Tearful Jason Kelce announces NFL retirement after 13 seasons

Jason Kelce, one of the greatest centers of all time, has announced his retirement from professional football after 13 NFL seasons.

The 36-year-old, wearing a sleeveless training shirt, was in tears for a long time during his retirement press conference, which was shown live on ESPN, a testament to the fame he found despite playing a position that is rarely in the spotlight.

Kelce will almost certainly end up in the Hall of Fame, despite not being selected until the sixth round of the 2011 draft after a relatively anonymous college career in Cincinnati, where he originally tried out as a running back. But he established himself as one of the best offensive linemen in the NFL and was named first-team All Pro six times, something accomplished by only four other centers, all of whom are now members of the Hall of Fame.

“I’ve been the underdog my entire career,” Kelce said during his 45-minute retirement speech. “And I mean this when I say it: I still wish that was me.”

He played his entire career with the Philadelphia Eagles, with whom he made two Super Bowl appearances. He won the first, in February 2018, before falling short in his second last year.

Kelce became almost as famous for his exploits off the field. He is loved in Philadelphia, and his passionate, expletive-filled victory speech after the Eagles’ Super Bowl victory faded into urban lore. He also helped usher in the Eagles’ infamous “tush-push” game, which made them nearly unstoppable in close-quarters situations.

“I felt it was a great blessing to play in the most passionate sports city in America,” he said Monday. “The sense of urgency to win has driven our organization to take risks, solve problems and work tirelessly to win. Sometimes you hate it as an athlete… but when you’ve experienced it enough, you learn to appreciate it. No one celebrates their own country like the city of Philadelphia.”

Kelce’s New Heights podcast with his brother Travis has also become immensely popular, especially after the younger sibling’s relationship with Taylor Swift became a topic of conversation this past season. On Monday, Jason paid tribute to his brother’s influence on his career.

“We were a little family… It was basically my brother and I our whole lives… there’s no way I would be here without the bond that Travis and I share… It was all too poetic that I found my career fulfilled in the city of brotherly love – I knew that relationship all too well,” he said before an audience that included Travis and their parents, Ed and Donna.

Kelce then thanked his teammates and paid tribute to the diversity of the NFL.

“The melting pot of geographic locations, economic backgrounds, race, body type, personality type and athletic attributes of an NFL locker room is truly remarkable, and we all rely on and respect each other and all our differences because we know we are stronger together. I will always cherish this brotherhood,” he said.