Eagles fans in 2009 are discovering Brent Celek much in the same way--with a joyous wonder at the hands, the toughness, the consistency--that Dallas fans did in 2004, as a young tight end out of Tennessee, named Jason Witten emerged as a monument to reliability, a worthy heir to the long-vacated throne of Jay Novacek.
Celek emerged in 2008, particularly in the post-season, when he posted 19 receptions, the third-most in NFL history for tight ends. In his first full year as a starter, Celek continues to impress. With 447 yards, 37 receptions and three touchdowns, Celek is on pace to become the first Eagles' tight end since Pete Retzlaff in 1965 to accrue more than 1,000 yards receiving in a season.
For the Philly faithful, this is a long time coming, an instance of righting a wrong, as in 2003--eight picks ahead of the Cowboys, who took Witten--the Eagles drafted L.J. Smith. For Dallas, this sounds a bit familiar, and for good reason.
First, physically, Celek (6 foot 4, 260 pounds) and Witten (6 foot 5, 262 pounds) are nearly identical. According PhillyBurbs.com, though, the similarity goes far beyond physical make-up--and this is no accident.
"I watch Witten week in and week out," said Celek. "He's still just as good as ever. I just try to watch him and learn some things from him because he's played these (NFC East) teams for six or seven years and been very productive, and I can definitely pick things up from somebody like that."
Head coach Andy Reid, who is well acquainted with both men, has taken notice of the similarities as well.
"They are similar," Reid said. "They are both very physical players and they both make tough catches. I had a chance to coach Witten in the Pro Bowl this past year. I have a lot of respect for him. He is a good player. He has great attitude like Brent does, so there are some similarities there."
Of course, in 2004, his second year in the league, Witten made his first Pro Bowl. Celek, in his third year, is still waiting on that.
On this pace though, he won't have to wait long.