They both entered the NFL through the backdoor, Jason Kelce as a sixth-round draft pick out of Cincinnati and Jeff Saturday as an undrafted free agent out of North Carolina.
Both were undersized.
Kelce at 6-3, 295; Saturday 6-2, 295.
The connection deepened when Howard Mudd arranged for them to meet 10 years ago.
“Howard was like this guy has everything, Saturday,” recalled Jeff Saturday, now the interim head coach of the Indianapolis Colts, the team he played with in 13 of his 14 NFL seasons.
“This guy is going to be a lifer, which means he’s going to get 10 years or more, and he’s going to be an absolute stud. He’ll be a perennial Pro Bowler, one that challenges at both levels.”
Mudd was right on.
The longtime O-line coach, who passed away at 78 two years ago, was the line coach in Indy when the Eagles made Kelce the 191st player taken overall in the 2011 draft. Mudd spent the first two years of Kelce’s career coaching the center.
By then, Saturday was about to enter his final season with the Colts and head to Green Bay for one more season before retiring after the 2012 season. His career spanned 211 games, with 202 starts.
Kelce and Saturday will meet up again on Sunday when the Eagles visit the Colts (1 p.m./CBS).
The game will be No. 169 for Kelce and tie him with Chuck Bednarik (169, 1949-62) for the most games played by an offensive lineman in Eagles history.
It will also be the center’s 132nd straight start, which is the third longest in team history behind Jon Runyan (144, 2000-08) and Herm Edwards (135, 1977-85).
Kelce is a five-time Pro Bowl player and four-time, Associated Press first-team All-Pro.
Saturday made six Pro Bowls and was twice named AP first-team All-Pro.
“The first two years of his career, I spent a lot of time watching Jeff Saturday tape,” said Kelce earlier in the week. “Howard Mudd had coached him his whole tenure in Indianapolis pretty much. He was the guy, for me, being an undersized player, and running the same system and a lot of the same plays, that I tried to emulate my game after.”
Kelce and Saturday met at Saturday’s house after Kelce’s rookie season.
They spent most of their time talking techniques and forging a bond that still exists today.
“Love him,” said Saturday. “What an incredible ballplayer and I love his heart and his attitude and the way he carries himself as a center, and I’ve always appreciated, even way back when Howard Mudd was telling me about him. … just an absolute gem of a human being.”
Saturday said he texted Kelce recently to tell him how much he loved the podcast he and his brother, Travis Kelce, do: ‘New Heights.’
“I told him they had me in stitches,” he said. “I love what they do. But what an incredible player, an unreal career. Just love his style and everything about him and the way he carries himself. He’s been one that I’ve always pulled for and appreciated.”
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.