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Key moments from his emotional retirement speech

Jason Kelce announced his retirement Monday after 13 seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles.

The 36-year-old Kelce officially called it quits Monday at the Eagles’ NovaCare Complex, ending a career in which he became not only one of the great centers of his era who played a key role in the franchise’s lone Super Bowl championship, but a beloved Philly personality and popular podcast host.

“Let’s see how long this lasts,” said Kelce, wearing a sleeveless Eagles T-shirt, before he burst into tears and needed several moments to compose himself at a news conference attended by his parents, Ed and Donna, and brother Travis, who was wearing sunglasses inside the auditorium. Eagles coach Nick Sirianni sat behind reporters.

Kelce needed 45 minutes to recount his career from his childhood in Ohio to his final days with the Eagles through tears, laughter and many thanks to his biggest influences before he finally announced he was retiring. Here are some key moments from his tearful goodbye to the sport. 

Kelce on Eagles fans

After more than a decade of playing in Philadelphia, Kelce spoke eloquently about the city’s desire for the Eagles to win, and the fan’s passion for their team. He called playing in Philadelphia a “great blessing to play in the most passionate sports town in America.”

“Some people struggle to play in this city, they can’t handle the boos, the media, or our fans. I consider it a great blessing to play in the most passionate sports town in America. The sense of urgency in this city to win has pushed our organization, has fueled it to take chances, fix problems and work tirelessly in an effort to win. At times, you hate it as an athlete, especially those new to our city, but when you’ve been through it enough, you learn to appreciate it.” 

Kelce explained the importance of being accountable in Philadelphia and the rewarding feeling of persevering through low points to win the fan’s trust. 

“The Eagles are the number one ticket in town, the most talked about thing at nearly every moment. With that amount of attention, you better be ready to overcome the lows that will happen, and be ready to persevere in the face of criticism. Yes, they will let you know when you’re not performing well, everytime. But they will also love you if you show effort, aggression, desire, the will to fight. They will love you in this city if you love it, the way you love your brother.” 

Being drafted by the Eagles

Kelce reflected the draft night phone call he got from then-Eagles’ head coach Andy Reid, letting him know that Philadelphia had selected him 191st overall. He tearful recalled his father “rushing into the room with tear streaming down his face as his sons dreams had just been realized.” 

Two years later, a similar scenario played out when the Kansas City Chiefs drafted Travis Kelce in the third round. Kelce recalled crying with his father as “his brother had just realized his own dream.” 

Bond with Travis Kelce

The Ohio native reflected on his career in football, dating back to his first memory of wearing football pads and the bond the sport brought to the Kelce brothers. Travis was at the NovaCare Complex on Monday to support his brother.

“There’s no chance I’d be here without the bond Travis and I share, it made me stronger, tougher, smarter, and taught me the values of cooperation, loyalty, patience and understanding,” Kelce said. “It’s only too poetic that I found my career being fulfilled in the City of Brotherly Love – I knew that relationship all too well.” 

He recalled the gut-wrenching heartbreak of losing to the Chiefs in Super Bowl LVII that was only softened by the “sense of pride I had that my brother had climbed the mountain top once again.” 

“We have a small family – no cousins, one aunt, one uncle – it was really my brother and I our whole lives. We did almost everything together: competed, fought, laughed, cried, and learned from each other. We invented games. Imagined ourselves as star players from that time. We’d envision making the game-winning plays. We won countless Super Bowls in our minds before ever leaving the house.”

His love for wife, Kylie

Jason recalled the moment he met his wife Kylie Kelce and the feelings that he still has for her everyday. 

“I won’t forget the Eagles Christmas party in 2014 and heading out afterwards with a bunch of my teammates to Buffalo Billiards where my life would change forever. That night, I’d meet my future wife. I still remember the moment she walked through the door. The first instance is burned in my retina. It was like she glided through the opening. An aura around her. Then she started talking. And I thought, man, is this what love feels like? She was beautiful and smart. Serious yet playful. I knew it right away. I think it’s no coincidence. I have enjoyed my best years of my career with Kylie by my side. Every accolade I have ever received has come with her in my life. She has brought the best out of me through love, devotion, support. Honesty. Intelligence. And of course, a swift kick in the ass from time to time. She has also given me three beautiful girls in a life that increasingly brings me more fulfillment off the field than it does on her. We’ve had a great run.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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