As a writer, you never know when inspiration will strike. Sometimes it results from a confluence of events, created by a trifecta of individuals.
I experienced a similar phenomenon earlier this week, motivating this article, and inspiring this mind-boggling question;
What do Dave "Little Bro" Schofield, Mike Tyson, and Jason Kelce have in common, besides their celebrity status? The answer is this article, as these individuals were the wing beneath my wings.
The premise of this article started to formulate as I read a 'Where are they now?' type article by Dave Schofield summarizing the individual performances of the 2021 Draft class of centers. Dave's fascinating article facilitated an intriguing discussion. A couple of standout performers taken in the first couple of rounds, then a interesting mix of hits and misses. The discussion got my creative juices flowing.
Everyone already knows I admire the behemoths that make up the invaluable foundation of any successful Steelers offense. I have written numerous articles amplifying their contributions and exploits, especially the Steelers unmatched collection of Hall of Fame centers, including the greatest center in NFL history, Mike Webster.
Ironically, as I was reading Dave's article, a documentary about former heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson was playing on a nearby device. At one point during the narration, Tyson was referred to as 'Iron Mike'. That nickname immediately made me reminisce about my personal favorite 'Iron Mike', the aforementioned Webster.
Like Tyson, Webster was a heavyweight enforcer. He was the unquestioned leader of the Steelers offensive line. Webster set the tone for the unit, both in his toughness and determination. Listed at 6'1" and 255 lbs, he was undersized, even for that era of football.
However, Webster had a legendary work ethic and farm boy strength. An avid weightlifter, Webster transformed his body in his early years, until he had Hulk Hogan like pythons hanging out of his jersey. Pound for pound, Webster was one of the strongest players ever to grace an NFL field.
Sadly, Webster never appeared to feel the same joy playing the game that I felt watching him dominant the trenches for the Steelers. Some players seem to experience euphoria playing the game, like the whole field is their canvas, and they are creating something beautiful. Webster's performances looked exactly like what they were; hard work. He might as well have carried a hard hat and lunchbox onto the sidelines.
Thanks to his shorter stature and arm length, Webster repeatedly slammed his helmet into the chest and upper body of defenders. These violent collisions accumulated over his NFL career, and eventually led to his demise. But even after his death, Webster is still impacting the game he loved, as his tragic story and struggles with CTE after his retirement has resulted in numerous safety improvements for all participants.
My trip down memory lane brought me full circle to this year's Super Bowl, specifically the two starting centers: Kansas City Chiefs Creed Humphrey, and Philadelphia Eagles Jason Kelce. One is the best young center in the league, the other is the best center of his generation.
My opinions and observations of Humphrey are well-documented, and he has done nothing but live up to my rather lofty expectations. Therefore, I will focus my attention for the remainder of this article on Kelce, a man I haven't written about before.
Jason Kelce is the best center in the NFL, period. He is a pro's pro, and a textbook blocker. No wasted motion or effort. Superior technique, on an instructional video type level. Watching Kelce during the playoffs has been an opportunity to watch a man reach the pinnacle of his profession. He shows there can be beauty in the simplistic brutality of trench warfare, on an almost ballet-like level.
Like Mike Webster, Kelce is the total package at the position. Competitor, tactician, communicator, leader, and enforcer. All football fans should appreciate the legendary greats at work, and Kelce qualifies in my not so humble opinion.
Rumor has it Kelce considered retirement after the 2021 season, but decided to return for one more run at another championship. Now the only thing left to do is win the Lombardi Trophy this Sunday, ride off into the sunset a two time Super Bowl champion, and start prepping extra early for his Hall of Fame acceptance speech coming up five years from now.
Jason Kelce has set a fine example of what an elite NFL center should be. He might not wear the black and gold, but I feel certain that Mike Webster would be proud of the standard he set.