'WE'RE IN THE BUSINESS OF HOPE'
Eagles All Pro center Jason Kelce gets emotional talking about being named Philadelphia Eagles Nominee For Walter Payton NFL Man Of The Year
What Eagles fans like so much about center Jason Kelce is not just his play on the field, it's how authentic he really is.
He has done it all for this franchise since being selected in the sixth round of the 2011 draft out of Cincinnati: Three All Pro selections, four-time Pro Bowler, started every game he's played in and Oh year, helped lead the Eagles to the only Super Bowl win in in the team's storied history.
Dressed as a mummer, Kelce gave what may well be the most memorable and profane speech in the history of the Super Bowl Parades – right on Benjamin Franklin Parkway. And every Eagles fan in the world loved it.
So no Eagles fan will be surprised when he or she watches the video of Kelce breaking down when he attempted to put into words how he felt about being nominated for the NFL Man of the Year award..
Of course, Kelce deflected attention from himself.
“This award, you know, there's only one guy from each team that gets nominated for this,” Kelce said at a press conference in the media tent at NovaCare shortly after the bye week..
"It's great and especially the history of the guys that have won and been nominated for this award and everything that those guys have done.
"But it is such a small sample of the tremendous work that NFL players do in general. And that I think, quite frankly, they don't get enough credit for.
“I think that players, in particular in the NFL, really feel pride for their teams, pride for their teammates and pride for their communities. When I was a rookie, I remember going and helping out Todd (Herremans) with his foundation. I remember all these other older players, kind of leading the way. Connor Barwin setting up to make the world better. You learn that this is not something that is not an option. You learn that this is what's expected, and this is what's right. I think that it's a culture that the players around the league have built. I mean, if you look at our team alone, I mean, Rodney and Erica McLeod last week raised over $200,000 for their foundation.
“I think DeVonte Smith just did a Christmas present shopping spree for families and a team or something like that. We do charity events and community outreach events every Tuesday in season. Guys commit time on off days, go and do those. You know, Lane Johnson, in what he's openly come back from this year....”
Kelce really struggled at this point to find the words to express how much tackle Lane Johnson went through fighting mental illness, a condition he has been dealing with since college. Kelce realized how many people he may have helped...and saved...it was a bit much for Kelce, but he collected himself, as he always has, and continued.
“And to think about the amount of people that he's....the amount of people that he's ...given hope to....that's the business we're in. We're in the business of hope. You know, what we do every day. What we do every game inspires millions of people. What we do off the field, hopefully inspires people...you know...I'm very proud to be one guy, part of the thousands of men who do that.”
The winner to be announced at NFL Honors during the Week of Super Bowl LVI in Los Angeles.
The award is considered one of the league's most prestigious honors. The award recognizes an NFL player for outstanding community service activities off the field, as well as excellence on the field.
“To be named the Eagles’ Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year is an incredible honor,” said Kelce in a statement last week. “I’ve been blessed to come to work every day for the past 11 years doing what I love for a team and city that means the world to me. The Eagles organization is family and this city is home. It’s a humbling experience to be recognized alongside men around the league who are making a difference in their communities.”
In addition to all the awards, Kelce has started 118 consecutive regular-season games, the longest active streak among NFL centers, and is the first NFL center with 100-plus straight starts in the regular season since Chris Myers from 2007-14 (123).
Off the field, Jason has shown an unwavering commitment to the Eagles Autism Foundation (EAF), the team’s signature charity dedicated to raising funds for innovative autism research and programs.
Kelce and his family, who have a personal tie to the cause, have participated in and contributed to several EAF events, including the annual Eagles Autism Challenge.
This past August, Kelce and his wife, Kylie, hosted an EAF fundraiser at the Ocean Drive in Sea Isle City, NJ. Kelce served as a celebrity bartender and helped raise $50,000 for autism research and programming. Kelce and his family then matched that to bring the total funds raised to $100,000.
Jason’s support for EAF and autism awareness also includes visiting Kylie’s autism support classroom to inspire and connect with the students; attending the team’s Huddle Up for Autism event with his family; promoting the Eagles Sensory Room at Lincoln Financial Field on NBC’s Today Show to highlight the need for such spaces; attending every sensory-friendly Philadelphia Orchestra event the Eagles have hosted and also playing Fly Eagles Fly on the saxophone alongside the internationally-recognized Philadelphia Orchestra at the Mann Music Center; and donating experiences such as “Story Time with Jason Kelce” and “Play a Round of Golf with Jason Kelce” to the Eagles Radiothon, helping raise $20,000 for the cause.
In addition to his work with the Eagles Autism Foundation, Kelce has volunteered his time at numerous non-profit organizations throughout the Philadelphia region. Some non-profits include: the Eagles Charitable Foundation, Habitat for Humanity, Ronald McDonald House, Bringing Hope Home, and Liberty USO.
Furthermore, Kelce is an active board member on former Eagles’ teammate Connor Barwin’s foundation, Make The World Better, which is focused on public space revitalization projects.
“Jason Kelce is a man of character and honor who embodies everything that is great about the game of football,” said Jeffrey Lurie, Philadelphia Eagles Chairman and CEO. “Jason is a leader on and off the field who relentlessly attacks life with a tenacious sense of loyalty, selflessness, and grit. He pours his heart and soul into the game and does it all for his team, this city, and our fans. Away from the game, Jason has become a passionate advocate for autism awareness and research through the Eagles Autism Foundation and has dedicated his time to assisting various organizations and nonprofits in need. Jason is the ultimate pro who has solidified his rightful place as one of the most beloved athletes in the great sports history of Philadelphia."
As a nominee for the national award, Jason will wear a Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year helmet decal through the end of the season in recognition of his accomplishments on and off the field.
Fans are encouraged to participate in Nationwide’s 7th annual Charity Challenge, a social media campaign designed to support and promote team nominees.
Fans can vote for Jason on Twitter between December 7, 2021 and January 17, 2022. To cast a vote, fans must include #WPMOYChallenge followed by the name ‘Kelce’ within the post.
The player with the most votes will receive a $25,000 contribution to their charity of choice, courtesy of Nationwide. The second and third-place finishers will receive $10,000 and $5,000 donations respectively from Nationwide. Votes will only be counted from Twitter. *
Note: Some information in this article was taken from the Eagles press release.
Follow Al Thompson on Twitter @thompsoniii