OAKLAND CA - AUGUST 28: Alex Smith #11 of the San Francisco 49ers hands the ball off to Brian Westbrook #20 against the Oakland Raiders during an NFL preseason game at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on August 28 2010 in Oakland California. (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
There will be one less Wildcat in the NFL tomorrow, when Brian Westbrook signs a one-day contract with the Philadelphia Eagles and then announces his retirement from the sport. He had hoped to catch on somewhere last season, but the 9-year league veteran had suffered too many injuries for cautious front offices to take a chance. Instead, he spent much of the last year on his horse farm and supporting his brother, who plays for the Redskins.
In his NFL career, Westbrook rushed for 6,335 and had another 3,940 yards receiving, scoring 71 touchdowns. The Villanova alum spent the majority of his career with the Eagles, joining them as a third-round draft pick in 2002, and he quickly became one of the league's more dynamic players, both as a rushing and pass-catching option out of the backfield.
He was a Pro-Bowl selection twice, one coming as he helped the Eagles to an appearance in the 2004 Super Bowl and the other after running for a career-high 1,333 yards in 2007 (and also setting a franchise record in receptions).
A series of injuries and pair of concussions in 2009 lead the Eagles to release him from his contract prior to the 2010 season. Instead, he signed with the San Francisco 19ers, where he was able to wear #20, the same digits that adorned his jersey in college.
"I think everybody knows what I think of him," Eagles head coach Andy Reid told reporters. "I think the world of the guy and one of the smartest players I ever coached. He's got a phenomenal mind on him. [It's a] tribute to that that university out there, Villanova. Great school and we've got a lot of special ones here."
At Villanova, he was one of the greatest offensive players the program has seen since being revived in the mid-1980s. The holds the all-time NCAA record with 9,512 all-purpose yards that had previously been held by Brian Shay of Division-II Emporia State University. He scored 542 points in 46 career games on 84 touchdowns. He accumulated 4,298 rushing yards, 2,582 receiving yards and 2,289 yards on kickoff returns, including four kickoffs returned for a touchdown.
He has held as many as 41 school records, 13 CAA (then Atlantic-10) records and 5 NCAA records as a college player.
Notably, he remains the only player in the history of college football at any level to rush for 1,000 yards and record 1,000 receiving yards in the same season; which he did in 1998. He broke the 1,000 yard rushing mark at Villanova three times and remains one of only two Wildcats to reach that milestone.
He was the second and most recent Villanovan to receive the Walter Payton Award, recognizing him as the best player in I-AA football in 2001 (the other being Brian Finneran). That season he collected 2,823 net yards and scored 29 touchdowns for the 'Cats.
"We've been blessed with some good running backs and I'd put him up against anybody," Reid added. "He's a great runner, great blocker, [and] good route runner and catcher. You could move him all over the place, he had the aptitude and capacity where you could take him and put him anywhere you needed to put him. You weren't going to run out of gigabytes with Brian Westbrook."
When he was drafted by the Eagles with the 91st pick in the 2002 NFL Draft (3rd round), it was the first Wildcat to be drafted since Pro Football Hall-of-Famer Howie Long was picked in the second round by the Raiders in 1981.
Westbrook will use some of his free time to work with the Villanova football club as an advisor, along with other former football players, with a goal of building up the program on the field, in the stands and perhaps in its outward perception. He has also been involved with Coach Andy Talley's bone marrow foundation and has attended their spring fundraising event at Villanova the past two years.