The Eagles were on the practice field again Sunday, after a day off on Saturday, and once again, it was hard to miss center Jason Kelce.
Kelce wore a Kobe Bryant Lower Merion High jersey onto the field. In the previous practice, on Friday, he’d worn his personalized No. 62 Flyers sweater. The Flyers were about to wrap up their first-round playoff series against Montreal that evening. Sunday was a more somber tribute -- Bryant, who died in a January helicopter crash, would have turned 42 on Sunday.
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“My wife [Kylie] went to school at Lower Merion, she coaches field hockey at Lower Merion,” Kelce said. “We were at a bar one time in Narberth that has that jersey on the wall. I bought that a while ago, it just so happened to be sitting in my locker, still. Unfortunately, it’s a little snug. I don’t get to wear it too often. I thought it would be a pretty good day, after Jason Peters told me it was [Kobe’s] birthday today, it’d be a good day to honor a legend from this city.”
“I didn’t know Kobe that much on a personal level,” Kelce said. “Obviously, he talked to the team in 2017 on the Super Bowl run, and made a pretty big impact, I think, on the entire team. I was able to see him another time at an ESPN event and reiterate to him how much I thought that meant to our team.
“I’ve heard a lot of motivational speakers throughout the years. A lot of motivational speakers -- players, coaches, or whatever -- they kind of speak in these kind of age-old mantras, or clichés or whatnot. Kobe was very much not like that. It was a very real conversation; it felt very authentic, and that’s why I think it resonated so much with a lot of the guys from the team. You didn’t feel like he was saying anything because it was the right thing to say; he was saying things you could tell he meant and he had thought about.
“It was very evident that he was a very intelligent human being. From the way he talked about becoming a better player, what it takes to learn more about the game, to learn more about your opponent.
“The drive he had to be great was second-to-none. You could feel that in just the way he talked. It was a very moving moment for our team that year. It was a very moving moment for me, just to hear the way the best basketball player ever to play the game approached business and approached being the best.”
— Les Bowen (email@example.com)
It’s a Kelce-centric newsletter today, because the center was the most interesting Eagles speaker Sunday. In addition to remembering Bryant, Kelce became emotional when discussing his relationship with former Eagles offensive line coach Howard Mudd. One of the true NFL position-coaching legends, Mudd died Aug. 12 at age 78, from injuries sustained in a motorcycle accident.
Mudd had a lot to do with the Eagles’ drafting of Kelce in 2011′s sixth round, from Cincinnati.
“Howard, he’s the one who really gave me a shot in the NFL. There weren’t too many teams coming out of college that really believed in me,” Kelce said. “I had three pre-draft visits to teams. He was a guy that really gave me a shot at playing in the NFL. Not just wanted to mold you as a player, but wanted to mold you as a person. He was constantly trying to talk to you, constantly trying to ... figure out what you were about. That was everybody, that wasn’t just me, that was across the board. Tremendous accountability.
“I feel terrible for [wife] Shirley and the family. He was a good man.”
Anyone surprise you so far? — Brian Rosenwald, via Twitter.