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Eagles trainer fighting cancer taped Jason Kelce’s ankles one last time

Eagles trainer fighting cancer taped Jason Kelce’s ankles one last time
Posted at 7:15 AM, Mar 07, 2024

If you didn’t cry enough at Philadelphia Eagles’ center Jason Kelce’s emotional, 40-minute-long retirement speech on Monday, it’s time to grab the Kleenex again.

Eagle-eyed viewers may have noticed Kelce — older brother of Taylor Swift’s boyfriend, Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce — had his ankles taped for the press conference. It was an odd choice, since no one was expecting the offensive lineman to make any tackles.

But there was a sentimental reason for the tape: Kelce wanted his longtime athletic trainer, Joe O’Pella, to tape his ankles one last time.

Jason Kelce walks into his retirement press conference.
AP Photo/Matt Rourke

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O’Pella missed Kelce’s final game with the Eagles, in January, due to his ongoing treatment for cancer.

The trainer wrote about his special relationship with Kelce in an Instagram post on Tuesday, saying, “You all know about the on-the-field accomplishments, and many of the off-the-field ones too, but what this man has meant to me and now my family over the last decade-plus is nearly indescribable.”

O’Pella went on to detail the hours of work, laughs, nights on the town and huge accomplishments he’d experienced with Kelce, right up to Kelce offering O’Pella use of his vacation home and paying for meal deliveries while he was undergoing chemotherapy.

“And when he told me he would be 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,” wrote O’Pella. “That’s who he is.”

Jason Kelce and his brother Travis embrace at Jason’s retirement announcement.
AP Photo/Matt Rourke

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Kelce spent his entire 13-year NFL career with Philadelphia. He cited the physical challenges of playing football at age 36 as the biggest factor in his decision to retire.

His brother, Travis, was on hand for the press conference, along with the Kelces’ parents, Donna and Ed, and Jason’s wife, Kylie.

“I don’t know what’s next, but I look forward to the new challenges and opportunities that await,” a tearful Kelce said in his retirement announcement. “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.”

Carry on, everyone. I’ve got something in my eye.

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