NFL-Beloved Eagles centre Kelce retires after 13 seasons

Credit: REUTERS/Nathan Ray Seebeck

March 4 (Reuters) - Philadelphia Eagles centre Jason Kelce announced his retirement on Monday after a 13-year National Football League career during which he established himself as one of the best at his position and endeared himself to the team's fanbase.

Kelce, the older brother of Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce, won a Super Bowl in February 2018, earned seven Pro Bowl selections and was named a first-team All Pro six times in an NFL career spent entirely with the Eagles.

"I have been the underdog my entire career and -- I mean this when I say it -- I wish I still was. Few things gave me more joy than proving someone wrong," an emotional Kelce, 36, said during his retirement news conference in which Travis was among those in attendance.

"My mother used to tell people and still says to this day, 'If you want Jason to do something, all you have to do is tell him he can't,' and that was true in more ways than I care to admit. I relish doubters; they fuel the fire within."

Kelce, selected by Philadelphia in the sixth and penultimate round of the 2011 NFL Draft, owns the Eagles franchise records for consecutive starts (156) and most regular season games played by an offensive lineman (193).

During his career, Kelce became one of Philadelphia's most beloved athletes, a fan favorite at a position that does not typically produce fan favorites.

In the Super Bowl championship parade that followed the Eagles' upset win over the New England Patriots, Kelce whipped the crowd into a frenzy with an impassioned speech about his team's underdog story that resonated across the city.

"For the millions of fans who never had the privilege of meeting Jason, he had such a deep understanding and genuine appreciation for what was important to them," Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie said in a statement.

"Nothing exemplified that better than his Super Bowl parade speech that brought to the surface the emotions that so many of us had been holding inside for years.

"Today is a bittersweet day, because it is hard to imagine the Eagles taking the field without Jason Kelce in uniform."

(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto, editing by Pritha Sarkar)

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