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Jason Kelce's switch to OL at Cincinnati was the "turning point" of his football career

Philadelphia Eagles center Jason Kelce announces NFL retirement after 13 seasons
Philadelphia Eagles center Jason Kelce announces NFL retirement after 13 seasons 41:55

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- One of the greatest players to ever suit up for the Philadelphia Eagles called it a career Monday. Jason Kelce officially retired from football in an emotional speech at the NovaCare Complex after 13 seasons with the Birds. 

In his retirement speech, Kelce discussed plenty of moments, including his time at the University of Cincinnati as a walk-on, where he switched from defense to offense. 

But what if Kelce never switched positions in college? The Birds might still be searching for the team's first Lombardi trophy if he hadn't. 

Jason Kelce Announces Retirement from the NFL
PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA - MARCH 04: Jason Kelce #62 of the Philadelphia Eagles reacts after announcing his retirement from the NFL at NovaCare Complex on March 04, 2024 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. / Getty Images

Kelce joined the team as a walk-on linebacker in 2006 and redshirted after playing at Cleveland Heights High School. 

In high school, Kelce wasn't even close to being a center. He was his high school's league defensive MVP, recorded 105 tackles as a senior, and was a two-time all-league selection. He also averaged 9.5 yards per carry as a running back. 

But after Cincy hired Brian Kelly, who currently coaches Louisiana State University, in 2006 from Central Michigan, Kelce eventually began blossoming into one of the greatest centers of all time. 

"This turned out to be the biggest turning point in my career," Kelce said. 

Kelly brought along strength coach Paul Longo on his staff in Cincinnati.

Longo told Kelce he would make a great center during winter workouts, but he didn't believe it. 

"I shrugged it off," Kelce said. "Offensive line? Never in a million years did I think I'd play that position." 

But Kelce moved to the offensive line the following spring in 2007 and challenged for a starting spot the upcoming season. 

Kelce then spent the following two seasons at left guard, starting a combined 26 games before playing center in his senior year in 2010. 

"Paul moved me to offense line that spring and it ended up being the single greatest move that ever happened to me as a football player," Kelce said. 

Philadelphia Eagles play-by-play announcer Merrill Reese recaps Jason Kelce's career 07:40

After his time at Cincy, the Eagles selected Kelce in the sixth round of the 2011 NFL draft, and the rest is history. 

In his 13-year career with the Birds, Kelce earned six All-Pro nods, seven Pro Bowl selections and helped the team win their first Super Bowl in the 2017 season. 

Kelce is the fifth center in NFL history with at least six All-Pro selections. Jim Otto, Bulldog Turner, Dermotti Dawson and Jim Ringo are the others, and they're all in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Kelce will be eligible for the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2029. 

Kelce also played the most games by an offensive lineman in Eagles history and has the most consecutive starts with 156. 

And without that position change in college, maybe Kelce won't grow into the giant he is in Philly and the sports world today. 

"I don't know what's next, but I look forward to the new challenges and opportunities that await and I know that I carry with me the lessons from my time here and that forever, we shall all share the bond of being Philadelphians," Kelce said. 

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