Why Kelce cares so much about mentoring his replacement


Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill made headlines this week when he said it’s not his job to mentor rookie Malik Willis, sparking a debate about the role NFL players should have in helping their eventual replacements.

The juxtaposition of Tannehill’s comments and what Jason Kelce said this week isn’t lost on anyone.

Because Kelce doesn’t just want to be a mentor for second-round pick Cam Jurgens. He wants that mentorship to be how he’s remembered.

“The way you make a lasting impact as a player, as a person is how you influence other people and hopefully help others realize their dreams,” Kelce said this week.

“I think that’s a big part of being a veteran player. Something you realize more and more as you get older, what’s going to happen when you’re done and what are you leaving behind you? You don’t want to just leave statistics and cool highlight blocks.”

Of course, there are plenty of differences between the situation with Tannehill in Tennessee and Kelce in Philadelphia. While they’re similar in age, Tannehill is a mediocre starting quarterback and Kelce is the best center in the NFL.

Kelce, 34, has also made it clear that his days in the NFL are winding down as he enters a one-year deal in 2022.

And … Kelce also helped pick Jurgens.

While the Eagles’ legend downplayed the role he had in the team’s selection of Jurgens with the No. 51 pick last week, he was involved. The Eagles have asked Kelce for the last couple years to scout centers in the draft. This time, Kelce came away thinking Jurgens would be a stud and that Jurgens would offer the most seamless transition because of their similar play styles.

But Kelce also kept it real.

“I think a big part of them asking my opinion is really just them saying, ‘Hey, we’re going to draft your replacement here. Are you OK with this?’” Kelce said. “I think that’s … let’s all be honest here.”

To be fair to Tannehill, he’s not the first player to make it known that he’s not signing up to be a mentor. One of the most notable cases of that was in Green Bay when the Packers selected Aaron Rodgers. It’s ironic, then, that Howie Roseman referenced the long-term stability the Packers have had at the QB spot while speaking about the Jurgens pick.

Maybe if next year or the year after, Kelce wants to keep playing and the Eagles decide to move forward with Jurgens, he’ll think this mentorship was a mistake. But that seems unlikely. It’s just not the way Kelce thinks.

He’s grateful for the veterans who helped him early in his career. Kelce named some of them on Wednesday: Jamaal Jackson, Todd Herremans, Evan Mathis and Jason Peters.

Even before the twilight of his career, Kelce was willing to help his younger teammates learn the ropes. Even if those players were potentially expected to replace him. He took Landon Dickerson under his wing last year and did the same six years ago when the Eagles drafted Isaac Seumalo.

That’s why it isn’t all that weird the Kelce will mentor Jurgens in 2022.

“I think I’ve been, in some ways, been trying to mentor my replacement for eight years now,” Kelce said. “You always want to try to help young guys and help the team be better moving forward. I’m smart enough to realize my time is limited and I’d like to be a part of something that (lasts longer). The only way you can last in this game is through the players and relationships that you forge as a player.”

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