Coach Chip Kelly calls tight end Brent Celek the "epitome of a Philadelphia Eagle."
Celek, a blue-collar player who has been with the Eagles longer that every player except long snapper Jon Dorenbos, says he has been indirectly pushed by his grandfather, Ed Celek, who is a retired business manager and supervisor of buildings and grounds for schools in Fremont, Ohio.
Ed Celek went to Notre Dame to play football, "but his mom died and he had to go home and take care of his family, so he really never got to live out the football dream," Brent Celek said after a practice last week. "I think he wanted his own kids to play football, and my dad was never a big football fan. My dad got offered a scholarship to Kent State and didn't go, didn't want to play college football."
Consequently, Ed Celek "always looked up to me," said the veteran tight end, a Cincinnati native.
Ed Celek used to drive several hours to attend his grandson's high school and college games. After Celek caught his first NFL touchdown pass in 2007, he gave the ball to his grandfather.
"He's always been a huge fan of football ever since I was young," said Celek, who is starting his ninth season with the Eagles, one year less than Dorenbos.
"He's 92 now," Celek added, "so it's hard for him to get out to some of these games, but he gets to come out once or twice a year. He's an inspiration to me every single day - the fact he's 92 years old and still lives by himself and takes care of himself."
Celek, 30, is an inspiration in his own right.
Off the field, he has become an entrepreneur - he owns Prime Stache, an Old City restaurant - and a person who gives back to the community with his Take Flight Foundation for seriously ill and physically challenged children.
On the field, he has quietly become one of the most reliable tight ends in franchise history.
One of the few holdovers from the Andy Reid regime, Celek has more receptions (344), receiving yards (4,315) and receiving touchdowns (27) in his career than any Eagles tight end except Pete Retzlaff.
An old-school tight end out of the Mike Ditka mold, Celek is regarded as a superior blocker and as someone who runs over tacklers after making a catch.
"I think he's underrated in terms of everything he does," Kelly said. "I think he's one of the best blocking tight ends in the league . . . and going there in the red zone, he's a great target and has real good range . . . His value is huge."
At practice last week, Celek was one of the last to leave the field. He spent extra time working with Trey Burton, a blossoming tight end.
The work ethic comes from his grandfather.
"I grew up with my grandpa coming down to my house working heavy machinery, picking up big rocks, splitting logs when he was in his 80s," the 6-foot-4, 255-pound Celek said. "So he was always pushing us. Like I said, he's my inspiration."
Celek, drafted in the fifth round by the Eagles in 2007, played in 69 percent of the team's snaps last season, down from 77 percent the previous year. His workload should decrease this year with Zach Ertz's expected emergence, although Ertz is recovering from "core muscle" surgery.
"Whatever Coach Kelly wants me to do, I'll be out there ready to do it," said Celek, who caught 32 passes for 340 yards and one touchdown last season. "I know they have a lot of confidence in me. I think what's great is that we have a lot of great players, a lot of great tight ends. You always need a lot of good depth and we've got it."
Celek, who set career highs in receptions (76), yards (971) and TDs (eight) in 2009, is more of a blocker in the Eagles' current scheme.
"We like to run the ball, so if a tight end can block, you can make a good running game great," he said.
Celek wants to play as much as possible, but if he is given a decreased workload, he would take it in stride.
"That doesn't bother me. I just want to win a championship," he said. "That's all I want."
"I just love the locker room," Celek added. "With the group of guys we have, I think you can really feel it. I'm not talking about anything on the field - [the media] can all see that - but I just like these guys and I know these guys will fight for me, and I'll fight for them."
And for his grandfather.