Jason Kelce's trainer shares tribute, story behind taping him up for his retirement press conference

Jason Kelce's trainer, Joe O'Pella, took to social media to share a tribute to Kelce and the 13 seasons they spent together.

ByTim McManus ESPN logo
Wednesday, March 6, 2024
Watch: Taking a look back at Jason Kelce's 13 years in Philadelphia
He's one of the most beloved athletes in Philadelphia history. We look back at what Jason Kelce means to the Eagles and the city.

PHILADELPHIA -- Eagles center Jason Kelce appeared at his retirement news conference Monday as he might for any of his media sessions over his 13-year career, wearing a sleeveless team-issued T-shirt, athletic pants and sandals.

Further adding to his fresh-off-the-practice-field look was that his ankles were taped. Turns out, there was a good reason for that.

Jason Kelce's trainer, Joe O'Pella, took to Instagram to share a tribute to the beloved player whom he shared a special bond with.

Eagles athletic trainer Joe O'Pella wrote about his long-standing relationship with Kelce on social media Tuesday evening. He mentioned how generous Kelce was when O'Pella was diagnosed with cancer this past season, offering his beach house if the O'Pellas needed to get away and to pay for meal services to help out the trainer and his wife.

"That's who he is as a person," O'Pella wrote. "I taped this guy's ankles and thumbs every day for 13 seasons, and when he played his last game in Tampa, again I couldn't be there due to cancer. And when he told me he would be retiring and I expressed my regret of not being the last person to ever tape him, he offered to have me tape him for his retirement press conference.

"That's who he is. And I hope these stories can add to an already unbelievable legacy."

Kelce went on to give a passionate, tear-filled retirement speech for the ages, in what could be described as a 40-plus minute love poem to the sport of football and the people who supported him along the way. Kelce cried so much that he was handed a small towel to handle the flow of tears. His brother, Travis, sobbed, and his mom, Donna, his dad, Ed, and his wife, Kylie, had their emotions written on their faces. Team employees also had a hard time keeping it together.

Kelce, the six-time first-team All-Pro and likely Hall of Famer, received a round of applause as he finished his speech. He acknowledged every person in the auditorium with either a handshake or a hug.

He then walked out of the auditorium and toward the cafeteria, with white tape around his ankles and his sandals flip-flopping, and received a standing ovation as he entered the room, which was full of Eagles employees.

"I don't know that I have much speeches left in me today," Kelce joked. "But thank you so much for everything everyone in here does."

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