The piercing wail of a siren interrupted the sleepy and definitely sweltering calm in Sea Isle City on the last day of June.
A red firetruck negotiated the narrow streets just a block away from the ocean in the South Jersey beach town that day, with Eagles mascot Swoop and some team cheerleaders riding atop the rig.
One of the most popular figures in team history, center Jason Kelce, was minutes away from a guest bartending gig at the OD, there to raise money in for the Eagles Autism Foundation.
Kelce is a frontline volunteer in the battle to bring awareness to Autism and a tireless advocate for many other organizations and nonprofits in need.
For what he does off the field, Kelce was the Eagles’ nominee for the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award on Tuesday.
“To be named the Eagles’ Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year is an incredible honor,” said Kelce in a press release.
“I’ve been blessed to come to work every day for the past 11 years doing what I love for a team and city that means the world to me. The Eagles organization is family, and this city is home. It’s a humbling experience to be recognized alongside men around the league who are making a difference in their communities.”
The award recognizes an NFL player for outstanding community service activities off the field, as well as excellence on the field.
Fans can vote for Kelce on Twitter beginning Dec. 7, 2021, and Jan. 17, 2022. To cast a vote, fans must include #WPMOYChallenge followed by the name ‘Kelce’ within the post. The player with the most votes will receive a $25,000 contribution to their charity of choice, courtesy of Nationwide. The second and third-place finishers will receive $10,000 and $5,000 donations respectively from Nationwide. Votes will only be counted from Twitter.
New this year, votes using #WPMOYChallenge followed by the name ‘Kelce’ on Jan. 4-5 will count double. The first nominee to reach one million votes will receive an additional $10,000 donation from Nationwide.
The winner will be announced during NFL Honors, a primetime awards special to air the Thursday before Super Bowl LVI, on ABC.
Previous winners of the award for the Eagles were Hall of Famer Harold Carmichael (1980), Troy Vincent (2002), and Chris Long (2018).
“Jason Kelce is a man of character and honor who embodies everything that is great about the game of football,” said Jeffrey Lurie, Philadelphia Eagles Chairman and CEO, in a press release.
“Jason is a leader on and off the field who relentlessly attacks life with a tenacious sense of loyalty, selflessness, and grit. He pours his heart and soul into the game and does it all for his team, this city, and our fans. Away from the game, Jason has become a passionate advocate for autism awareness and research through the Eagles Autism Foundation and has dedicated his time to assisting various organizations and non-profits in need.
“Jason is the ultimate pro who has solidified his rightful place as one of the most beloved athletes in the great sports history of Philadelphia.”
Kelce helped raise $100,000 during his guest bartending stint. Of that, $50,000 came in donations during his several hours behind the bar with him and his wife Kylie matching that.
The event had been put together just days before it happened when he and EAF executive director, Ryan Hammond, saw one another with their families at an arcade one evening in Sea Isle City.
"To have Jason Kelce – a veteran, an iconic player – jump in and raise his hand and say 'yes' is so important,” said Hammond on the team’s website. “An organization wants to follow a leader. They want to emulate what that guy does and to know that he's going to shepherd and cultivate these younger players to understand that this is what you can do to change people's lives, that the Eagles are going to give you that opportunity is incredible. He's the best."
Kylie Kelce works with autistic children and her husband is a frequent visitor to her classroom to help inspire and connect with the student. He attends the team’s Huddle Up for Autism even with his family, promoted the Eagles’ Sensory Room at Lincoln Financial Field on NBC’s Today Show to highlight the need for such spaces, and donates experiences such as “Story Time with Jason Kelce” and “Play a Round of Golf with Jason Kelce” to the Eagles’ Radiothon, helping raise $20,000 for the cause.
"It's good to know that people think that I've been a good human being and done things the right way, giving back to the community and been a good teammate," Kelce said.
"You just try to be the best person you can be and help out where you can and care about other people. I like to think that people think that I care about what they do and who they are and know that if they ever need something, I'm a person they can call and count on to help them out and listen or be there for them in any way I can.”
Ed Kracz is the publisher of SI.com’s Eagle Maven and co-host of the Eagles Unfiltered Podcast. Check out the latest Eagles news at www.SI.com/NFL/Eagles or www.eaglemaven.com and please follow him on Twitter: @kracze.