Jason Kelce and the Emotion Behind a ‘New Normal’
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - Maybe the biggest hurdle between the Philadelphia Eagles and their effort to inject a "new normal" into the very DNA of the organization was best exemplified by Jason Kelce when speaking with reporters late last month at the NovaCare Complex.
The All-Pro center was still emotional when reflecting on February's Super Bowl LII win over New England, the franchise's first and a victory that literally moved generations of people around the Delaware Valley.
"Walking down on the [championship] parade that day, I can’t remember who came up to me, but somebody came up to me with ashes in their hands," Kelce said. "They said, ‘Kelc, I don’t know what to do. Somebody just poured their grandfather’s ashes in my hands.’ And uh, it was just, I was like, ‘I don’t know what to do, either.'”
Kelce himself broke down after the win over the Patriots, holding court at the podium deep inside the bowels of U.S. Bank Stadium explaining why the win met so much to him.
"In high school, I didn't get a scholarship so I had to walk on and try to earn my place in a college program," Kelce explained. "You go from a walk on moving to completely different position, trying to put on all this weight. You start thinking about all these things and everybody along the way that's helped get you to where you're at."
Rewind back to last May and many believed Kelce could be traded after two subpar seasons, at least for him. He doubted himself but a rededication toward the fundamentals and ensuring his technique was as flawless as it could be turned Kelce into the best center in all of football and arguably the best offensive linemen regardless of position in 2018.
"It made me a much better player this past season having gone through that," Kelce said of the criticism he received.
His speech at the parade on the Parkway is now Philadelphia legend, a slightly tipsy man in a Mummers outfit screaming about how no one believed in himself or any of his teammates, a flawed narrative and ironic considering the captive audience of fans is really the one which fueled thoughts like "Doug Pederson can't coach" or "Kelce is too small."
That's a forgotten footnote lost in translation and to revisionist history now, however.
"I think it was a very real moment for myself and the fans and everybody picked up on that as well," Kelce said of his speech.
It also underscored the theory of a Super Bowl hangover. This journey was so emotional for Kelce and many others, how could it possibly be repeated?
"I literally found myself before [he meant after] the Vikings game in the shower," Kelce began before getting choked up. "You get pretty emotional, you’re crying. And all of that, after the Super Bowl, after the game is finally over, I’m running on the field and I still can’t believe it happened.
"And it all hits you all at once. I think that’s what the whole speech was. It was the culminating of all the stories I’m thinking about at night, I can’t go to sleep, of how I got there. Then you start thinking about how everybody else got there. Then you start thinking about how the city got there."
Kelce has since gotten married and settled into his role as the "honorary Mayor of Philadelphia." He's asked to speak at more events that he can handle and thanked on a daily basis for finally helping bring the Lombard Trophy back to the lobby of the NovaCare Complex.
And now all that's expected of Kelce, and his teammates, is to do it all over again.
"It's ours now," Kelce said. "We're trying to not let anyone else get it away from us."
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen