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Jason Kelce shows us what an involved father can do for his children

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Jason Kelce shows us what an involved father can do for his children

 

At 6’3” and 295 pounds, former Philadelphia Eagles center Jason Kelce often towers over other people. His big bushy beard makes him look like a modern-day Paul Bunyan.

 

Jason Kelce shows us what an involved father can do for his children

As he announced his retirement, his tears started to flow. Throughout his 40-minute speech, he hid his face behind a giant’s hands as he thanked his coaches and his band teacher for teaching him what he needed to learn to become a great football player and an even greater human being. As he told himself “C’mon” in an attempt to control his emotions, he talked about the impact of his father, Ed Kelce.

So many people now know that Jason Kelce is an all-pro center who had an illustrious 13-year career. He’s won a Super Bowl. He’s also played in a Super Bowl against his brother, Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce. (And just to impress my daughter, Jason has met Taylor Swift.) All those accolades began with involved parents. And while I credit his mother, Donna Kelce, with so much, my joy is in seeing a truly involved father as a role model for other fathers.

The story of Jason’s father’s influence is a quiet one. It doesn’t contain the drama of an absent dad who leaves for a gallon of milk. The story lacks the moral outrage of a father who refuses to pay child support. There is no buffoon who can’t seem to complete the simplest of tasks. Jason’s story is about a normal father who loves his children. He went about his job in the steel mill while encouraging his sons to do their best. And when their best fell short, his dad was there with a hug.

We all know that the teenage years can be chaotic. Our self-esteem is wrapped up in our looks, and for many men, how strong we are or how tough the world perceives us to be. Through his tears, Jason shared how his father helped him through those moments of self-doubt, or when his confidence lagged. “I am a product of my upbringing,” he said. “A father who is present, loving and devoted just may be the greatest gift a child can ask for in our society.”

He credits his father’s “unwavering belief” for his success. Jason and his dad have shown the importance of a father in our kids’ lives and that the decisions we make have far-reaching consequences that none of us can imagine. My dad had a similar influence on my life. I grew up on a small farm in southern Arkansas. We had hogs, squash and chickens that I was convinced were out to get me. I also spent most of my time outside of school with my father.

The lessons that my father taught me were more than just right and wrong. He taught me to be confident because in his view I could do anything. When I didn’t think I was tough enough, he said I was “plenty tough” with that Southern twang in his voice. When my father told us that he had multiple sclerosis, he told us not to worry about it. I was 8 years old. Eventually, the disease progressed to the point where he had to be in a wheelchair.

“Ah, everything will be fine,” he said every time I showed worry or concern. That optimism threw me when I was a teenager. But now as a father myself, I understand it in the same way that Jason understands a father’s support. Things will be fine because my father believed in me. I’ve seen the research that says children with involved fathers do better in school, have higher self-esteem, and just like Jason Kelce, show empathy. Children with involved fathers are also more likely to “walk the straight and narrow,” as my Southern father would say — a euphemism for avoiding drugs, alcohol and visits by the police department.

While I know those things, watching real-life dads like Jason Kelce and even more so, Ed, is so important to me. My father was the original stay-at-home dad when I was growing up. I did chores with him on the farm until we moved. From there, he and my mom got their college degrees and went to work. However, after a few short years, he could no longer drive because of his illness. It was this time, as a teenager, that I needed my father the most and he was there.

Because of my father’s support and belief, I went to college. When I graduated, I worked for Adult Protective Services in Texas. My job was to protect the aged and disabled — people just like my father. And after eight years, and two children, I became a stay-at-home dad. Eventually, I wrote a book about my experiences.

The most telling part of Jason’s retirement speech is when he talks about getting drafted and how his father cried because his son had reached his dreams. Not that the father’s dreams were achieved by living through his son, but his son’s dreams. That bit right there tells you just about everything you need to know about Ed Kelce. These are the stories that we need to hold up as the example and not the exception because they are not. They are the stories of common fathers who encourage sons to become uncommon.

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