The Colorful World of Philadelphia Eagle Jason Kelce
By Dave Spadaro

Photos courtesy Philadelphia Eagles

At a time when things may seem not-so-bright, isn’t it wonderful to watch someone who just oozes passion and happiness and love. (And the added bonus, of course, is the incredible athleticism and leadership on the field.) The colorful world of Eagle Jason Kelce is a pretty nice place to be. Lucky for us, we get to experience it.

Had you been anywhere else on a perfect June day in Sea Isle City last summer, you would have thought it was just another sun-splashed summer afternoon. But in the block around The Ocean Drive Beach Club, it was celebrated mayhem as thousands of Eagles fans swooped in for a chance to order a drink from a man who has far transcended his excellence on the football field. Center Jason Kelce spent that afternoon as a guest bartender to raise funds for the Eagles Autism Foundation and, well, he was a hit.

A huge, huge hit. To the tune of $50,000 raised in a single afternoon of pouring beers and sharing shots. And then Kelce and his wife, Kylie, added another $50,000 to make it an even $100,000 afternoon. Just Kelce and the fans. No barriers. All love.

“I’m one of them and I truly mean that,” says Kelce. “That’s just the way I am. I believe that if you treat people well, you’re going to get that back. I appreciate each and every one of them. Before I became a football player in this league, I was one of them. I’m still a fan. What we’re doing here is learning to live our lives together and take care of each other. That’s the life motto I believe in.”

“It’s good to know that people think I’ve been a good human being and done things the right way, giving back to the community and being a good teammate,” Kelce adds. “You just try to be the best person you can be and help out where you can, and care about other people. I like to think people think I care about what they do and who they are and know that if they ever need something, they can call and count on me to help them out, to listen or be there for them in any way I can. I don’t try to be anything I’m not and I think fans, especially here, appreciate that. I think it’s a very ‘real’ relationship. I just try to be as much of myself as I can. I’m not trying to get a big head or anything like that because I certainly don’t have one. I just engage with the fans in a real way as much as possible. I think they reciprocate that.”

“I’m playing a game I love in an organization that has been so good to me and with fans who I feel understand who I am and know that I’m doing everything every day to be the best I can be. For me, it’s nothing unusual. This is just me being me, and if that is something that resonates with people, great. I’m no different than anybody else.”

This is a story about Jason Kelce, a 2011 sixth-round draft pick by the Philadelphia Eagles who has defied every statistical odds – approximately 9% of sixth-round draft picks in the NFL become starters – to become one of the best players ever at his position. Kelce has been voted to 5 Pro Bowls and has been named an All-Pro 4 times. He is tough, he is durable, and he is a leader.

“Here is a guy who epitomizes what it means to be a great football player and a great leader,” Eagles right tackle Lane Johnson says. “People gravitate to him, not just because of what he says and does, but because of what he means to all of us and to this football team. I learned that right away: Jason Kelce is a role model with the way he prepares for the job every day and the way he approaches his profession.”

“As far as relating to people,” Johnson continues, “he’s the kind of guy who everybody likes. He’s a normal guy – smart, likes to have a conversation, fun, and he has the same ups and downs that we all have.”

It’s that “everyman” quality Kelce has that separates him from most in the public eye: He doesn’t shy away from the spotlight and he respects those in the media doing their jobs. The truth is that Jason Kelce is a grown man raised in the Midwest by a family that stressed the importance of “doing unto others as you want them to do unto you.” Kelce is a regular guy.

He’s a regular guy who happens to be on a path that could one day land him in Canton, Ohio, the home of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

“He is seriously, in all the years I’ve been covering sports here, the most relatable sports figure I have ever encountered,” says South Jersey’s Angelo Cataldi, who is in his 32nd, and final, year as the morning host at SportsRadio 94WIP. “There has never been a better fit who has walked in this region, connected with a fan base and who plays the way he plays. He gave everybody the greatest gift we have ever wanted when the Eagles won the Super Bowl in 2019. Then he has that amazing speech at the parade, which was a final punctuation, an expression that we all understood so well. It was brilliant.”

“I think everybody can relate to Kelce. He’s a guy in the trenches, where there is no glory. He’s got a great work ethic. Pays the price to succeed. We watch the games and there’s Kelce, hustling down the field where you’ve never seen a center before. The fans see that. They know that. They know when a player is taking a play off, and they know when he gives his blood and sweat. Jason never takes a play off. And with all of that, he’s got the right personality. He’s the guy next door, wearing the beard, out back having a beer on the grill cooking for his family.”

Head Coach Nick Sirianni calls Kelce “a treasure,” and it’s certainly not just because of Kelce’s personality. When there were questions about Kelce’s return for 2022 circulating after the Eagles lost in the 2021 postseason to Tampa Bay, Sirianni made sure to let Kelce know how much he wanted him back, sending him a keg of beer to show him some love – and to send something he was sure Kelce would appreciate and, um, drink. Kelce announced his return on a social media post and celebrated a couple of days later with the fans at a Philadelphia 76ers game, singing the pre-game National Anthem.

“I’m playing a game I love in an organization that has been so good to me and with fans who I feel understand who I am and know that I’m doing everything every day to be the best I can be,” Kelce says. “For me, it’s nothing unusual. This is just me being me, and if that is something that resonates with people, great. I’m no different than anybody else – I’m working hard, I’ve got a family and I have my priorities in order. I’ve been here since 2011. It’s home to me. I want to do great things for my home and for the people here.”

That’s the truth with Kelce – purely authentic and honest and down to earth. He wants to make a difference, which is why he is an active supporter of the annual Eagles Autism Challenge, the keynote event of an Eagles Autism Foundation program that has raised more than $12 million toward autism awareness, research and action.

“We’re so fortunate to have Jason, because he puts in the time and he truly wants to help people,” says Ryan Hammond, the executive director of the Eagles Autism Foundation. “Everywhere he goes, it’s like he touches people and they feel like they can trust him. They feel he’s one of them.”

How long will Kelce continue to play? He’s 34 years old and under contract through 2022. After that, who knows? Let’s just cherish every moment of Kelce on the football field, the rarity of rare athletes who comes around once in a generation and who directs the narrative on what is right about an athlete who uses his vast platform the right way – to make our world a better place.

 


Eagles Insider Dave Spadaro has covered every Eagles game since 1987 and is seen and heard throughout the year on television, radio and Eagles coverage everywhere. You can hear his Eagles Live Podcast on iTunes.

June 2022
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