Kelce was visibly emotional on the sideline toward the end of Monday’s game and was seen embracing offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland during the waning seconds of the fourth quarter.
“He’s special and I love him,” Eagles coach Nick Sirianni said after the loss. “He’s one of the most special guys I’ve been around. He’s always got a place here.”
Kelce played his entire NFL career, which spanned 2011-23, with the Eagles. He was named a First-Team All-Pro six times, including in each of the past three seasons. The other four centers with six All-Pro selections made the Hall of Fame.
Kelce made seven Pro Bowls, including in each of the past five years. The former sixth-round pick out of Cincinnati — whose 34-year-old brother, Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce, is a nine-time Pro Bowler – played the past season with Philadelphia on a one-year contract.
The 6-3 Kelce was an iron man for the Eagles, starting every game in each of the past nine seasons. He anchored offensive lines that blocked for star quarterbacks in Jalen Hurts and Carson Wentz, as well as for Nick Foles, who led the Eagles to the franchise’s lone Super Bowl title after the 2017 season with a win over Tom Brady and the New England Patriots.
Kelce played an instrumental role in the Eagles’ so-called “Tush Push,” an oft-used play in which teammates shove Hurts from behind to convert short-yardage situations at an extreme success rate.
“He’s a legend in the city, really in the league,” Hurts said of Kelce. “I don’t want to do a disservice to him and the things he’s been able to do and overcome. His journey to where he is now didn’t come easy. It’s been a long, long time coming for him, and every year since I’ve been here it’s been, ‘Are you going to come back?’”
Kelce declined to speak to the media after the loss in Tampa.
Beyond football, Kelce and his brother earned a following by co-hosting the “New Heights” podcast, on which they discuss the NFL and other topics, including a few references to Travis’ relationship with pop superstar Taylor Swift.
The brothers faced each other in Super Bowl LVII after the 2022 season, with Travis and the Chiefs winning a back-and-forth game, 38-35.
The Eagles began the 2023 season 10-1 but slumped down the stretch, losing five of their final six regular season games before falling to Tampa in the first round of the playoffs.