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The Quinnipiac Chronicle

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The Quinnipiac Chronicle

Jason Kelce: Saying goodbye to the underdog

Tripp Menhall
Pennsylvania2/Wikimedia commons/wbur/Flickr/

Former Philadelphia Eagles’ center Jason Kelce delivered these words following the Eagles’ 2018 Super Bowl victory parade:

“Hungry dogs run faster.”

He echoed these same words when he announced his retirement on March 4 after 13 years in the NFL.

Kelce, who played in 193 career NFL games, decided to walk away from football at the age of 36. He tearfully shared his decision to retire in an emotional press conference on March 4, following the Eagles’ season-ending loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the wild-card round in January.

“I am retiring from the NFL after 13 seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles,” Kelce said. “And today, I must admit, I am officially overrated. Vastly overrated. It took a lot of hard work and determination getting here. I have been the underdog my entire career, and I mean this when I say it, I wish I still was.”

Kelce’s use of the word “underdog” is fitting, as it exemplifies his legacy. Through the course of his career, Kelce has come to define what it means to be an “underdog.” Coming out of the University of Cincinnati, scouts said he was too undersized to play center in the NFL. Drafted 191st overall in 2011 by the Eagles, Kelce found a home in a city synonymous with underdogs.

In his tenure, Kelce was selected to seven Pro Bowls, received six All-Pro honors and won a Super Bowl, but accolades do not truly reflect his impact. In an era where the salary cap and free agency often cause players to change teams, Kelce remained devoted to the Eagles. The grit and toughness he displayed resonated with fans every Sunday and showed that he understood what it meant to be a Philadelphia athlete — what it meant to be an underdog.

“This city really appreciates accountability, appreciates people being very honest, real, emotionally invested, caring,” Kelce said in a 2021 press conference. “There’s a lot of people that say it’s a hard place to play, I think it’s pretty fucking easy to be honest with you. You just go out there (and) play hard.”

Kelce’s embrace of the underdog mentality became the heart and soul of the Eagles in 2018 when they won their first Super Bowl in franchise history. Throughout the playoffs, Kelce and the Eagles weren’t favored in any games  with a backup quarterback starting, despite entering as the No. 1 seed. Oddsmakers consistently labeled Philadelphia with that magic word, “underdogs.”

After “upsetting” the Atlanta Falcons in the divisional round and the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC championship game, the story was complete when the Eagles, once again as underdogs, defeated the New England Patriots 41-33 in the Super Bowl.

Kelce cemented himself in Eagles fans’ hearts at the ensuing championship parade. His fiery speech on the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, with the statue of Rocky Balboa behind him, captured the spirit of the team’s underdog journey.

“I won’t forget the parade and what it meant to the city of Philadelphia. The joy it brought our community and the closure it gave to so many,” Kelce mentioned in his retirement press conference. “The speech that had written itself and one that had symbolized what we had all lived as players, as a team, and as a city. That wasn’t my speech. It was Philadelphia’s.”

Kelce was not alone in his NFL journey. At his retirement press conference, Jason was joined by his brother, Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce. Much like the Manning brothers before them, the bond Jason and Travis share has become part of football lore.

Each a star at their respective position, the Kelce brothers led their teams to the Super Bowl in 2023, which the Chiefs would go on to win. Coincidentally, during that regular season, Jason and Travis debuted their weekly podcast, “New Heights,” which brought their level of fame to a new level.

The brothers shared an emotional moment on the show’s March 6 episode when addressing Jason’s retirement. Travis tearfully expressed his appreciation for being on the football journey with Jason.

“It feels like it’s complete, it was a success,” Travis said about Jason’s career. “I appreciate you showing me the way and bringing us all along the journey with you, big guy.”

Who doesn’t love an underdog story? “New Heights” has indeed taken Jason’s level of fame to new heights. While he has long been beloved by Eagles fans, his audience now transcends all NFL fan bases.

In the playoffs following the Eagles’ loss, Jason was seen jumping through tables with Bills Mafia as well as cheering on the Chiefs alongside Chiefs Kingdom in support of Travis. Jason is a man of the people.

His appeal isn’t in the X’s and O’s, his incredible blocking or even his nomination as a “Sexiest Man Alive” finalist. Instead, it’s his underdog spirit, showcased throughout his career in his dedication and character on and off the field.

If this really is the end for Jason, what an incredible journey by not only an exceptional player but an extraordinary person as well. Your fans may not get to see you on Sundays any longer, but they know where they can find you soon.

We’ll see you in Canton, Ohio, Jason.

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Tripp Menhall
Tripp Menhall, Creative Director

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