There he was, Jason Kelce — the greatest center in Philadelphia Eagles franchise history — teaching a young middle schooler how to block in the middle of a raucous party atop Bok Bar in South Philly. Kelce took the kid aside and the two locked shoulders, with the All-Pro showing him how to use his hands to gain leverage.
It was a remarkable scene at the official launch event for Underdog Apparel. Kelce is every bit the person his megawatt persona radiates. The Super Bowl champion was there to debut and sell merchandise from his new clothing line, but more than that he was there to spread a broader message about empowering future generations. Sales benefit The (Be) Philly Foundation, Kelce’s new non-profit established to directly improve the lives of Philadelphia youth through financial support and increased visibility.
“For me, personally, you know I’ve been very fortunate to play football and play a game,” Kelce told Heavy. “I’ve had a lot of people who have surrounded me and helped me become a very good player. Role models growing up, coaches, teachers — a lot of people that have helped me get to where I am today. I feel like we owe it to the younger generation, to the kids, to offer that same level of support. It’s important to me to make sure that we’re at least trying to do that in the City of Philadelphia, and trying to build a better future for those kids and for our city.”
From Cleveland with Love, No Mayoral Run Planned
Listening to Kelce speak stirs a ton of different emotions in people. He’s become the unofficial spokesperson for the grit and tenacity of a blue-collar town that wears those traits with dirt-stained pride. He embraces that role. He relishes that role.
“I think underdog is a mentality, a mentality that we’re not going to listen to outside noise,” Kelce said. “We’re not going to listen to anybody tell us who we are, how good we are, or how good we can be. We’re going to go out there and prove it every single day.”
How about a larger role? While the idea of running for political office has been floated out there by some diehard fans, it’s not something Kelce is interested in. So, no, don’t look for him to jump into the mayor’s race in 2023.
“That is a great way to be hated by at least half of the people,” Kelce said, laughing. “Hopefully I can accomplish a lot of things that public office can do by not having to hold public office. That might be the sweet spot that I’m looking for.”
It’s hard to go back and find an athlete who better stitched himself into the fabric of Philly. It’s a permanent hem, one that is even more extraordinary since he’s not from here. Kelce is the pride of Cleveland Heights, Ohio, and knew little about Philly when the Eagles took him in the sixth round of the 2011 NFL draft.
“I had been here for like a field trip type deal growing up, but I didn’t know much about Philadelphia,” Kelce said. “When I first got drafted my agent, Jason Bernstein, told me, ‘Man, you don’t know it yet but you are going to fit in great in Philadelphia. You’re going to love it.’ And, yeah, he was right. I think Cleveland and Philly have a lot of similarities. They are both hardcore, blue-collar, working cities.”
Kelce Talks Possible Retirement, Being a Philadelphian
One topic on everyone’s mind is whether the 2022 campaign will be Kelce’s swan song. He has talked about hanging up his cleats in each of the last three offseasons, only to decide to come back and chase another ring. That is looking like a great decision this season as the Eagles resemble legit Super Bowl contenders with a perfect 8-0 record.
When asked if retirement was on the horizon, Kelce wouldn’t give up the goods: “We’ll see. It’s been that way for the last three so why not this year?”
However, Kelce did want to make something crystal clear (just in case it wasn’t assumed). He is 100% a Philadelphian after living here for 11 years. He’s not going anywhere. Neither is his underdog mentality.
“This is where I live. This is where my kids are going to be raised. This is where my wife is from. I am a Philadelphian,” Kelce said. “I might not have been born here but I definitely consider myself a Philadelphian. I love this city. I love the mentality of it. I love the pride that it has.
“I love the grit that it has. I love the tenacity. And I really wanted this entire clothing line and this brand to represent that and to be proud of that. But also directing that same type of energy into an area that can build a better future for kids in this city.”