Jason Kelce, 6-time All-Pro and Super Bowl champion, officially retires from NFL

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Jason Kelce, 6-time All-Pro and Super Bowl champion, officially retires from NFL

Jason Kelce, the Super Bowl LII champion who spent all 13 seasons of his career with the Philadelphia Eagles, officially retired from the NFL.

The 36-year-old Kelce announced his decision at a news conference on Monday. He said one sentence before the fight to hold back tears began.

“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. “The best way I can explain it is what draws you to your favorite song, your favorite book, what 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. It was a visceral feeling with football, unlike any other 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, whether it was in my backyard with my brother, at the playground with my friends, or suiting up on Friday night at Cleveland Heights High School. I loved everything about it.”

That love manifested in seven Pro Bowl selections. That love was returned by a city that worshipped him, especially his iconic Super Bowl LII parade speech, which Kelce delivered in a decorative suit that locals wear on New Year’s Day in the Mummers Parade. He also spearheaded the recordings of two Christmas albums with Eagles offensive linemen and often wore the T-shirt of a local Philly bakery while lounging in the locker room after practice.

There may be no other active NFL player who so closely identifies with the city in which he plays. Kelce was an underdog in a city that defines itself by them, a sixth-round selection in 2011 who became a six-time All-Pro, helped win the franchise’s only Super Bowl in 2018, fielded the most consecutive starts in franchise history (156) and played the most regular-season games by an offensive lineman in franchise history (193).

Kelce’s football legacy makes him an instant legend in both NFL and Philadelphia sports lore. Stories associated with his distinct personality and style of play will be told and retold in local haunts for decades.

Jason helped lead the Eagles to Super Bowl LVII where they faced brother Travis Kelce and the Kansas City Chiefs. The Kelce’s emerged as the first family of football that week in February 2023. Their mom, Donna, captivated America with her Eagles and Chiefs outfit that split colors and logos equally from head to toe. Fans adored that Kylie Kelce, Jason’s wife, sat in the stands instead of a suite and people — though perhaps not Eagles fans — smiled as Travis cried in his dad Ed’s arms after the Chiefs edged by the Eagles.

Jason reflected on that time, saying he was selfishly heartbroken for himself and his teammates, but also felt an immense amount of pride that “my brother had climbed the mountaintop once again.”

“We have a small family, no cousins, one aunt, one uncle. It was really my brother and I our whole lives,” Jason said. “We did almost everything together. Competed, fought, laughed, cried and learned from each other.

“There is no chance I’d be here without the bond Travis and I share. It made me stronger, tougher, smarter and taught me the values of cooperation, loyalty, patience and understanding.”

At the end of Jason’s news conference, he went down the line, hugging each of Travis, Ed, Donna and Kylie. Eagles coach Nick Sirianni, offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland, Eagles general manager Howie Roseman and Kelce’s agent Jason Bernstein were also in attendance.

Kelce’s official retirement announcement comes months after he reportedly informed his teammates that he intended to retire after the Eagles were blown out in the wild-card round by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Nearly one month after the Eagles upset, Kelce told Shaquille O’Neal on O’Neal’s podcast that he was “still figuring it out” and if he still wanted to play, he would. First, he needed to let his emotions from the loss settle.

“It’s a long season. We ended the season, quite frankly, awful,” Kelce said. “So I’m just going to take some time. Rest, recoup and then figure it out. I think I’ll have an answer in the next couple weeks.”

Three weeks later, Kelce called it a career.

It would not be surprising to see the Eagles retire Kelce’s No. 62 jersey. His on-field accolades — which include becoming just the fifth center in league history to be named an All-Pro at least six times — warrant Hall of Fame status on a first-ballot basis. Beyond being the fulcrum of the offense’s confounding “Brotherly Shove,” Kelce personified the power of one of the NFL’s best offensive lines in the last decade.

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The Eagles now must enter the paradox of replacing the irreplaceable. No team can ever expect to carry players who embody such consistent greatness. Philadelphia cherished the one who is leaving football after several seasons of coming to terms with his retirement. Kelce cherished them, too.

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(Photo: Mike Ehrmann / Getty Images)