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Jason Kelce Explains Why he Returned and His Role as a Mentor

The center's stance on the subject is in stark contraast to a certain QB in Tennessee - "It’s the way you make a lasting impact as a player"
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PHILADELPHIA – It wasn’t really the keg of beer Nick Sirianni sent to Jason Kelce during the offseason that got the veteran center to stave off retirement for at least one more season, though it was a nice sweetener that Kelce wasn’t going to return to sender.

It was really much simpler than that.

It was just good old-fashioned fun, even at the age of 34 when the bumps and bruises stay purple and yellow longer and more rest and treatment are required to beat back the aches and pains.

"Last year was a lot of fun,” Kelce said earlier this month. “…I had a lot of fun with Nick as the head coach how everything went, so I stepped back and thought about it.

“First of all, you are thinking physically can you do it again? How do you feel? And once I felt I was kind of OK on that end, it was pretty much a no-brainer. I felt like I still want to do another one."

The Eagles have been steeling themselves for the day when he calls it quits.

They spent second-round picks in each of the last two drafts – Landon Dickerson in 2021 and Cam Jurgens this spring - to make sure they are covered when a keg of beer and fun don’t do it anymore for Kelce.

The center happily mentors them all, something that not all players are willing to do, with the recent example being Titans QB Ryan Tannehill saying it wasn’t his job to mentor rookie draft pick Malik Willis. 

While it may not be part of any player’s job description, if a player cares about winning and the long-term health of an organization, mentoring is just something he will do.

“I think in some ways I've been trying to mentor my replacement for eight years now,” said Kelce. “You always want to try to help young guys and help the team be better moving forward. I'm smart enough to realize my time is limited and I'd like to be a part of something. ... You know the only way you can live on in this game is through the players and relationships you forge.”

Young players who have become Eagles always speak to how he is willing to help them improve, players such as Dickerson, Jack Driscoll, and Nate Herbig, who was released recently and signed with the New York Jets.

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“As a player, your game is what it is,” said Kelce. “…It’s the way you make a lasting impact as a player, as a person is how you influence other people and hopefully helped others realize their dreams. I think that's a big part of being a veteran player, a big part of something you realize as you get older and older.

“What's going to happen when you're done and leaving? What are you leaving behind you? You don't want to leave behind a bunch of statistics and cool highlight blocks. At least I don't."

Jason Kelce at practice leading up to playoff game vs. Bucs

Jason Kelce

He has been in the league long enough that he remembers Jamaal Jackson being the incumbent center when Kelce entered the league as a sixth-round pick in 2011, the 191st player taken that year. He said Todd Herremans was a guy he leaned on heavily. Evan Mathis and Jason Peters helped him as well.

“I picked up from a lot of different guys and I think that's one of the reasons this organization has been pretty good,” he said. “Obviously, we've had our ups and downs, but for the last decade we've been pretty damn solid, and we have a really good building and a culture that wants to see guys get better. 

"You don't really see animosity with young guys. You see guys trying to help guys out and do it the right way."

And what is Kelce’s approach to helping young players?

"Whenever there is an opportunity to help you try to kind of just talk or step in,” he said. “It might not be that specific moment. You might let it calm down if the coach is making a coach's point or if it's in the middle of a drill or if it's not the right moment to say something, but there will be a time to get with the guy and try to help him out.

“You are always trying to help. It's not just young guys, it's veterans, too. When you're watching something that doesn't look right, or you see something that you think is wrong, go to the guy to try to get it corrected before you hit the field or the next drive or whenever.

"You just do it whenever you feel it's the right opportunity to do it."

Ed Kracz is the publisher of SI.com’s Fan Nation Eagles Today and co-host of the Eagles Unfiltered Podcast. Check out the latest Eagles news at www.SI.com/NFL/Eagles or www.eaglesmaven.com and please follow him on Twitter: @kracze.