Jason Kelce Had Eagles Trainer Who's Fighting Cancer Tape Up His Ankles for Retirement Announcement

Kelce tapped one of the Eagles' longtime trainers for a special assignment ahead of announcing his retirement after 13 NFL seasons.

Grab a Kleenex because this one's a tearjerker, courtesy of Jason Kelce and the unbreakable bond he formed with Eagles trainer Joe O'Pella that began in the trainer's room and has since transcended beyond the gridiron.

As most NFL fans know by now, Jason fought back tears at a news conference in Philadelphia on Monday to announce his retirement from the Eagles after 13 seasons. In that time, Jason etched his name in Eagles lore, as a Super Bowl champion, six-time All-Pro honoree and seven-time Pro Bowl selection.

All of which is to say his next stop will undoubtedly be Canton, Ohio.

Travis Kelce was equally as emotional sitting next to mama Kelce. And then there's Joe, a longtime Eagles trainer who met Jason during his second season with the Eagles. As Joe tells it, Jason tore his knee that year and it was Joe who lobbied to be Jason's trainer because Jason "needed to be treated like an athlete, not a conventional offensive lineman."

What would occur over the next 12-plus years, Joe said in a sweet tribute to Jason on Instagram, would impact his life in a way he never could have imagined. See, for years, Joe's the trainer who taped Jason's ankles and thumbs every day for 13 seasons, except for a few times in Jason's last year.


It was during the 2023-24 NFL season when Joe was diagnosed with cancer. Joe said undergoing chemo and radiation forced him away from his job duties. He was forced to miss Jason's last game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the NFL Wild Card Round. The 32-9 loss not only eliminated the Eagles from the playoffs, but it also robbed Joe what would turn out to be one last opportunity to tape Jason's thumbs and ankles.

Or so he thought.

Fast forward to Jason's news conference to announce his retirement, Joe said the Eagles legend asked him to do just that for that news conference. Eagle-eyed fans noticed Jason walking around the Eagles' facility with his ankles taped up, courtesy of Joe.


"You all know about the on-field accomplishments, and many of the off-field ones, too, but what this man has meant to me and now my family over the past decade plus is nearly indescribable," Joe wrote in a lengthy tribute to Jason on Instagram. "In what would be his final season, when I was diagnosed with cancer and had to undergo radiation and chemo, he offered his shore house if I needed to get away, and offered to pay for meal services to help my wife and me out, and he called me randomly when I had been home, too sick to come in because of chemo, just to check on me and chat about random things."

As Joe put it, that's who Jason is as a person.

"I taped this guy's ankles and thumbs everyday for 13 seasons, and when he played his last game in Tampa, again I couldn't be there due to cancer," Joe continued in his tribute. "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. That's who he is. And I hope theses stories can add to an already unbelievable legacy."

Mission accomplished.