One Totally Obsessed Jason Kelce Fan’s Guide to the New Jason Kelce Movie
The documentary premieres on Prime on September 12th. Plus, Jason Kelce talks fatherhood, his next Christmas album and his messy locker.
It’s no secret that we’re a little obsessed with Jason Kelce over here. What’s not to love? The Eagles center is a Super Bowl-winning folk hero, he constantly entertains us with viral moments and the New Heights podcast he co-hosts with his brother Travis, he helps Philly kids with his nonprofit, and his Christmas album with the O-line was an instant classic.
Any film about this man was going to be worth watching; his personality always shines on camera. But Kelce, the new documentary debuting on Amazon Prime this Tuesday, September 12th, still manages to surprise.
On Kelce, Premiering on Amazon Prime on September 12th
Offering a deeply personal and relatable look into the highs and lows of his life, family and career, the documentary is also a product of pure serendipity. As Kelce explained to me at the red-carpet premiere of the film this past Friday at Suzanne Roberts Theatre, he originally wanted to make the documentary to chronicle his decision to retire from football and the uncertain transition that comes with that. But as Kelce questioned whether it was time to hang up his cleats, the film was unwittingly capturing a legendary season. So he called upon friend and former teammate Connor Barwin (who served as a producer) and Philly-based filmmakers Sheena Joyce and Don Argott, who own 9.14 Pictures.
Of course, Kelce chose to return for his 12th NFL season, setting the stage for an extraordinary narrative: starting a wildly successful podcast with his brother, a Super Bowl run that just happened to include that brother on the opposing team, and the birth of his third child a week after that game.
Anyone paying attention last season knows these bullet points: 38-weeks-pregnant Kylie Kelce flying to Phoenix with her ob-gyn (and two toddler daughters) in tow. The “Kelce Bowl” that placed the Kelce family, especially their matriarch Donna, at the center of the sports world. Fat Batman. Reliving that exhilarating season in Kelce is worth the price of admission alone — even as you rewatch Super Bowl LVII hoping for a different outcome than the one you know is coming.
What we didn’t see back then was a defeated Jason Kelce returning to the hotel room he shared with his family after wistfully viewing his brother’s Super Bowl victory through red and yellow Chiefs confetti. “You didn’t win,” Ellie Ray, nearly two years old at the time, said sweetly to him from bed as she played with her Water Wow coloring book, made silly faces, and asked for a bedtime story.
The Kelce family are on endearing, vulnerable display here. We see Jason’s wife, Kylie, at her doctor appointment, getting her ultrasound, and realizing that the fates were aligning to a possible Super Bowl birth. Later, she’s on the floor of their living room full of toddler toys, desperately trying to keep their two little girls quiet as Jason and Travis record their podcast. Kylie is a real one: She describes finding Jason on Tinder, wondering if he was catfishing her, and deciding to go on the date anyway — where he fell asleep at the bar.
We also spend plenty of time with the Kelce parents, Donna and Ed, and learn of the sacrifices they made to help their two sons achieve their football dreams. One standout moment of the film comes as Jason and parents sit in Chickie’s and Pete’s, watching Travis clinch a Super Bowl berth with the Chiefs. You can see the gravity of the moment cross Donna’s face. (She’d be rooting “for the offense,” she’d deftly respond in nonstop interviews leading up to the big game.)
Kelce is more than just a documentary about an NFL player’s season; it’s a deeply personal and emotional journey that shows the resilience, determination and humanity of a larger-than-life Philly legend. Yes, he’s the man who donned a Mummers costume and gave a victory speech for the ages. But he’s also the man we watch walk around his house stiff with pain from injury, looking for his misplaced Super Bowl LII ring amongst the quotidian clutter. (He told me at the premiere that he has the “messiest locker in the locker room,” too. “It’s been 13 years of accumulating crap,” he says, including a Hagrid statue from Harry Potter.)
He’s also the man who muses on the prospect of not being able to play with his grandkids if he develops CTE, vs. the “jolt” he gets from doing the thing he’s best at on the largest possible stage while inspiring a city and ensuring that his family is set for life. It’s a grim trade-off, but one he’s soberly willing to make as he remains un-retired and takes the field for the 2023-’24 season.
Much like his surprisingly soulful voice on A Philly Special Christmas, Jason Kelce’s life on film reveals a level of depth and emotion unexpected in a typical sports documentary. Or maybe we should stop feeling surprised at this point. He’s shown us exactly who he is.
On T-Shirts, Dr. Seuss, Uncle Trav, and the Next Christmas Album
Prior to Kelce’s premiere, I spoke with Jason Kelce about the film, his family, Dr. Seuss, and even what to expect on Volume 2 of the Eagles Christmas album. Always authentic, he walked the carpet in shorts, flip-flops, and a custom Underdog Apparel t-shirt that included the documentary’s tagline: “Football Is a Family Story.” When someone asked him to describe himself in three words, Kelce chose “handsome, hairy and casual,” all of which were on display with his sartorial choices amongst colleagues in formalwear.
While that shirt was a one-off for the night, the apparel line benefiting Kelce’s (Be)Philly Foundation has more designs in the works this season. In addition to Eagles-centric designs, he tells me, “We want to continue to really celebrate Philadelphia, so we’re trying to find different ways to incorporate the city into things that aren’t just the athletics.” The foundation has already presented its first grants to Coded By Kids and Heights Philadelphia.
To state the obvious, family is everything to Jason Kelce. Growing up in a “very testosterone-dominated” family of just boys (other than his mom), he’s now adjusting to being a dad to three little girls. Kelce opens with Jason reading Dr. Seuss’s Oh the Places You’ll Go to his two oldest (his third was yet to be born at this point), and he tells me of that book, “I feel like I’m getting more out of this than the kids are!” But aside from enjoying timeless kiddie lit with his girls, being a father has been transformative, Jason tells me. “Children look at the world differently. They’re very open to the world around them. They have no preconceived notions,” he explains, and this inspires him to see the world through new eyes and “not take for granted the little things.”
As for his brother Travis? He’s “the perfect uncle,” Jason says, but “We will not leave [the kids] alone with him.” Though he had originally planned on attending the premiere, Travis was absent because of his recent injury. But Jason had nothing but praise for “Uncle Trav,” as the girls call him. “He’s exciting; he has energy for days.” Donna added, “He’ll get down on the floor and crawl into a dollhouse, whatever they want.” Jason thinks that when the time comes, Travis will make a great father, but he’s “staying out of” the Taylor Swift question.
And of course, I couldn’t let him go without asking about the second installment of that wildly popular charity Christmas album that’s in the works. “The music is made; now it’s just producing it,” he told me. They got the band back together — his offensive-line colleagues Lane Johnson and Jordan Mailata, producer Charlie Hall, vocal coach Eliza Hardy Jones — along with some surprise guest artists, including Patti LaBelle! As for the song list? A deep cut by Willie Nelson called “Pretty Paper,” and — to my personal delight — Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You.”
And while I hope I can actually get my hands on a copy this year, Kelce says, “For Philly, it would be great if it sells out again. … I owe so much back to the community and to the city that I don’t think that I’ll ever be able to repay that debt.”