need to be told more than once and studied film with intensity.
"He prepared to be the best he could be, probably because at some point people told him he couldn't be," Williams said. "So he said, 'I need to prove that I can. How do I do that?' Because a lot of people prove that they can, but don't know how to do it. When you figure that out, you go full speed."
Westbrook started with the Eagles in a backfield rotation before becoming the primary back out of necessity. He was a trusted teammate of Donovan McNabb, a close friend who called him Tuesday telling him to "represent."
"He was the best quarterback this city of Philadelphia has ever seen," Westbrook said.
Westbrook finished his career in San Francisco, where he actually gained a better appreciation for the Eagles. He had heard from teammates that the Eagles maintained the best organization in the league and didn't really understand until he went elsewhere.
"When you go somewhere else, you actually see this is the best organization in the NFL," Westbrook said. "I've been on the other side and see how things are done differently."
When asked for his career highlight, Westbrook pointed to the famous punt return against the Giants. He said Merrill Reese's play-by-play call of the return is what he hears in his head when he thinks of the play.
"It was 10 guys blocking," Westbrook said. "I made a couple guys miss here and there, but it was 10 guys blocking."