Yesterday, I had the opportunity to chat with one of the Eagles' sixth round picks, Cincinnati guard/center Jason Kelce. During my brief conversation with Kelce, I got the distinct impression that he has a good head on his shoulders, coupled with a tough, competitive attitude that will endear him to the Philly faithful. Here is what he had to say about his draft day experience and what he brings to the table for the Eagles' offense.
BQ: First off, how does it feel to be a member of the Philadelphia Eagles?
JK: It feels really good. I've heard from numerous people, including [Brent] Celek...everything I've heard about the organization has been positive. I'm also excited to be a part of a team that's competing for a Super Bowl championship right away, also with an outstanding offensive line coach. I think I'm really going into a good situation here.This lockout's ruining everything, but hopefully they'll get that done as soon as possible.
BQ: I tell you, as a fan, the lockout's killing me, so I'm right there with you. Do you think that you could walk us through your draft day experience?
JK: I decided that my family and I were going to go out bowling. I guess I thought it would be a good way to keep my mind off of it and really just relax and have some fun. We were bowling on Saturday until about the start of the sixth [round]. At that point, I was really kind of a little bit disappointed because I was planning on going, at the best, probably around four and I was really hoping to go with five at the latest. That wasn't that case, so I was kind of disappointed.
I saw the Eagles had a couple picks coming up, actually two in the sixth round. I was like, well they have two picks right here. I know they're interested. This would be a great opportunity. I got a call and they said..."Hey this is so-and-so with the Philadelphia Eagles...We're going to pick you with this next pick. I'm going to hand over the phone to Andy Reid and he'll talk to you in a couple seconds." At that point, I'm excited, I'm like, finally I'm taken off the board. I know where I'm going to be next year.
Coach Reid picked up the phone and said. "Hey Jason." I was like, "Yeah." "You ready to be an Eagle?" I was like, "Hell yeah! I'm ready to be an Eagle!"
[Reid] said, "Well, this is how it's going to work. I'm going to hand the phone to our GM first, right? Then I'm going to hand you to our offensive line coach, Howard Mudd, then I'm going to hand the phone to the offensive coordinator, Marty Mornhinweg."
I said okay and he's like, "You got that?" "Yeah, I got that." And he goes, "Okay who am I going to give the phone to first?" Immediately, I have a million things going through my head. My dad's here crying next to me.
I was like, "Coach, I don't know, it slipped my mind." He was like, "Well, I just wanted to see how focused you are because you're going to be playing for 75,000 people so you gotta keep your composure under pressure."
So, that was coach Reid's first test for me, I guess. From then on, I talked to the general manager and the offensive line coach, Coach Mudd and Coach Mornhinweg as well
BQ; It was a very emotional moment for you, I'm sure.
JK: Oh man, it was running wild. I didn't cry, but my eyes definitely started watering, especially when I saw my dad start crying. You work so hard for something and then finally, you're going to get the opportunity.
BQ: I know you mentioned that you spoke with Brent Celek earlier. Have you gotten a chance to get to know any of your other new teammates yet?
JK: Not yet. I really haven't. I follow a couple of the guys on Twitter. Other than that, nothing major. I talked to Celek and he said, "Man you know you're going to love it out here. The fans are great."
He said it's a lot of fun out here. I'm looking forward to getting to know the other guys, but this lockout thing is just ruining a lot of that for me.
BQ: Speaking of the lockout, it must be tough not being able to access the team's facilities. How have you been working out and preparing during the offseason?
JK: You know, I'm actually really fortunate on that side because I believe I have an outstanding strength coach I'm working with right now at the University of Cincinnati, Dave Andrews. There are actually two former teammates of mine that are in the NFL that are in Cincinnati right now training with me. So, training with other NFL guys, we're pushing each other each and every day.
You know, everybody has me listed at 280, but all week I've been fluctuating between 297 and 302, so the weight's there. I'm in great shape. If the game started today, I'd be ready to get after it.
BQ: You were the fastest offensive lineman at the NFL Combine with a 4.93 40-time. How does that impressive speed come into play on the field?
JK: It's not just the straight-ahead speed as the 40 has shown. That was actually one of my slower times. The combine was a really rough experience for me because I had appendicitis the whole time.
The speed and athleticism helps me in a number of ways. One way it helps me is to get me out of situations where I'm put in a bad situation. If I'm put in a situation where the linebacker is really far and it's going to be hard to get to him, well I've got the speed to be able to make those blocks. I have the speed to work in space, keep my balance and change direction better than most of the linemen do.
I like my matchup. I like that, because [the nose tackle] is going to be some big fat guy and then we're going run outside zone and I'm gonna smoke him. Everybody has their own attributes and I've got a set that will help me out.
BQ: I read that you used to play some running back in high school. Does that experience help you at all during run blocking?
JK: Yeah, I mean maybe I could play a little goal-line running back. That would be great, right? (laughs) Yeah, I played running back and linebacker in high school.
Definitely it gives me a different perspective of thinking about things. I'm aware of why a linebacker lines up in a specific spot. It's like, okay well he's gotta cover that receiver. All right, he's wide out right now so somebody else is coming in to replace him, All that stuff, I was kind of taught that on the defensive side of the ball, so now I can use that to my advantage on the offensive side.
BQ: I know that Eagles fans were definitely happy to see the team concentrate on developing their interior offensive line in this draft. How do you plan on giving a boost to that unit?
JK: I think I bring a couple of things to the table. I think I bring a lot of confidence. I bring a lot of versatility. I can do center, guard and I can do some special teams and whatnot. Really, I'm bringing toughness and I'm bringing a competitive attitude.
I think that any time you're bringing a competitor into a situation like what's going on in Philadelphia or any place else, it's going to bring the best out of everybody else as well. Because everybody wants to play. When you got guys that are competing every single day, guys that are getting after it, that just makes everybody better.
BQ: Here's a college question for you. Who would you say was the toughest guy that you went up against while at Cincinnati?
JK: Stephen Paea from Oregon State. He's pretty dang good.
BQ: Throughout your time at Cincinnati, was there any one specific play that you were the most proud of?
JK: I think the play I was probably the most proud of was when we scored a touchdown in UConn in 2008. We ran a screen, but the guy who I was supposed to pick up really wided out. I ended up running like 40 yards downfield to make a block on a safety that sprung the receiver for a touchdown.
The reason I picked that one is that I did something that wasn't designed. This isn't what I'm supposed to do in the play, but I'm still keeping active and I'm looking for somebody to hit. It ended up being a great block and it was downfield. I was just coming off of an ankle injury so I was kind of limping all the way down the field to make the play.
BQ: Wow, that's incredible. Talk about going above and beyond, huh?
JK: Yeah, I was gassed after that one! Luckily we scored so all I had to do was the PAT and then I got a little break. That [play]. that's definitely the one that first pops into my head.
BQ: If you had to pick any NFL player to compare yourself to, who would it be and why?
JK: I'd probably say Olin Kreutz of the Chicago Bears. The reason behind that is that we're both undersized guys. I think we both play football very similar. We're both very active. I like the way he plays. He's tough, he gets after guys. I think that's the type of player that I model myself after.
BQ: Last question. What does being a Philadelphia Eagle mean to you?
JK: That's a good one. I'd say being a Philadelphia Eagle means being a champion, being a good teammate and being a competitor.