Jason Kelce is the Eagles’ center and all that represents. He touches the ball on every offensive play. He is in the middle of every play.
He calls the blocking schemes for his fellow offensive linemen and the tight end. He pass-blocks. He opens holes for the running game.
He is the guy running 15 yards downfield — often with surprising speed — to make yet another block to help a runner or receiver gain extra yards.
Here is what he is *not* — the center of attention. He doesn’t need to be.
- “He’s one of the greatest to play the position,” quarterback Jalen Hurts said of Kelce. “We all know he’s a soldier.
- “It’s something I damn sure don’t take for granted. I admire his leadership. He’s relentless. He’s everything I admire in a competitor.”
Kelce is the leader of the offensive line and certainly one of the team leaders. His offensive line, considered the best in the league, helped the Eagles lead the NFL in rushing last year. The 6-0 Eagles are fifth this year in rushing and third in total offense.
How do we know Kelce is the leader?
From his actions, how he handles himself and how his teammates and coaches talk about him. Leadership isn’t quantifiable. Leadership isn’t something bestowed on you because you are a great player. You can’t declare yourself a leader, although some have tried.
Either you are a leader, or you aren’t.
HALL OF FAMER
Kelce is headed to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. That would be quite an accomplishment for a position that rarely sees Canton without an admission ticket.
There are 362 players, coaches and administrators in the Hall of Fame. There are only eight centers from the Super Bowl era.
Stats by which you can gauge a center are often more subjective than mathematical. Kelce’s measurables are impressive: five-time, first-team All-Pro and four-time Pro Bowler.
Even offensive tackles are more visible than centers, providing edge-rush protection for the quarterback from hard-charging defensive linemen.
Either you are a Hall of Famer, or you aren’t.
Kelce, who will turn 35 in November, underwent a “clean-out” elbow surgery on Aug. 9. He returned 33 days later for the season opener on Sept. 11.
“Always happy when Jason Kelce is on the football field,” coach Nick Sirianni said. “Obviously, I’ve told him this many times. When I’m the head coach here, I want [him] to be on the football team.”
At some point, Kelce crossed a difficult threshold from great Philly athlete to Philly legend.
It was the legendary, laugh-out-loud Super Bowl parade speech, wasn’t it? This oratory gem will be talked about for decades, if not forever, in Philly. Kelce’s words punctuated the cold air that day, soothing the neglect and lack of success Philly teams have endured.
For one glorious day, the Eagles were on top of the football world and Philadelphia was on top of the sports world. Kelce was the narrator for a speech and celebration for which fans had waited a lifetime.
KELCE BROUGHT THE WORK ETHIC
For more than a decade, Kelce punched his time card, got dirty and went to work. Fans saw this work-ethic and rallied around their sixth-round, underdog center. He has started 128 consecutive games, second-most in franchise history.
This season, coming off the elbow surgery, Kelce has played 443 of 446 offensive snaps, more than all of his linemates.
Such accomplishment isn’t always found in first overall draft picks. Yet, here was Kelce, the 191st player selected in 2011, leading his team to a Super Bowl championship and carving out a place in Philly’s collective heart.
That often-cold Philly heart isn’t easily won over. Athletes have to be more than successful. Stats are fine; Philly fans want grit and substance, too, along with effort and hustle.
Very few Philly athletes have ascended from great athletes to legends. Very few athletes have graced the heart and soul of most Philadelphians — start with Brian Dawkins, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Reggie White, Bobby Clarke, Julius Erving, Joel Embiid and Roy Halladay.
And Jason Kelce.
OFF THE FIELD
Kelce has been more than the poster child or face of his charity work. He has gone out and done the work.
Not surprising for the guy who was a walk-on when he started at the University of Cincinnati.
Kelce, a recent homebuyer in Sea Isle City, N.J., tends bar there at an Eagles Autism Foundation fundraiser at the Ocean Drive. Kelce goes all-in at this event, spending time with the fans, serving up suds, the whole thing.
In 2021, more than $100,000 was raised, half of which was donated by Kelce and his wife, Kylie. They raised another $100,000-plus in 2022.
Kelce has many other charitable ventures in the community. For all of this charitable work and his strong character, Kelce was nominated by the Eagles for the NFL’s prestigious Walter Payton Man of the Year Award in 2021.
To this generation of Eagles fans, Kelce is the man of the year … every year.