Niners' Garrett Celek makes brother proud

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Garrett Celek, center, hasn't played on offense yet this season, but caught the eye of 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh during the preseason.

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- It's a funny thing when you find out that your lifelong dream -- to make an NFL roster -- has come true.

It's not a movie-worthy moment, you don't get called into anybody's office, there is no official pronouncement. Rather, you hear nothing. As in, no news is good news. Really, really good news for San Francisco 49ers rookie tight end Garrett Celek.

"No one called me to tell me whether I made it or not," Celek said. "I was checking online, some of the other guys called me when they got cut. It's stressful, because you get to be friends with so many of these guys and a lot of them ended up getting picked up."

But once the deadline for cuts passed and Celek hadn't heard a word, the Michigan State product knew he could celebrate.

"It's amazing," he said.

Celek, the younger brother of Philadelphia Eagles tight end Brent Celek, was regarded as a surprise addition to the 49ers' roster as a backup tight end. During his final season at Michigan State, he was mainly a blocker. He caught only three passes for 35 yards and a touchdown, not exactly numbers that would suggest an NFL career.

And his first days of NFL training camp were a struggle, particularly when it came to pass-catching.

Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Garrett Celek went undrafted in April, but earned a spot as a backup tight end on the 49ers with hard work.

Niners starting tight end Vernon Davis told the local media that when he first saw the 6-foot-5, 250-pound Celek in training camp, he thought, "He couldn't catch a fly."

But Celek said he couldn't let himself be surprised by the way things turned out.

"In order to make it, in order to play well, you've got to expect things from yourself," Celek said. "Every day I expect myself to be great, to be able to benefit the team."

San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh said when the roster was announced that he thought that Celek had a bright future.

"He earned it," Harbaugh said. "As we said early on in this process, it's going to be a meritocracy here. Those things are earned out on the field; he did enough in our eyes to earn that spot."

Celek was signed by the 49ers as an undrafted free agent, the only one to make the team. He said he knew going into the April draft it was likely he wouldn't be selected. His modest numbers and shoulder surgeries in his sophomore and junior seasons in college probably kept teams from taking a chance on him.

"Free agency was what I was looking at, and I approached it that way," Celek said. "Once the draft was over, the thinking was that I was going to get a lot of phone calls."

And he did. But Celek thought the 49ers -- with Harbaugh's penchant for using tight ends in his power offense -- would be the best fit.

All along, big brother Brent, in his sixth season with the Eagles, has been giving Garrett advice.

"He was a big help," Garrett said. "He was at the house with me on draft day and he was able to calm me down a little bit. He knows where I am now. When he calls me or I call him, he always tells me to keep busting my butt."

Brent said he encourages his brother to go above and beyond to earn playing time.

"Work harder. Work harder and get your butt on the field," Brent said. "Go to the coaches and tell them that you want to do everything that you can to get back on that field. Be a good guy in the locker room, most importantly. Do anything that you can in any way to make the team better."

Truth be told, Garrett said he has always wanted to grow up to be just like his big brother.

Brent, who played at the University of Cincinnati, went to college on a football scholarship, and Garrett wanted to do it, too.

Brent had an outstanding career that led him to the NFL, and Garrett wanted to do it, too.

"Every step of the way, I've wanted to follow in his footsteps," Garrett said. "He's always been the person who has worked out with me, pushed me. I feel like any success I had I owe it to him. He's been a huge influence."

Brent said, "As a brother, and being the oldest with already being [on an NFL roster], you want your brother to experience things that you've experienced when they're amazing things. I didn't know what it was like to be cut, so it's hard to give any insight or how to feel because it's never happened to me. I didn't want to have to go through that with him. The fact that he made it was just awesome."

Garrett has yet to play a down on offense. During the preseason he caught four passes for 63 yards with a touchdown. At the moment, playing time doesn't seem to be the important thing.

"Every day I just want to come here and give it all I've got," Garrett said. "I don't want to have any regrets and whatever happens, happens. I'm just living it up right now."

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