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Eagles center Jason Kelce retires after 13 NFL seasons and 1 Super Bowl ring

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LA Post: Eagles center Jason Kelce retires after 13 NFL seasons and 1 Super Bowl ring
AP
DAN GELSTON
March 04, 2024

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Jason Kelce has retired after 13 seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles.

The 36-year-old Kelce officially called it quits Monday at the Eagles' NovaCare Complex, ending a career in which he became not only one of the great centers of his era who played a key role in the franchise's lone Super Bowl championship but a beloved Philly personality and popular podcast host.

“Let’s see how long this lasts,” said Kelce, wearing a sleeveless Eagles T-shirt, before he burst into tears and needed several moments to compose himself at a news conference attended by his parents, Ed and Donna, and brother Travis, who wearing sunglasses inside the auditorium.

Kelce needed 45 minutes to recount his career from his childhood in Ohio to his final days with the Eagles through tears, laughter and many thanks to his biggest influences before he finally announced he was retiring.

“I have been the underdog my entire career,” he said. “And I mean this when I say it, I still wish I was.”

Kelce was a sixth-round pick in the 2011 draft. The burly, bushy-haired and bearded Kelce has been a stalwart of the offensive line since he was drafted and as an Iron Man after he missed most of the 2012 season with a partially torn MCL and torn ACL.

The moment that endeared him for life to the Philly faithful came at the Super Bowl parade following the 2017 season when he dressed as one of Philadelphia’s famed Mummers, and the ultimate underdog delivered a fiery, profane speech that whipped the crowd into a frenzy.

“No one likes us! No one likes us! No one likes us! We don’t care,” Kelce exclaimed that day in February 2018. “We’re from Philly! (Expletive) Philly. No one likes us! We don’t care!”

Kelce recalled that moment Monday, saying: “I won’t forget the parade and what it meant to the city of Philadelphia. The joy in our community and the closure it gave so many.”

“That wasn’t my speech,” Kelce said. “It was Philadelphia’s.

Kelce is the older brother of Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce. The two played each other in the Super Bowl two seasons ago, which was won by the Chiefs — “I won’t forget falling short to the Chiefs,” Jason said Monday — and co-host a podcast. Jason attended the Chiefs' playoff game in frigid Buffalo temperatures in this season's playoffs. He ripped off his shirt and chugged beers as he sat in a suite with Travis' girlfriend, Taylor Swift.

It was the Jason Kelce way.

He's been a showman off the football field, singing the national anthem at a 76ers game, partying with the Phillie Phanatic and pounding a beer to a roaring ovation at a Phillies postseason game.

But it was his work on the offensive line that made him a star. Kelce ended his career by making 156 straight starts, and he earned six All-Pro Team selections.

He was part of Philadelphia’s core four of stars that have experienced droughts and championship runs, multiple coaches and one of the worst collapses in the city’s sports history. Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham are the lone holdovers from former coach Andy Reid’s last season with the Eagles in 2012. Lane Johnson completes the four veteran anchors and was a rookie in former coach Chip Kelly’s first season in 2013.

Kelce is the first one to call it quits.

Sirianni added to Kelce’s lore by shipping a keg of beer to the center’s home to entice him to return in 2022.

“No Keg videos this year,” Kelce wrote Monday morning on social media.

Instead, he thanked a long list of mentors from his high school football, hockey and lacrosse coaches and his old band teachers at Cleveland Heights (Ohio) high school for putting up with a “rambunctious kid that was will full of immaturity, stupidly and cockiness.”

He thanked his coaches at Cincinnati for believing he could play center, a fortuitous decision that made him a great fit in Philadelphia, then thanked his four coaches with the Eagles.

Kelce choked up again thanking Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie for his leadership and general manager Howie Roseman for drafting him. He shared memories of his Eagles career and said he would never forget the day Reid called to tell him Kelce had been drafted by the Eagles. Kelce’s father rushed into a room, “with tears streaming down his face,” in pure joy of the moment.

Kelce went on to play 193 regular-season games for the Eagles.

“It has always been a goal of mine to play my whole career in one city,” Kelce said. “I couldn’t have dreamt a better one if I tried.”

___

AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl

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