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Garrett Celek: Catching On


There's a San Francisco 49ers supporter on the Philadelphia Eagles roster. He also has a familiar last name.

The mystery man is none other than tight end Brent Celek, the older brother of undrafted 49ers rookie tight end Garrett Celek.

Brent Celek, a six-year veteran with 280 receptions, 3,473 receiving yards and 20 touchdowns, told he's planning on attending San Francisco's Jan. 12 Divisional Playoff game at Candlestick Park.

The elder Celek will be on-hand to support his younger brother and will do so in some resemblance of 49ers garb.

"I'm probably going to wear their colors," Brent Celek said hesitantly. "That's about it… no team gear."

Brent Celek is an accomplished player in his own right at his position, but from afar, the veteran tight end has taken an immense amount of pride in seeing his younger brother overcome hurdles to become a valued contributor to San Francisco's postseason run.

"It's an awesome feeling, just to see how far he came from being in high school to college to the NFL," the Eagles tight end said. "The fact that he's made it – I'm proud of it."

Three years Garrett's elder, Brent has never played sports on the same team or as an opponent of his brother. Brent, however, values the fact that both are now at the NFL level where they could someday face each other.

Until that happens, the wiser brother is happy to share weekly tips to his younger brother, even pre- and post-game text messages offering wisdom and motivational words.

"Usually it's once a week," Garrett explained. "It's either before the games or after the games. We talk about how each other played, how we feel, stuff like that… He offers more of the motivational insight.

"He keeps my spirits up and helps me be confident in everything I do."

Garrett, a 6-foot-5, 252-pound tight end has benefitted from his brother's words. Garrett Celek caught four passes for 51 yards in 13 games this season, all while remaining a key contributor on special teams.

Although Brent Celek's words were, at times, simple in nature, they made a lot of sense to his younger brother.

"Just keep working – keep getting better," Garrett said of the brotherly advice. "He keeps telling me I have the ability to be great, but he tells me to keep pushing for it, keep making yourself better and don't take anything for granted."

What's more, Brent Celek believes his younger brother is just starting to scratch the surface of what he can become as an NFL tight end.

Garrett Celek, who happened to play offensive tackle in high school, played in 38 games in college at Michigan State, but only made 12 starts and had 14 career catches for 135 yards and three touchdowns. Without major production in the Big Ten, the young tight end went undrafted.

"It's been exciting," said the rookie of his unique journey with the 49ers. "Every day is something new. I've been given so many opportunities and I just try to take advantage of each one every day."

Garrett's pass-catching prowess, however, was slower to develop than his older brother, who spent more time being groomed at the position. Nonetheless, Garrett's ascension on the 49ers roster has given his brother immense pride.

"Just to see how he's growing now after learning the position makes me feel good," Brent said. "He's more talented sometimes than I think he thinks."

Garrett continued his growth late in the regular season in a Week 16 road loss at Seattle. When Vernon Davis suffered a mild concussion, the rookie reserve stepped in the starting lineup and hauled in two passes for 41 yards, including a 35-yard catch that saw the young tight end hold on to the football after taking the brunt of a tough open-field tackle from Seahawks safety Kam Chancellor.

Knowing how hard it is to make such catches in traffic, Brent Celek beamed with pride after the late-game reception by his brother.

"It was awesome," Brent said of the 35-yard catch. "When I was watching it on TV, I was as proud as I could be. Those are tough plays to make against a good safety, a good defense. I know the score was a little out of hand, but watching him and how he played overall that whole game, I was proud to be his brother because he did a great job."

Brent Celek's comments were quite similar to those of Garrett's coaches, who shared their appreciation of the undrafted player's work ethic and personal growth throughout the season.

"I'll be honest with you, the first week he was here, he wasn't catching that well," offensive coordinator Greg Roman detailed of the younger Celek. "But he just got better and better and better and better incrementally. He's got a good feel for it."

It also helps to have a sibling in the league.

"He comes from good stock, his brother is a pretty good pass receiving tight end on another team," Roman added. "But he just continues to get better at everything, that's a credit to him."

Fellow tight ends on the 49ers roster see a careful, observant teammate, but also a player who relishes the opportunity to compete.

"He's still quiet," tight end Delanie Walker said of his teammate the players call, "G-Cells."

"He's soaking it in, really trying to understand the offensive system," Walker continued. "He doesn't talk too much unless we're joking with him. He'll laugh and chime in on it, but I have a lot of respect for him. He's a good guy, a great athlete and a great friend."

Walker, like Brent Celek, also loved the 35-yard reception against Seattle. Though it came in a 49ers loss, it was a nice moment for an emerging player.

"I was happy for him that he made the catch," Walker said. "I thought he was going to get blown up – but he held on to the ball. He showed a lot of poise. I was excited and I'm just excited because he's a tight end. He's part of our group and he made great plays for us."

In Garrett's mind, the play was a memorable moment, but it wasn't time to start celebrating.

"When I caught that pass, I was really excited," Garrett detailed, "but we still had another play to go. So it was, collect your thoughts, 'Yeah, you did something good. Now, let's move on to the next play.'"

Garrett's continued strides are even more noticeable next to the talented tight ends on the 49ers roster. With Walker and Vernon Davis standing out as some of the most difficult coverage matchups for opposing defenses, Celek aimed for consistency to remain competitive in a deep tight end group.

The odds might have been stacked against Celek to make the 49ers roster out of training camp, but the hard-worker kept his head down and improved each day on his way to becoming the fifth undrafted free agent to make San Francisco's opening day roster since 2005.

"I knew how great Delanie and Vernon were, I knew right away I was going to learn a lot from them," said Garrett, looking back on his start with the 49ers. "With them, they help me out so much. I know when I first got here, I couldn't catch anything. They helped me so much with that. I appreciated that a lot. Those two have made me the player that I am right now."

The player Garrett Celek has become is a valued contributor for the NFC's No. 2 seed in the 2012 postseason.

"It's definitely exciting," Garrett said. "This week I'm trying to be super-focused. I need to know every position, make sure I have everything down. Whatever they need me for, I want them to be able to count on me."

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