Latest: Tearful Jason Kelce announces NFL retirement after 13 seasons

Jason Kelce, one of the greatest centers of all time, has announced his retirement from professional football after 13 NFL seasons.

The 36-year-old, dressed in a sleeveless workout jersey, was in tears for long periods of his retirement press conference, which was shown live on ESPN, a testament to the fame he found despite playing a position that rarely grabs the spotlight.

Kelce will almost certainly end of up in the Hall of Fame despite only being selected in the sixth round of the 2011 draft after a relatively anonymous college career at Cincinnati, where he had originally tried out as a running back. But he established himself as one of the best offensive linemen in the NFL and was named a first-team All Pro on six occasions, something achieved by only four other centers, all of whom are now members of the Hall of Fame.

“I have been the underdog my entire career,” Kelce said, during his 45-minute retirement speech. “And I mean this when I say it: I still wish I was.”

He played his entire career with the Philadelphia Eagles, with whom he made two Super Bowl appearances. He won the first, in February 2018, before falling short in his second last year.

Kelce became almost as famous for his exploits off the field. He is beloved in Philadelphia, and his passionate, expletive filled victory speech after the Eagles’ Super Bowl victory went down in city lore. He also helped usher in the Eagles’ notorious “tush-push” play, which made them almost unstoppable in short-yardage situations.

“I found it a great blessing to play in the most passionate sports town in America,” he said on Monday. “The sense of urgency to win has pushed our organization, fuelled it to take chances, fix problems and work tirelessly to win. At times you hate it as an athlete … but when you’ve been through it enough, you learn to appreciate it. No one celebrates their own like the city of Philadelphia.”

Kelce’s New Heights podcast with his brother, Travis, has also become immensely popular, particularly after the younger sibling’s relationship with Taylor Swift became a talking point this past season. On Monday, Jason paid tribute to his brother’s influence on his career.

“We were a small family … It was really my brother and I our whole lives … there’s no chance I would be here without the bond Travis and I share … It only too poetic that I found my career being fulfilled in the city of brotherly love – I knew that relationship all too well,” he said in front of an audience that included Travis and their parents, Ed and Donna.

Kelce went on to thanks his teammates and pay tribute to the diversity of the NFL.

“The melting pot of geographic locations, economic background, race, body type, personality type and athletic traits of an NFL locker room is truly remarkable, and we all rely on one another and respect one another and each of our differences because we know we’re stronger together. I will always cherish this brotherhood,” he said.

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