This Eagles trainer couldn’t make Jason Kelce’s last game because of cancer. He still got to tape his ankles one last time

CNNJason Kelce’s recent retirement announcement led to an outpouring of emotion from all corners of the NFL, most of all from the former Philadelphia Eagles center himself.

Kelce called time on his likely Hall of Fame career in a tearful press conference on Monday after 13 seasons in the league, all of them with Philadelphia.

Longtime Eagles trainer Joe O’Pella was able to play a part in the retirement announcement, just like the two of them had done during Kelce’s long run in Philly.

In a heartfelt Instagram post on Tuesday, O’Pella revealed that he missed the Eagles’ final game of the season against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Kelce’s final NFL outing – because of his recent cancer diagnosis and therefore didn’t have the opportunity to tape the center’s ankles and thumbs for one last time

That was a job that O’Pella had done for the past 13 years.

So, in a poignant move, Kelce allowed O’Pella to tape his ankles and thumbs one last time for Monday’s retirement announcement.

“You all know about the on-field accomplishments, and many of the off-the-field ones too, but what this man has meant to me and now my family over the past decade plus is nearly indescribable,” O’Pella wrote.

“From being his Wing Bowl ‘cornerman,’ to hour long rehab sessions followed by nights out on the town, to sleeping on each other’s couches to being at each other’s weddings, to Sea Isle City Polar Bear Plunges to Super Bowl appearances and a ring, we were there doing it together.

“And 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 I 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. That’s who he 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. And when he told me he would be retiring and I expressed my regret of not being the last person to ever tape him, and he offered to have me tape him for his retirement press conference.”

In his post, O’Pella details how he specifically asked the Eagles head trainer in Kelce’s second year if he could look after the center’s physical rehabilitation after he had torn his knee ligaments.

“What would occur over the next 12+ years would certainly impact my life in a way I never imagine,” O’Pella wrote.

Alongside O’Pella’s post in which he detailed his relationship with Kelce, he included a series of photos of the two of them during their time in Philadelphia.

Included among those are pictures of the two showing off their Super Bowl rings and selfies they had taken together.

“Congratulations to the entire Kelce family on a Hall of Fame career on and off the field,” he signed off the post by saying.

“To Kylie’s husband; Wyatt, Elliotte, and Bennett’s dad; the Eagles’ center; Philadelphia’s icon, and my brother: Jason, congratulations on retirement and here’s to the future. I love ya.”