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Eagles center Jason Kelce announces retirement after 13 stellar seasons

UPI

March 4 (UPI) -- Likely future Hall of Fame center Jason Kelce of the Philadelphia Eagles announced his retirement from the NFL on Monday after 13 stellar seasons as one of the team's greatest offensive linemen.

Kelce, an unheralded sixth-round draft choice in 2011, played his entire career with the Eagles en route to landing seven Pro Bowl appearances, six first-team All-Pro honors and a Super Bowl ring for the Eagles' 2018 victory over New England.

He is just the fifth center in NFL history with at least six All-Pro selections.

During a 40-minute news conference announcing the end of his playing career, Kelce broke down in tears as he recounted what playing in the NFL meant to him and how he motivated himself to overcome the odds against him making it in the league.

"I have been the underdog my entire career and -- I mean this when I say it -- I wish I still was," he said. "Few things gave me more joy than proving someone wrong. My mother used to tell people and still says to this day, 'If you want Jason to do something, all you have to do is tell him he can't,' and that was true in more ways than I care to admit.

"I relish doubters -- they fuel the fire within," he said. "I suspect that comes from an upbringing where my parents would tell me, 'Jason, you can do, you can be anything you put your mind to it and work hard to achieve it.'"

Speculation about his impending retirement came into the open following Philadelphia's 32-9 playoff thrashing at the hands of Tampa Bay Buccaneers in January, but Kelce didn't make it official until Monday.

Among those he paid tribute to were his parents and his brother, Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce, who is fresh off a Super Bowl victory over the San Francisco 49ers and the recipient of tremendous notoriety for his romantic relationship with pop music megastar Taylor Swift.

"There is no chance I would be here without the bond Travis and I share," he said. "It made me stronger, tougher, smarter and taught me the values of cooperation, loyalty, patience and understanding.

"It's only too poetic I found my career being fulfilled in the City of Brotherly Love. I knew that relationship all too well."

Eagles chairman and CEO Jeffrey Luria issued a statement praising Kelce as "an incredible football player; a future Hall of Famer who would have been successful anywhere. But has there ever been a more perfect marriage between a player, a city, and a team?"