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October 19, 2015

Westbrook joins teammates McNabb, Dawkins in Eagles HOF

Eagles NFL

If you’re looking for the reasons behind the Eagles success in the early 2000s — at least in terms of on-field production — there are like three players a step above the rest. 

And at halftime of Monday night’s game against the Giants, the third member of Andy Reid’s holy trinity, Brian Westbrook, joined former teammates Donovan McNabb and Brian Dawkins in the Eagles Hall of Fame.

Westbrook, the franchise’s all-time leader in yards from scrimmage (9,785) and all-purpose yards (10,770), led the team out of the tunnel and onto the field — much like Dawkins in 2012 and McNabb in 2013 did prior to their enshrinements. However, the Villanova product was not alone.

Trying to gauge what the Andy Reid Eagles would've been like without one of those three -- McNabb, Dawkins and Westbrook -- because each of them contributed to greatly to the team's run to four-straight NFC title games and its first Super Bowl birth since Dick Vermeil was the coach.

It was also no coincidence that Westbrook’s big night came against the Giants, the team that saw firsthand so many of the biggest plays during his eight seasons with the Eagles.

"When Mr. Lurie called me he said, ‘We couldn't have chosen a better game to kind of induct you to the Hall of Fame than when we play against the Giants,'" Westbrook said back in August when news of his enshrinement was first announced. "And he just said, ‘You took so much pride in playing against those guys.' For me it was a great matchup and a great opportunity to show people close what we can really do here and what I can do as a player, but it's kind of fitting that I'll go into the Hall of Fame against the Giants."

Big plays aside, it always seemed as though Westbrook played his best against the Giants. In 12 career regular season games against New York, he scored 13 touchdowns (7 rushing, 5 receiving, 1 return), more than any other opponent. He also averaged 108.6 yards from scrimmage per game (70.1 rushing, 38.5 receiving).

Coming from a small college in Villanova, not much was initially expected out of Westbrook after the Eagles drafted him in the third round (91st overall) of the 2002 draft. Certainly not this much:

• 107 G (2002-2009)
• 2x Pro-Bowler; 1x All-Pro
• 1,308 carries for 5,995 yards (4.6 yards per carry) and 37 TDs
• 426 receptions for 3,790 yards (8.9 yards per catch) and 29 TDs
• 985 return yards (kick and punt) and 2 TDs
• Eagles all-time leader in yards from scrimmage (9,785) and all-purpose yards (10,770)
• 6 games with 200+ yards from scrimmage.

To say he overachieved in the league would be a bit of an understatement. But Westbrook believes his underdog status (along with his local ties to ‘Nova) are part of what helped endear him to an Eagles fan base that has been known to have volatile relationships with some of its players.

Here’s more from his training camp press conference back in August, when he talked about just that:

"Just like Rocky, they love the underdog," Westbrook said. "They love a guy coming from a small school just willing to work his butt off, to dedicate himself to the game. But also, they can relate to the public. 
"The people in the stands, that's me. That's who I am. I see how they love Brian Dawkins, and I know why because he played with his heart and soul on the field, and he left it on the field. He was able to let everyone see that side of him. I'm not the Ra-Ra guy like Dawkins on the field, but I left everything I had on the field. It wasn't just because of the team. It wasn't just because we wanted to win. 
"Part of it had to do with the fans as well. They inspired us to win, and when I walked into the stadium of the Vet my rookie year and I heard the fans screaming and yelling and it's two degrees outside, whether it's 99 degrees outside, they're still giving their hard earned money. They're acting crazy and that excites you. That makes you want to do the things that we were able to do. It made me wanted to work a little bit harder, especially during the week, to get to go play where you want to play out there on Sundays. It was just meaningful."
"It was difficult for me in San Francisco because no one is going to love you like the team that drafted you, especially if you played well there. No one's going to love you that way. So, you go to a different team, the people treat you a little bit different ... but San Francisco's fan base was nothing like Philadelphia. I mean I got to walk around the grocery store, downtown San Francisco and nobody cared. I could have my jersey on, literally, and nobody would care.”
"But you go to the grocery store, 7-Eleven, Wawa here and everybody wants to know how my back's doing, what's the game plan for this weekend. It's a different love for the game here in Philadelphia."

It's that kind of love that resulted in fans voting Westbrook as the fourth-greatest living Eagle in a PhillyVoice poll earlier this summer. Two of the three players ahead of him on the list were none other than Dawkins (1st) and McNabb (2nd). Third place belonged to wideout Tommy McDonald.

On Monday night, Westbrook took his rightful place alongside those four in the Eagles Hall of Fame.

Baughan also enshrined in Eagles HOF

Joining Westbrook on Monday was former Eagles linebacker Maxie Baughan, who spent the first six seasons of his 12-year NFL career with the Birds. In his 80 starts, Baughan had seven interceptions (one returned for a TD) and five fumble recovers. He was also selected to five Pro Bowls in his six seasons with the Eagles, and was named a first-team All-Pro in 1964. Most importantly, however, he was a member of the last Eagles team to win an NFL title back in 1960. 

All told, Baughan made nine Pro Bowls and earned a pair of All-Pro selections and finished his career with 18 interceptions and 10 forced fumbles.

Follow Matt on Twitter: @matt_mullin