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Eagles legend Jason Kelce announces retirement from NFL

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The day Philadelphia has been dreading finally arrived.

Jason Kelce, one of the greatest centers in NFL history and one of the greatest Eagles ever, is retiring.

Kelce announced at a press conference Monday afternoon at the NovaCare Complex that his career is over after 13 seasons, 193 games, six 1st-team All-Pros, seven Pro Bowls, seven trips to the playoffs, two Super Bowls and one unforgettable Super Bowl run after the 2017 season.

Next stop Canton.

“From everything I’ve told you about when you know it’s time to retire or not, you just know when you know, and it’s going to be when you don’t want to play football anymore,” Kelce said last year.

“I remember talking to Stout maybe two years ago, and I was like, I don‘t know when that time’s going to come or how I’m going to know when to stop,” Kelce said. “And he’s like, ‘You’ll know. You won’t want to do it anymore.’

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“And I said, ‘I don’t think that’s ever going to happen,’ and he’s like, ‘No, it’ll happen. Trust me, it’ll happen.’”

Kelce walks away at the absolute top of his game.

 He made 1st-team All-Pro in each of his last three seasons, becoming the first NFL player since Dolphins Hall of Fame center Dwight Stephenson from 1985 through 1987 to retire after earning All-Pro honors in each of his last three seasons. 

The only other players to do that since 1960 are Oilers tackle Al Jamison from 1960 through 1962 and Jim Brown of the Browns from 1963 through 1965.

He began his career as an obscure 6th-round pick from Cincinnati and finished it as one of the most decorated offensive linemen in NFL history.

He’s the only player in history to make All-Pro first team six times in his 30s after never receiving the honor in his 20s.

This past season, he became the Eagles’ oldest All-Pro since 37-year-old center Vic Lindskog in 1951.

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Kelce is only the fifth center ever named All-Pro six times in the 83-year history of the AP All-Pro team. The others are all Hall of Famers – Jim Otto, Bulldog Turner, Dermonti Dawson and Jim Ringo, who finished his career with the Eagles.

He finished his career by starting a franchise-record 156 consecutive games, a streak that dated back to the 2014 season. Only Brandon Graham – with two more than Kelce – has played more games in an Eagles uniform.

Kelce is one of only seven players to spend at least 13 years with the Eagles. Of the six others, only four spent their entire career with the Eagles – Vic Sears, Bucko Kilroy, Chuck Bednarik and – so far – Graham.

What really sets Kelce apart from so many other great players is that he was an afterthought when the Eagles drafted him with the 191th pick in 2011. No 6th-round pick has ever been selected to more All-Pro teams 

But the awards and honors and stats only scratch the surface when it comes to the impact Kelce has made on the franchise and on the city.

Whether it was his charity work, the legendary speech in a Mummer’s costume at the Art Museum after the Super Bowl parade, his knack for showing up at corner bars and drinking with the regulars, a beer chugging contest with a radio personality, his shirtless antics at a Chiefs playoff game or his humor and honesty on his wildly popular New Heights podcast with younger brother Travis, Kelce connected with Eagles fans in a way that very few – if any – Eagles have ever done.

What’s next for Kelce?

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He clearly has a future in broadcasting if he so chooses. He said the week of the Tampa playoff game in January that he’d like to keep his hand in the game of football in some manner.

“I’ll always want to be involved in the game,” he said. “I think it’s a hard thing to step away from completely, I’m imagining. There’s a lot of things I want to learn about the game still. 

“I think there’s still plenty to learn. I’ll have to know a lot of things. I’d love to learn route trees and different concepts. This is why this projection is called this way with this guy bending this way. I know a lot about my little pocket of football, but I’d love to know more about the collective whole. I think that’s something I look forward to getting a better grasp on in the future.”

Kelce has a lot to figure out, but so do the Eagles, who now must replace one of the greatest players in NFL history in the middle of their offensive line. The Eagles’ last opening-day center other than Kelce was Mike McGlynn in 2010.

Cam Jurgens will likely get the first crack at center with Tyler Steen and Sua Opeta in the mix to replace Jurgens at right guard. 

But whatever happens, this is the end of an era. Graham and Fletcher Cox, the other two all-time Eagles who go back to the Andy Reid Era, also face uncertain futures as free agents.

But replacing Kelce is like replacing Bednarik, Steve Van Buren, Brian Dawkins or Reggie White. It can’t be done.

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Kelce may be a Cleveland native, but no pro athlete in the city’s history has ever been more Philly.

Source: NBC New York

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