SUPER POLL 50 | 37: Brian Westbrook’s disappointment lingers over Super Bowl XXXIX

Our series on ASN’s 50 greatest NFL championship competitors of the past 50 years continues with No. 37 Brian Westbrook, originally published on Jan. 18.

Brian-Westbrook-37Brian Westbrook can’t seem to let go of the disappointment.

More than 10 years after his Philadelphia Eagles lost Super Bowl XXXIX to the New England Patriots, 24-21, Westbrook is still gripped by his team’s failure.

“I don’t think time ever heals it,” he said last year after learning of his selection to the Eagles Hall of Fame. “It just doesn’t because you watch the NFL Network, and they show the game and they show the playoff and the Super Bowl.

“That’s a game that we should have won. That’s a game we had in our hands. A few too many turnovers and that hurts, but you know that losing, it never goes away, never stops eating at you because when you said you’re a Super Bowl champion, that’s something no one can ever take away from you.”

That said, Westbrook, a third-round draft choice out of Villanova who played for the Eagles from 2002-09, recognizes his team’s accomplishment as something special.

And getting to the Super Bowl is a memory he  cherishes.

“I think making it to the Super Bowl stands out to me,” Westbrook said. “Even though we didn’t win, there are not a lot of people that can say they made it to the Super Bowl, you know. So, that’s a big accomplishment. …

“It’s one of those things that you never forget as a player. That whole season was magical. Even though we did not win, that was definitely a great, great experience.”

Westbrook’s contribution to that season and in that game were plenty special. A game-changing tailback, Westbrook amassed 1,515 total yards (812 rushing, 703 receiving) and scored nine touchdowns during the regular season. Westbrook amassed 135 yards in the NFC Championship game and no skill player touched the ball more in the Super Bowl — 25 times — than he did. He even returned three punts for 19 yards.

Westbrook also had 44 yards rushing and 60 yards receiving, including a 10-yard touchdown catch-and-run that tied the game at 14. It was the first time a Super Bowl was tied going into the fourth quarter.

If there is anything that Westbrook, who retired after the 2010 season, misses about his playing days, it is the camaraderie.

“A lot of times, it’s just hanging around in the locker room,” he told Laura Okmin in a 2012 interview on Fox Sports. “You remember the jokes, the funny things that happened on the field. You just enjoyed and miss the time you spent with the players.”


Above: Brian Westbrook, a two-time CAA offensive player of the year, was the 2001 recipient of the Walter Payton Award as the top player in NCAA Division I-AA. (Photos courtesy of Villanova University Athletics)

Jill R. Dorson

Jill R. Dorson is a freelance writer based in San Diego.