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Jason Kelce Announces Retirement After 13 Seasons in NFL as He Struggles Through Tears

Widely considered to have been one of the greatest centers in league history, Kelce notched seven Pro Bowl selections, six first-team All-Pro selections and one Super Bowl title

Jason Kelce has made it official.

The Philadelphia Eagles center, who was drafted by the team in the sixth round of the 2011 NFL Draft, has announced his decision to retire from the NFL after 13 seasons in the league, seven Pro Bowl selections, six first-team All-Pro selections and one Super Bowl title.

In an emotional press conference at the Philadelphia Eagles Training Center at the NovaCare Complex, Kelce, 36, reminisced about his love of the game, which began when he was a boy in Cleveland Heights, Ohio, and shared memories from his childhood, college and NFL career.

<p>AP Photo/Matt Rourke</p>

AP Photo/Matt Rourke

"So this all brings us here to today, where I announce that I am retiring," Kelce said, through tears, nearly 40 minutes into his speech. "Where I announce I am retiring from the NFL after 13 seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles and today, I must admit, I am officially overrated, vastly overrated."

He continued, with a chuckle: "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."

The father of three thanked coaches, teammates and "cafeteria workers" along the way — too numerous to name, he said — in addition to his wife, Kylie, mother Donna, father Ed and brother Travis.

In his speech, in which Kelce paused many times to hold back tears, the NFL star spoke of the special relationship he has with his brother, and said before speaking about their bond: "This is where it's going to go off the rails."

"We won countless Super Bowls in our minds, before even leaving the house," Jason said, recalling their days playing football, armed with Capri Sun drinks which Donna packed for them.

Kelce, who posted on X early Monday morning that an announcement was forthcoming, had been mulling whether to retire for more than a year.

In his Prime documentary that debuted last year, the toll that the game was taking on his health — and the effect it was having on his young family — was a running theme.

After a “disappointing” end to the Eagles’ season, which came to a close when they lost a wild-card playoff game to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 32-9, on Jan. 15, Kelce’s decision was seemingly etched on his face after the game.

Related: Jason Kelce Seen Holding Back Tears and Searching for Family After Possible Final NFL Game

During the final play, Kelce hugged his longtime offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland. Then, the father-of-three choked back tears and searched for his family, including Kylie and Ed, in the stands.

Despite separate reports that stated Kelce had announced his intention to retire to teammates following the game, the Eagles star later clarified that he had not made a decision at the time.

"I think when it's time to officially announce what's happening in the future, it will be done in a way that will be definitive," he said on his New Heights podcast two days later. "With respect to individuals who have meant a lot for me and what has led to the career I've had."

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Earlier this season, Kelce broke a long-held Eagles record for most consecutive starts, but his career — in which he is widely considered to be among the greatest centers in NFL history — has not been without injuries.

In 2012, Kelce tore his MCL and suffered a partial tear to his ACL. In 2018, he played through the season with a Grade 2 MCL sprain and injuries to his foot, elbow and shoulder.

Cooper Neill/Getty
Cooper Neill/Getty

Following the Eagles’ unsuccessful Super Bowl bid against his brother and the Kansas City Chiefs last season, he lamented in Kelce documentary, "Every logical thing is telling me I should stop playing football. I’ve got to tear my body apart.”

“It’s getting harder and harder to play," he said at one point. "There have been little things that are not big things yet but are going to turn into big things the longer I play."

He was also candid about his concerns as a father to three young daughters — Wyatt, 4, Elliotte, 3, and Bennett, 12 months.

“I am fearful about what the impacts of playing football are going to mean long-term,” he shared in an emotional scene with retired Eagles player Connor Barwin, “I have two girls and ... some people end up getting CTE and some guys live long, healthy lives. I have no idea what’s gonna happen.”

Now, Jason Kelce stands squarely at the center of a new chapter.

Related: Jason Kelce Talks Possibility He Plays Final NFL Game Tonight: ‘You Never Know When That’s Going to Be’

In late January, Kelce told The Philadelphia Inquirer that he hoped to stay involved with the Eagles organization in some way, even if he’s not on the field.

"I don’t know what’s going to happen for me, but I do know I still want to be involved in the organization and still want to be a part of it — regardless of what the decision is,” he told the newspaper. “Because I don’t want to ever feel like I’m on the outside looking in on these achievements and these accolades and these opportunities that largely represent entire cities and fan bases and organizations.”

During his New Heights podcast earlier in January, he shared with Travis what he said to his fellow teammates following what ended up being his final game in the NFL.

"I did address the team and pretty much said, 'I [believe] in every single one of you guys,' " he recalled. "'Cherish your moments in this league.' "

He added, "That's kind of the way it went down. A lot of guys [said], 'If that’s your last game, I feel sorry for you.’ Don't feel sorry for me, mother-------," Jason said, and then took a moment to compose himself. "Well either way, I truly appreciated everybody in that room, and I’d go to war with them any day of the week... Enjoy the time you got."

In his speech on Monday, he paid tribute to his lifelong love affair with the game.

"Stepping on the field was the most alive and free I had ever felt," Kelce said. "It was a visceral feeling with football, unlike any other sport. The hairs on my arms would stand up, I could hit somebody, run around like a crazed lunatic and then get told, 'Good job.' "

He added, "I loved football, whether it was in my backyard with my brother, on the playground with my friends, or suiting up on Friday nights at Cleveland Heights High School. I loved everything about it."

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