Jason Kelce moved one step closer to the Hall of Fame Friday when the Eagles’ superstar center was named to the 1st-team NFL All-Pro team for the fourth time in his legendary career.
Earlier this year, Kelce was named to his fifth Pro Bowl, but this is only the second time in his career he’s been a Pro Bowler and 1st-team All-Pro the same season. He also received both honors in 2019.
Even at 34 years old and in his 11th season, Kelce has played at a remarkably high level, anchoring an offensive line that helped the Eagles rank 12th in scoring and 1st in rushing yards in Nick Sirianni’s first season and was the centerpiece of an unlikely playoff run.
The voting wasn't close. Kelce received 21 of 50 votes in balloting by a panel of football writers, 10 more than Corey Linsley of the Chargers, who made 2nd-team all-pro with 11 votes. Three other centers - Creed Humphrey of the Chiefs (10), the Bucs’ Ryan Jensen (5) and the Colts’ Ryan Kelly (3) - also received votes.
With each postseason honor he receives, Kelce’s Hall of Fame chances increase.
Kelce is only the 11th center to earn four All-Pro honors, and each of the 10 others are already enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. He’s the first four-time All-Pro center since Dermontti Dawson of the Steelers made six in a row from 1993 through 1998.
In all, 53 offensive linemen have earned at least four 1st-team All-Pro honors and of the 50 who are eligible for the Hall of Fame, 44 have already been enshrined in the Hall of Fame. Of the six others, five played in the 1950s or earlier.
There have been 114 players in NFL history at all positions who’ve made four All-Pro teams and five Pro Bowl teams, and of the 102 who are Hall of Fame eligible, only 13 have not been enshrined.
Kelce is also only the 25th player in NFL history drafted in the 6th round or later to be named 1st-team All-Pro at least four times.
One thing that makes Kelce’s career so unique is that he didn’t make a Pro Bowl until his fourth season and didn’t make All-Pro until his seventh. But that’s how it goes for late-round picks who enter the league without a lot of hype. They have to be extra-special to start getting noticed.
Kelce has certainly done that. As the smallest center in the NFL, he has truly redefined the position. Not that long ago, teams just put a big, short, slow, strong guy in the middle, but Kelce uses a combination of athleticism, quickness, leverage, intelligence and power to dominate defensive tackles 50 pounds heavier and make blocks down the field that once were unimaginable for an interior lineman.
Kelce, 34, was the Eagles’ 6th-round pick in 2011 and immediately became the team’s starting center as a rookie. He’s started 159 games in his career under four different head coaches, including 122 in a row since November of 2014. That’s the longest current streak of any interior lineman by 40 games and the 4th-longest streak of starts in Eagles history behind Jon Runyan (144), Herm Edwards (135) and Jerry Sisemore (127).
Subscribe to the Eagle Eye podcast
The only Eagles to earn 1st-team All-Pro honors more than Kelce are Reggie White (6), Bednarik (6), Pete Pihos (5) and Steve Van Buren (5). Brian Dawkins and Al Wistert also were honored four times. All are Hall of Famers except Wistert, who should be.
On Sunday, Kelce will play in his eighth playoff game when the Eagles face the Buccaneers in a wild-card game in Tampa. For all his exploits on the field, he’s admired just as much in Philly for his epic Super Bowl parade speech at the Art Museum while wearing a Mummer’s costume.
Kelce has not yet indicated whether he plans to return next year for a 12thseason. The only players in franchise history who’ve played 12 seasons and never played for another team are Chuck Bednarik (1949-62), Northeast Catholic’s Bucko Kilroy (1943-55), Vic Sears (1941-53), Bobby Walston (1951-62) and Sisemore (1973-84).
The Associated Press has been selecting the NFL all-pro team since 1940. Before that, the team was selected by United Press International from 1930 through 1939 and by Collyers Eye Magazine from 1923 through 1929.