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A Tribute to One of the Game’s Best Centers: Jason Kelce

Courtesy of Matt Rourke/Associated Press

Jason and Travis. The Eagles and Chiefs. They’re arguably football’s favorite brothers. Headlining for their massive success on the field and for their winning personalities off of it, Jason and Travis Kelce have won America’s hearts. A member of the duo, Jason, announced his retirement after thirteen seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles.

Born in 1987 in Westlake, Ohio, he attended Cleveland Heights High School, where he played both linebacker and running back and was named All-Lake Erie-Lake League twice. After redshirting his freshman year at the University of Cincinnati, he switched to fullback and finally offensive line. During his junior season in 2009, Kelce earned second-team All-Big East honors after thirteen starts at left guard. Out of his 47-game Bearcats career, he started 38 times, 26 at left guard and 12 at center. Upon graduation, he was named Honorable Mention All-America and second team All-Big East. 

Courtesy of Cara Owsley/The Cincinnati Enquirer

In the 2011 NFL Draft, the Eagles selected Kelce in the sixth round, where he signed a four-year contract on July 27. He became the first rookie in franchise history to start all 16 games at center. In 2013, he had a great season, starting all 16 games.In February 2014, he signed a six-year extension with the Eagles. Pro Football Focus ranked him as the seventh best center in the NFL. In March 2019, he agreed to another extension, this time for only one year. After the 2021 season, he considered retirement but decided to sign yet another one year extension for $14 million, making him the highest paid center in the NFL.

Among his big accomplishments are a Super Bowl ring from the 2017 season and being named a six-time Pro Bowler.

After his first Super Bowl win, he exclaimed to his fans at the celebratory parade in Philadelphia, “I’m going to take a second to talk to you about underdogs, Stefen Wisniewski wasn’t good enough, Jason Kelce is too small, Lane Johnson can’t lay off the juice, Brandon Brooks has anxiety, Carson Wentz didn’t go to a division one school, Nick Foles don’t got it…This entire organization with a bunch of driven men to accomplish something. We were a bunch of underdogs.”

On March 5 of this year, in nearly a 45-minute long speech, the 36-year-old future Hall of Famer announced that he was finally retiring from the NFL. Crediting his entire football history, from middle school through this past season with the Eagles, he shed tears as he thanked his family, friends, coaches, fans, and the city of Philadelphia for supporting him through his career. 

On the New Heights podcast that Travis and Jason host, Travis asked Jason his thought process about retiring. He said, “Me. I think that’s how I knew. In previous years, I would reach out to other guys, like, ‘Hey, how do you know when you want to stop playing?’ Or, ‘Stout (offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland), what do you think?’ The reality was it was more firm than it’s ever been this year that I just don’t think physically I can compete at the level that I want to anymore. And really compete the way I want to. My elbow and my knees, it’s just gotten to the point that the deterioration and the recovery from that deterioration, it hasn’t really manifested on game day yet but I know it’s going to start doing that. 

And I’d really rather not … I’m hard on myself. If I go out there and i’m not the player that I want to be, it’ll crush me. I feel very confident in the decision I’ve made. I know that it’s time. I’ve had a really good run. But that’s the biggest reason why.”

At the end of his speech, after thanking his family, friends, coaches, and fans, he ended with a heartfelt ode to his home city, Philadelphia. 

Courtesy of Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images

It has always been a goal of mine to play my whole career in one city and I couldn't have dreamt a better one and a better fit if I tried. I don't know what's next, but I look forward to the new challenges and opportunities that await and I know that I carry with me the lessons from my time here and that forever, we shall all share the bond of being Philadelphians.” 

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