Jason Kelce and Discovering Your Sexy Self

“All we ask is to be allowed to remain the writers of our own story. That story is ever changing. Over the course of our lives, we may encounter unimaginable difficulties. Our concerns and desires may shift. But whatever happens, we want to retain the freedom to shape our lives in ways consistent with our character and loyalties.”

Atul Gawande, Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End


My three kids huddled around my iPhone and watched video clips from Jason Kelce’s retirement press conference. For his entire 13 year career, Kelce, one of my all-time favorite players, played the center position (the player that hikes the ball to the quarterback) for my beloved Philadelphia Eagles.

Unlike quarterback, center is an unsexy position.

A position often played by a brooding, broad-shouldered, hairy-backed man. However, a few months ago, Kelce was named a finalist, alongside the chiseled abs and svelte shoulders of musician Usher, and actors Jamie Fox and Timothee Chalamet as People Magazine’s “Sexiest Man Alive.” (An award that ultimately went to actor and my wife’s crush Patrick Dempsey.)

And so as the kids and I watched clips of Kelce crying and laughing as he told stories about being 12 years old and falling in love with football in his Cleveland backyard, his high school and college coaches, his brother Travis, the passion of Philadelphia sports fans, his parents, and meeting his wife in a Philadelphia bar.

“Dad, did you have a press conference when you retired from teaching?” Haley asked.

“No,” I replied. “Because of the pandemic, I taught my last class over Zoom. So when class was over, I just closed my laptop and had a beer by myself.”

In my first book, “Bedtime Stories for the Living”, I wrote about my retirement:

“When I told people I was taking a leave from teaching a well-studied friend called it, “an exercise in courage.” A less-studied friend nodded and said, “takes some balls.”

I can’t claim courage. I just know as you age you begin to feel–in your brittle bones–how frail and ephemeral life is. Children become adults. Parents die. Teachers retire. Diseases progress. Time becomes our most valuable yet often least appreciated resource. And you will undoubtedly face the most difficult of human questions, “How will I spend my time?”

After the kids left, and went about their young, unassuming lives–I watched all 41 minutes and 38 seconds of Jason Kelce’s press conference. When he furrowed his brow, I furrowed mine. When he laughed, I laughed. When he cried, I cried.

His vulnerability was refreshing. Comforting. And as a confident, heterosexual male–I would even call it, “sexy.”

Jason Kelce retired at age 36. I retired at age 40. He was a football player. I was a public school teacher. We were both extremely young to retire yet our bodies were breaking down.

And I can’t speak for Kelce, but for me, in retirement reflections– I realize I failed to bend the pedagogical universe to meet my expectations and came to recognize my own limitations.

On Johnny Walker’s frame (to the right of the cartoon Rocky sticker) is a cartoon sticker of Jason Kelce hugging the Philly Phanatic.

“You are living as if destined to live forever; your own frailty never occurs to you; you don’t notice how much time has already passed, but squander it as though you had a full and overflowing supply – though all the while that very day which you are devoting to somebody or something may be your last. You act like mortals in all that you fear, and like immortals in all that you desire.”

Seneca, On the Shortness of Life


You need a sense of purpose to get through life. While being swept by the currents of our professions we often fail to understand this declaration. The busy days, the work clatter, the emails, the immediacy of deadlines and schedules make it impossible to see beyond the present moment. As if the present moment will last forever. 

Then–as it always has done–time passes. The present becomes the past. And our professional lives, for better or worse, end. It’s in these quiet hours where we need to discover new ways to spend our time and foster a meaningful life. 

Sports Illustrated published an article on how Kelce requested Eagles athletic trainer, Joe O’Pella, tape his ankles for the press conference. O’Pella had taped Kelce’s ankles everyday for 13 years. However, O’Pella missed Kelce’s last game because he was receiving treatment for cancer.

For the first minute and a half of his press conference, Kelce attempted to talk but simply couldn’t.

His barrel chest rose and fell. His meaty arms shook. He pinched his tear ducts. From my couch, I felt what he felt. That hard, human moment when you must accept your frailty, that you must give up your old self, and that you must suddenly find a new purpose for getting your ankles taped.

In the years following my retirement, I learned the ever-present now is life’s invitation to discover a more authentic, sexier version of yourself. 

I’m sure Jason Kelce will soon learn this. 

Be well,


One Line. One Love: The Power of Community– Jay and Gail Celebrate OLOL’s 10th Episode

If you haven’t heard yet… my friend Gail Boenning and I recently launched a podblog called, One Line, One Love.

OLOL is a unique listening and reading experience that will inspire everyday writers, who dream of writing, to pick up their pens and write one line at a time.

This podblog format (a hybrid of a podcast and blog) is for everyday writers who–like me–often need a creative boost, a scrap of encouragement, and practical advice to unleash the writer within. Each episode consists of five wide-ranging, writer-focused questions and a weekly writing prompt.

Please check it out! And please share with any writer friends or anyone in your life who has ever considered picking up the pen.


Lucky You…

Discount Link: Click Here


Warm greetings to everyone who found me on the University of Pennsylvania’s Ataxia Clinic’s website! Thanks for stopping by. I have ataxia and though I’m not a doctor, I hope my words comfort, encourage, empower, and serve as good company on your journey.


Jay Armstrong is a speaker and an award-winning author. Despite being diagnosed with a rare neurological disease, that impairs his movement, balance, eyesight, and speech–Jay presses on. The leader of the Philadelphia Ataxia Support Group, he hopes to help you find joy, peace, and meaning in life.

1 comment found

  1. Wonderful message as always, Jay. Brimming with humanity which some of us 🙋🏽‍♂️ may need more of. It’s easy to simplify “professional football player.” You painted a word picture of oJadon Kelce that defies the stereotype. When I attended Penn State a defensive tackle, Mike Reid, shone on the field. He also was a classical music student. Played the piano if I remember correctly. He then played the same position for the Bengals. Later he became an award winning Country Music Performer. Not a good fit to the stereotype either.

    You perfectly model the approach of living in this present moment.This moment. Folks in an organization I belong to say, “If you’re standing with one foot in the past and the other in the future, you just might be peeing all over the present.” Our very own present. Not recommended for the maintenance that our lives need and deserve! See you at OLOL next Thursday.

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