Low-key Kelce forgoes big payday potential

Low-key Kelce forgoes big payday potential

February 27, 2014, 4:00 pm
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The Eagles drafted Jason Kelce in the sixth round of the 2011 NFL draft. (USA Today Images)

Jason Kelce signed his contract extension Thursday morning wearing sweatpants and an Eagles-logoed tank top, with his long hair pulled back into a ponytail.

So much for being rich and fabulous.

But Kelce personified the expression that clothes make the man. After inking his name to a six-year extension (see story) that placed him among the NFL’s highest-paid centers but also spoiled his chance of an even bigger pay haul in the distant future, Kelce explained why the decision wasn’t as risky as it might seem.

“I think I’ve got, at this point, more than enough to be comfortable,” Kelce said. “I wear sweatpants and T-shirts every day. I don’t wear jewelry or anything. This is certainly more than enough to live comfortably.”

On the flip side, Kelce could be viewed as extremely fortunate to net a top-five contract at his position, given his pedigree. He’s played just 34 career games and already missed almost an entire season to have two knee ligaments repaired. This after joining the franchise as a sixth-round pick who had walked on in Cincinnati.

Last year, Kelce played in the neighborhood of 290 pounds, a tad undersized for the position. His agility and quickness compensate for a lack of pure strength and size that occasionally lands him on the wrong side of a defensive lineman’s pancake.

He’s also never made a Pro Bowl.

Still, the Eagles recognized Kelce’s impact on an offensive line that emerged as one of the league’s best last year and in a locker room where he has become a go-to guy for the media.

Kelce fast became an honest, smiling, good-natured, marketable face for the masses, and his affinity for coach Chip Kelly and his adopted home city made the marriage perfect.

“The longer [contract] for me, the better, because I really, truly don’t want to play for any other organization,” he said. “I’m really excited to be here, and I have been from Day 1.”

Kelce’s fast rise up from sixth-round pick to franchise golden child spans two regimes.

Andy Reid drafted Kelce in 2011 at the urging of coach Howard Mudd, who marveled over the lineman’s combination of athleticism and intellect. After just a few months on the job as Reid’s replacement, Kelly was already talking about Kelce’s second career in coaching.

Another reason for the Eagles to secure Kelce for as long as possible? The growing importance centers play in fast-paced, up-tempo offenses. They need to direct traffic at lightning speed is as critical as blocking the guy on the opposite side.

And there isn’t an offense that runs much faster than Kelly’s.

“When you talk about the center it’s really the leader of your offensive line, it’s the quarterback of your offensive line,” general manager Howie Roseman said. “There’s so much responsibility on that position’s shoulders.

“The way we look at it, it doesn’t get much more important than a guy who is handling the football every play. When you talk about the traits he has, his fit in this offense, his fit in this building ... I come down to breakfast every day and he’s here (at the NovaCare Complex).

“He’s working and it’s February and it’s because he loves to be here. He loves the game of football. He has an incredible passion for this city, for this football team, and then he’s explosive. That's what we want. That’s what we’re trying to build a team around.”