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The legacy of a champion: Jason Kelce

Eagles Insider Dave Spadaro
Eagles Insider Dave Spadaro

There isn't a lot about Jason Kelce that hasn't already been said. He is one of the great Eagles players – at any position, is the consummate team leader, should someday be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and is, without question, one of the most beloved Philadelphia athletes ever.

A sixth-round draft pick in 2011, Kelce is nearly as perfect a Philadelphia Eagle – and a man of Philadelphia and the region – as you can possibly find.

"There's a reason I'm following him everywhere he goes," rookie center Cam Jurgens said. "There is a reason he's been so good for so long. First of all, he's an incredible athlete and for him to be doing this at such a high level for such a long time means a lot. He's also extremely smart and he makes sure that every detail is covered. The way he prepares for each game and the way he watches film and what he does to recover and stay at that high level for the entire season, it's been an experience that I can't even really explain to you.

"It has meant so much to me that Jason has shared everything with me to make me a better player."

The legacy and the brilliance of Jason Kelce continue in his 12th season and at the age of 35. Once an "undersized, lateround draft pick" with, statistically, about a 6 percent chance of lasting two seasons in the NFL, Kelce has become one of the best ever. He is a five-time Pro Bowl player, a four-time All-Pro, and, of course, a Super Bowl winner who delivered the most memorable, impactful, and heartfelt championship speech the City of Philadelphia has ever known.

And he is still at the top of his game with no signs of slowing down.

"I feel good. There are the usual aches and pains that go along with the season but that's expected. That's normal," he said. "I'm having a lot of fun. We're winning, we have a great group of guys here, and it's just clicking for us. I'm a day-to-day guy and I'm going to keep it that way, keep my focus, and do what I can to help this team achieve our goals."

It is very difficult to specially quantify Kelce's value to the Eagles because he truly does it all for the football team, for the organization's Eagles Autism Foundation, and as a representative of the franchise, the City of Philadelphia, and the entire NFL. If you draw up the perfect NFL player, he would look an awful lot like Jason Kelce for everything he brings to the table.

Those who are around him the most recognize that and, man, do they appreciate it.

"It starts with him in the meeting room because he knows it's all about the details. We go through it all to make sure we're on the same page," quarterback Jalen Hurts said. "The relationship with Jason is something very special to me. He is a smart guy who has so many responsibilities and we know he's always going to make the right call and set our protections right and make sure the guys are working together. He's a special person and a special player."

Kelce's secret sauce is more layered than many understand: He's a great athlete with a wrestling background and he's been able to use that leverage to his advantage in the trenches against bigger, stronger, and faster defensive linemen. Terrific feet, great balance, and the ability to play low help him offset the size disadvantage that can sometimes range from 20 to 30 to even 40 pounds (Kelce is listed at 295 pounds). He takes to coaching extremely well and has been blessed to be coached by some of the best – the late Howard Mudd was the Eagles' offensive line coach in 2011 and 2012, and then Jeff Stoutland arrived with the next coaching staff that came to town.

The Eagles' commitment to the offensive line through the years has helped as well, as Kelce has been surrounded by very good players year after year. His football intelligence is off the charts and, as Hurts said, his attention to detail adds the difference. Defensive linemen have tried everything through the years to limit Kelce's effectiveness when he reaches the second level of the defense, with very little success.

"I would say it's a combination of a lot of things, but the bottom line is that to be in one place for the entirety of my career truly has been a blessing," Kelce said. "I love what we've done as an organization building the offensive line and staying committed to it, I love the way the fan base has embraced me and this football team, and I'm so happy we've had some success."

The Eagles will wear an all-black uniform featuring this season's new helmet against the Packers on Sunday night. Here's a first look!

Ah, the fan base. Kelce is as wildly popular a player with all sections of the fan base whether he is throwing out the first pitch and chugging a beer at the Phillies' World Series game or ringing the Liberty Bell before the 76ers basketball game or serving as a celebrity bartender in Sea Isle City for the Eagles Autism Foundation, the fans love his every move. He is professional and accommodating with the media, who appreciate his thoughtful and insightful answers.

Kelce has played every aspect of the NFL game the right way and is in a cherished position in his craft.

"When you do something you love and you truly appreciate it, it's easy. It's natural," Kelce said. "I just try to be nice to people. I don't think that is a difficult thing to do. That's the way I was taught and that's the way I live my life. Every day, I enjoy being here, coming to work, and doing something that means a lot to me. I'm far from perfect, but I try to be a genuine guy who is nice to people. That's it, really."

In his most recent endeavors, Kelce has launched a clothing line – Underdog Apparel – that benefits his (Be)Philly Foundation. The non-profit will help fund and promote evidence-based programs that Kelce has identified as having a "proven track record of improving the academic and economic outcomes of students in the Philadelphia public schools. I'm not an expert. I may be an expert at center and at playing football, but I am not an expert in the nuanced difficulties that face our young people in this city.

"We're not trying to change the City of Philadelphia at all. I think the City of Philadelphia has an incredible amount of strength, has pride, has incredibly strong people. But we want to help the city achieve. We want to help our young people achieve."

He's also set to release some holiday cheer in the form of music with A Philly Special Christmas, a collaboration with linemates Jordan Mailata and Lane Johnson and produced by former Eagles linebacker Connor Barwin, who now works with the team as a director of player development.

His reach never stops extending, but the priority, the focus, is seeing what the Eagles can accomplish on the field this season.

"We just have to keep playing good football and working on the little things," he said. "It's a long season. You take everything day by day and see what happens. Generally, if you detail your work, good things are going to happen. That's how I've lived my life here and I'm going to continue doing it that way."

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