Jason Kelce

As Jason Kelce retires, he proves he just gets Philly more than most

Jason Kelce officially retired on Monday and proved again why he just gets Philly more than most.

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As he officially announced his retirement from the NFL on Monday afternoon, Jason Kelce remembered a comment from his agent Jason Bernstein in 2011 after Kelce was drafted by the Eagles in the sixth round.

“You’re gonna fit in great in Philadelphia,” Bernstein told Kelce. “This is your kind of town.”

Boy, was he right.

Over the last 13 seasons, Kelce didn’t just become a great player and a future Hall of Famer in Philadelphia. He became a champion, a legend, a guy who will never have to buy a beer in this city ever again — which, given Kelce’s affinity for the suds, is a pretty big deal.

More than maybe any athlete in the recent history of Philadelphia, Kelce just understood the city. And even during a tearful 41-minute farewell on Monday, he was able to beautifully articulate what it means to play, survive and thrive in Philly.

“Some people struggle to play in this city,” Kelce said. “They can’t handle the boos, the media or our fans. I consider it a great blessing to play in the most passionate sports town in America. The sense of urgency in this city to win has pushed our organization, has fueled it to take chances, fix problems and work tirelessly in an effort to win. At times you hate it as an athlete, especially those new to our city. But when you’ve been through it enough, you learn to appreciate it. No one celebrates their own like the City of Philadelphia. Athletes become demigods in this city, even ones whose deeds span decades before.

“The Eagles are the No. 1 ticket in town, the most talked about thing at nearly every moment. But with that amount of attention, you better be ready to overcome the lows that will happen and be ready to persevere in the face of the criticism. Yes, they will let you know when you’re not performing well. Every time. But they will also love you if you show effort, aggression, desire, the will to fight. They will love you in this city if you love it, the way you love your brother. You will be loved by going above and beyond to show that you care because they care.

“They’ve been caring for generations in this town about this team and they aren’t about to accept a bunch of excuses and soft-ass nonsense representing the name on the jersey, something they’ve invested their lives in. If you don’t like what the fans and the media are saying as a player, it’s very easy: Love them, treat them like your brothers and go out and play your balls off. Wear your heart on your sleeve and I guarantee you change those narratives.”

Basically, it all boils down to this: Care and understand that the fans care too.

To further cement his point on Monday, Kelce brought up his former teammate Zach Ertz and what happened against the Bengals back in 2016.

Ertz once shied away from a block against linebacker Vontaze Burfict in a loss in Cincinnati that December and heard about it from fans. Many of those fans labeled Ertz as a “soft” player and he had to work to rebuild his imagine and to earn back the trust from the city.

“The next week, the first catch I saw Zach Ertz snag, he ran after the catch like I had never seen,” Kelce said. “It took three guys to bring him down and I heard the Linc erupt with cheers for his effort. Today, you won’t find a single Philadelphian with a bad word to say about Zach Ertz and the legacy he left behind.”

When Kelce had a down year in 2016, he understood why some fans wanted the team to move on. He understood the trade rumors and the talk of him getting released. Kelce even joked that if the Eagles had been offered a couple of new washing machines for him, they would have taken it. He would have traded himself, Kelce said.

But Kelce didn’t take the criticism personally. Instead, he got better. With the help of OL coach Jeff Stoutland, Kelce resurrected his career, earning six All-Pro nods in his final seven NFL seasons.

That 2017 Super Bowl team was so special because it was a team of underdogs, a group that everyone counted out. Kelce was the poster child for that. He wasn’t heavily recruited coming out of high school and joined the Bearcats as a walk-on. He had to wait until the sixth-round of the draft to hear his name as an undersized center. And even the year before the Super Bowl, the team thought about moving on from him. Philly is an underdog city and Kelce is an embodiment of that. So when he poured his heart out on the steps of the art museum during the parade, he meant every word.

It would have been hard to imagine an Eagle ever being as universally loved in Philadelphia as Brian Dawkins once was but Kelce did it.

And that’s why the entire city paused for 41 minutes on Monday to let a legend say goodbye on his own terms.

“Thank you, Philadelphia,” Kelce said. “From the bottom of my heart. Thank you for letting me represent this city and allowing me into your homes every Sunday. It has truly been a privilege. You have all been so good to me and my family. Growing up in Cleveland, I watched all of my favorite athletes leave the city. Hell, a whole team left the city. It has always been a goal of mine to play my whole career in one city and I couldn’t have dreamt a better one and a better fit if I tried.”

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