From carrying a pigskin to serving pulled-pork sandwiches, Brent Celek is branching out.
“Sorry it’s so loud in here, dude,” says Brent Celek as explosions and the voice of Vin Diesel make conversation nearly impossible. The 28-year-old tight end isn’t on a movie set; he’s on the Eagles team bus headed up the New Jersey Turnpike for the preseason finale against the Jets. Although it’s a miserable rain-soaked day, the weather isn’t dulling Celek’s optimism for the season ahead under new head coach Chip Kelly. “Anytime somebody comes in, you wonder what’s going to happen,” he says. “But the stuff we’re doing is so different than what we’ve seen in the past. It’s rejuvenated me.”
Celek admits that after five seasons under Andy Reid’s guidance—the only head coach he has played for in the pros—he wasn’t sure what his future in football might look like. But he bought into Kelly’s new approach, such as tests to ensure that players are staying hydrated and an emphasis on nutrition and sound sleep habits. Then there’s the rapid-fire offense, which boasted more plays per game than that of any other team in the league heading into the regular season. The road before him felt like uncharted territory, as if the NFL could be on the verge of a quantum leap forward. “Things are changing around us all the time—getting better,” Celek says. “From the terrible cell phones we started off with to these incredible iPhones. Football became kind of stale because it wasn’t evolving. Nothing innovative like what Chip’s doing. It’s big-time.”
Off the field, Celek is also entering new terrain, an arena free from full contact but no less treacherous than football: the restaurant business. With teammate Todd Herremans and a few silent partners, he opened his American bistro, PrimeStache, in Old City in late spring. Celek had a hand in everything from design, like the exposed-brick interior and the playful wooden moustache sign above the entrance, to the menu, which features a pulled-pork sandwich named in honor of one of his favorite movie characters, braggadocious anchorman Ron Burgundy. “I wanted to know the business inside and out from the very beginning,” Celek says, adding that he’d like to take the concept to other cities someday.
For now, though, much of his remaining free time is devoted to his charity, the Take Flight Foundation, which helps children who are ill or physically challenged and throws a holiday donation party for at-risk families. “I wouldn’t be sitting here if it wasn’t for the fans and the people of Philadelphia,” he says. “So I thank them for that, and I have a special place in my heart for kids, especially sick kids. While they’re at the hospital, we want to make their experience as enjoyable as possible.”
As for what the future holds, expect to see Celek rocking a ’stache of his own this fall, both to support men’s health awareness in the month of “Movember” and to promote his restaurant. Regardless of how the season unfolds, his life on and away from the gridiron mirrors Kelly’s offense—in perpetual motion. “I don’t play video games,” Celek says. “I don’t have cable TV at my house. There’s so much other stuff to do in life.”