Jason Kelce retiring after 13 seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles

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Tuesday, March 5, 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 (WPVI) -- One of the most beloved Philadelphia Eagles in franchise history is calling it a career.

After mulling it over for years, Jason Kelce is hanging up his cleats for good this time, announcing in a tearful Monday afternoon news conference that he's retiring.

READ MORE: Philadelphia Eagles fans react to Jason Kelce announcing his retirement from the NFL

"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 was 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."

Watch: Jason Kelce's emotional speech(Viewer discretion advised for coarse language)

Full speech: Jason Kelce retiring after 13 seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles

A sixth-round draft selection in 2011, Kelce, 36, played his entire 13-year career with the Eagles. He was selected to seven Pro Bowls in 13 seasons and was named first-team All-Pro for the sixth time in 2023 -- proof that he played at an elite level up to his final snap.

"I've been asked many times why did I choose football -- what drew me to the game -- and I never have an answer that gets it right," Kelce said during a speech that he had to stop many times as he was overtaken by emotion. "The best way I could explain it is what draws you to your favorite song ... your favorite book. It's what it makes you feel. The seriousness of it. The intensity of it.

"Stepping on the field was the most alive and free I had ever felt. There was a visceral feeling with football, unlike any sport. The hairs on my arms would stand up. I could hit somebody, run around like a crazed lunatic and then get told, 'Good job.' I love football."

He is leaving an indelible mark on the franchise, the NFL and the city.

This is a 2011 photo of Jason Kelce of the Philadelphia Eagles. This image reflects the Philadelphia Eagles active roster as of Monday, Aug. 22, 2011 when this image was taken.
(AP Photo)

But little was made of his arrival when he was selected in the sixth round by then-coach Andy Reid. Kelce would go on to secure the starting center job and became a mainstay even as his head coaches changed from Andy Reid to Chip Kelly to Doug Pederson to Nick Sirianni.

He helped redefine his position, illustrating the benefits of lighter, quicker centers who can get out in space.

Undoubtedly a future Hall of Famer, Kelce's name will forever be etched in Philly lore after helping the Birds win the franchise's first Super Bowl in February of 2018.

Eagles: 'This victory has been a long time coming': Ducis Rodgers reports on Action News at 11 p.m., February 4, 2018

And he's set the standard for parades, too.

One of Kelce's most iconic moments came during an impassioned Super Bowl 52 parade speech. While donning the now iconic Mummers costume, Kelce aired his grievances while barking about the team's underdog story that resonated throughout the city.

VIDEO: Jason Kelce's rousing speech at Eagles parade finale

VIDEO: Jason Kelce's rousing speech at Eagles parade finale. Watch the video everyone is talking about from February 8, 2018.

"Any of you know who the biggest underdog is? It's y'all, Philadelphia. For 52 years, y'all have been waiting for this. You want to talk about an underdog? You want to talk about a hungry dog? For 52 years you've been starved of this championship," he said to the crowd.

The speech gave fuel to his now national fame and eventually the "Kelce Bowl," and a new podcast. And the family name really took off when his brother Travis, a tight end for the Kansas City Chiefs, started dating one of the most recognizable people on the planet, Taylor Swift.

Off the gridiron, Kelce proved to be just like one of us.

Through the annual celebrity guest bartending event, he's spent summers chugging beers with diehard fans down in Sea Isle City, where he owns a home. He and his brother and a cast of Eagles favorites have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for the Eagles Autism Foundation.

He's a regular at his local McDonald's in Delaware County, where he lives with his wife Kylie and their three daughters.

And Kelce is no stranger to the music scene, too. He's been featured in two Christmas albums with other Eagles players and once traded in his cleats for a saxophone to play with the Philadelphia Orchestra.

WATCH: Philadelphia Eagles Center Jason Kelce plays saxophone with Philadelphia Orchestra

Kelce performs with orchestra, training camp begins. Jeannette Reyes reports during Action News Mornings on July 25, 2018.

In 2022, he channeled the underdog spirit by starting a new clothing line that supports Philadelphia's youth. That same year he proclaimed himself as "Fat Batman" after other players started developing fun nicknames based on the Gotham City superhero.

And in 2023, he was even named a finalist for "sexiest man alive" by People Magazine.

"Beauty is in the eye of the beholder," joked Kelce at the time.

Eagles center Jason Kelce wears a mask as he celebrates after a victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers during an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 30, 2022, in Philadelphia.
(AP Photo/Derik Hamilton)

But all fun aside, the grueling fight to possibly get to a Super Bowl takes a toll on the body. Despite several injuries, the all-pro center started every game for the Eagles in each of the past nine seasons.

"Every logical thing is telling me I should stop playing football," Kelce revealed in an Amazon documentary titled 'Kelce." The film chronicles Kelce's love for family and football all while being faced with the reality that his football days could be running out.

Retirement rumors swirled in 2022, but Kelce said he was "having way too much fun." The season culminated in a face-off against his brother in Super Bowl 57. The matchup, billed the "Kelce Bowl," brought the entire family into the spotlight and catapulted his mother Donna into national fame.

Donna Kelce greets her sons, Jason Kelce, left, and Travis Kelce during the NFL football Super Bowl 57 opening night on Feb. 6, 2023.
(AP Photo/Matt York)

Kelce expressed doubts about coming back in the 2023-24 season after a disappointing loss to the Chiefs that year. With a thirst for ending his career on a high note, he decided to sign a one-year contract to chase another Vince Lombardi trophy. The dream ultimately fell short following the team's late-season struggle that led to an embarrassing and early playoff exit.

But the loss in no way defines his legacy. Kelce is the fifth center in NFL history with six All-Pro selections, and he's made seven postseason appearances and two trips to the Super Bowl. Earlier this year, he became the Eagles' all-time leader in consecutive starts.

READ MORE: 'He's just a regular': How Jason Kelce went from Eagles center to 'Mr. Delco'

This is a 2012 photo of Jason Kelce of the Philadelphia Eagles NFL football team.
(AP Photo)

"He's a legend in the city -- really in the league," Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts said.

"He's one of the best to ever play the game. The things he can do on the football field athletically -- I don't think we'll see another one like him for a long time," added Eagles right tackle Lane Johnson.

To the NFL, Kelce is an all-time great.

But to the City of Brotherly Love, he's much, much more. He's a girl dad from Delco who frequently showed up to games sporting his signature look -- flip-flops. He's a loving family man and a loyal teammate who fought to win every game while embodying the true Philadelphia spirit. His name and his number 62 jersey will forever be a reminder of something special in the history of Philadelphia sports.

Philadelphia Eagles' Jason Kelce reacts after an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 26, 2023, in Philadelphia.
(AP Photo/Matt Slocum)