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Wednesday, December 19, 2007

MAHE: Friendships last longer than NFL careers

Daily Herald

I would have loved to have been able to write about beating the Cowboys this week.

I had actually planned to do so. However, when the Vikings beat the Bears on Monday night and definitively knocked us out of the playoffs, writing about our big win over the 'Boys seemed silly. Yes, silly. I used the thesaurus to find just the right word and after ruling out inane, pointless, and stupid, silly seemed like the most suitable word.

But my cousin and former BYU standout, Fahu Tahi, plays for the Vikings, so I'm happy for him that they are still in the hunt. And I also just found out that Brian Westbrook, our starting running back, just made the Pro Bowl Team. I wanted to write a little bit about him and our running back crew this week in honor of his recent accomplishment.

I have been extremely fortunate to have had great people to learn from in the running back corps. Since I came into the league in 2003 - five years ago - Brian Westbrook and Correll Buckhalter have been showing me the ropes like older brothers.

Buckhalter has been a sounding board for me. He is a great listener and makes it easy to talk to him. There have probably been a lot of times when he has wanted to tell me to shut up, but he's been nice enough to let me ramble on about anything. He is funny without trying to be and keeps things light.

He probably doesn't even remember this, but as a rookie free agent I had asked him before the last round of cuts if he thought there was a chance that I had made the team. He said he was sure that I was going to. That meant a lot coming from him because he can be honest to a fault sometimes and will tell you his honest opinion regardless of whether or not it may hurt your feelings.

In a crowded room, you may not notice Brian Westbrook if you didn't know who he was. He isn't flashy or loud, would probably not call attention to himself and would likely defer if someone else was seeking to bring attention to him. I wouldn't call him shy, but there is a quiet confidence about him that doesn't seek recognition.

All of that changes when he puts on jersey number 36. He is explosive, flashy, and anything but unnoticeable. I'm not sure if our game on Sunday was nationally televised, but for those that didn't see, Westbrook clocked in for one of the most unselfish plays in football ever. He broke a run for a touchdown, but rather than run it in and pad his own stats, he stopped at the one-yard line to secure a win for our team by letting time expire.

He has taught me so much about being a professional athlete and a leader. It has been an honor and a privilege to be his backup.

Much more so than in college, the dynamics of a team in the NFL changes considerably from year to year. Teammates kind of come and go in this business. But if you're lucky like me, along the way you get to make friends like these - and these friendships will outlast the short NFL career.

Merry Christmas to all the loyal Daily Herald readers of Utah County - from Reno Mahe and the Philadelphia Eagles.


• Reno Mahe is a former BYU standout who is in his fifth year in the NL with the Philadelphia Eagles. If you have question for Reno, send it to dhsports@heraldextra.com

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