The Eagles are almost certainly going to give out two fewer jersey numbers this season.

I’d be stunned if anyone ever wears No. 62 or No. 91 again now that All-Pro Center Jason Kelce and Defensive Tackle Fletcher Cox have retired.

Both enjoyed legendary careers that saw them develop both into outstanding and popular players and respected leaders whose contributions spanned over a decade.

Kelce and Cox each endured some tumultuous seasons to help the team win its first Super Bowl championship and built legacies that are sturdier than any statue.

Kelce’s career began without much fanfare.  When the Eagles took the undersized center from the University of Cincinnati in the sixth round of the 2011 draft, they had no idea they had drafted a legend.  All of the attention that year was centered around first-round pick Danny Watkins, a guard from Baylor who was supposed to anchor the interior offensive line.

Kelce was viewed as potentially the next in a long line of Eagles’ centers who had surpassed expectations. In previous years, quarterbacks had taken snaps from guys such as Jamaal Jackson (2006-09), Hank Fraley (2001-05), and Bubba Miller (2000), all of whom were undrafted free agents.

Watkins left football after a few unremarkable seasons to become a firefighter. Kelce doused fires along the Eagles’ offense line for 13 years. He tied for third in longevity behind defensive end Brandon Graham – who is slated to retire after his 15th season in 2024 - and Bednarik (14 years), and ranks second to Graham in games played (193), including 156 in a row.

Strictly from a personal standpoint, his bearded profile would be carved into my Eagles Mount Rushmore alongside Cox, Brian Dawkins, Hugh Douglas, Jon Dorenbos, Zach Ertz, Nick Foles, Irving Fryar, Donovan McNabb, Jon Runyan, Tra Thomas, William Thomas, and Michael Zordich.

Keep in mind, that some of those players weren’t necessarily the best at their positions, but were always honest and forthcoming in my dealings with them during a 27-year tenure as an Eagles’ Beat Writer.

Anyone who’s spent more than 10 minutes with Kelce knows he belongs in the group. He acts like he played, with an unbridled enthusiasm and passion that has no filter.  “Philly Special” and Graham’s strip-sack were the top plays of Super Bowl LII, but most fans would list Kelce’s parade speech as their most memorable moment.

Locals have gotten a taste from his guest stints as a bartender in Sea Isle City in recent summers.  Then there was his epic, barechested, beer-guzzling display in Buffalo a few weeks ago.

Fans may have noticed that Kelce was wearing tape around his ankles during his tearful retirement speech.  That was his way of thanking assistant trainer Joe O’Pella, who was unable to tape Kelce’s ankles for his final game – the Eagles’ playoff loss at Tampa – while undergoing treatment for cancer.

“I tape this guy’s ankles and thumbs every day for 13 seasons,” O’Pell wrote on Instagram. “When he told me he was retiring and I expressed my regret of not being the last person to ever tape him, he offered to have me tape him for his retirement press conference.  That’s who he is. And I hope these stories can add to an already unbelievable legacy.”

Cox’s legacy should also be recognized and appreciated.  In his prime, he was among the NFL’s best defensive tackles – he was voted to the NFL’s All-Decade team for the 2010’s.

While not as vocal as Kelce, Cox’s voice was also heard and heeded in the Eagles’ locker room.

He was also a major part of the Eagles’ community. Earlier this year, he donated a canine named “Carlo” to the Atlantic City Police Department K9, the second time he made such a gesture.

The ACPD responded by naming a police car “K9-91” in Cox’s honor.

Perhaps most important was the reciprocal loyalty between Kelce, Cox and the Eagles.

They are among the few players who have played their entire careers of at least 10 years with the Eagles. Prior to them, the last to accomplish the feat was tight end Brent Celek, who retired after Super Bowl LII after an 11-season career spent in Philly.

Graham will almost certainly join the fraternity after this season, followed possibly by tackle Lane Johnson, who is entering his 12th season as a first-round pick in 2013.

After that, I’ll probably have to expand my Mount Rushmore.

MAAC Championships heading to A.C.

Now that the high school basketball season is over – congrats to Mainland Regional High School’s Girls' team on winning the State Group III championship – local hoops fans in search of action can head over to Jim Whelan Boardwalk Hall this week for the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference men’s and women’s conference tournaments.

It marks the fourth straight year the tournament will be held at Boardwalk Hall.  Winners receive automatic bids to the upcoming NCAA Division I tournaments known as "March Madness."

On the local front, Fairfield University’s men’s team features guard Caleb Fields, a Wildwood Catholic Academy graduate from Cape May Court House who is the Stags’ second-leading scorer at 16.1 points per game.

The MAAC and Boardwalk Hall reached an agreement last year on a three-year extension that will keep the tournaments in town through 2026.

Jason Kelce Through the Years

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