KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Andy Reid strolled through Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia the day prior to a 2012 Week 10 match with the Dallas Cowboys. This time, however, the then-Eagles head coach was a viewer. Reid’s youngest child, Spencer, and the Temple University Owls were hosting the University of Cincinnati Bearcats.
Spencer was a redshirt freshman running back and eventually didn’t see the field. But Reid still bears in mind that 2nd Saturday in November. The Bearcats had a tight end who captured his eye, the kid bro of his center, Jason Kelce.
The redshirt elder wasn’t magnificent for Cincinnati, capturing 4 passes for 37 lawns versus Temple. But he was 260 pounds and might run.
Reid chose that day that he desired Travis Kelce as his tight end.
“I thought watching him at Cincinnati that this kid had a chance to be something special,” Reid said. “I remember he was a larger man however so smooth. He had that swagger. I keep in mind believing, ‘This man would be excellent in the offense that we run.'”
The Eagles fired Reid after the 2012 season, his 4-12 record the worst of his head-coaching career. The following season he arrived in Kansas City, where he has been Kelce’s head coach for every snap of his professional career.
Ten seasons later, Kelce has 10,344 receiving yards, the fourth most for a tight end in NFL history, cementing his place as one of the greats at his position.
And at 33 years old, Kelce continues to improve. He’s having one of the best seasons of his career, catching a personal-best 110 passes and 12 touchdowns. He added to his legacy in the Chiefs’ divisional round playoff win over the Jacksonville Jaguars last weekend, when the Chiefs needed him the most.
With quarterback Patrick Mahomes hobbled because of a high ankle sprain, and the Chiefs having to go with backup quarterback Chad Henne for a series, Kelce caught 14 passes, one fewer than the NFL postseason record, and scored two touchdowns in the Chiefs’ 27-20 win, a result that sent them on to Sunday’s AFC Championship Game against the Cincinnati Bengals (6:30 p.m. ET, CBS).
“He’s simply smarter as a gamer,” Mahomes said of Kelce’s continued improvement at an advanced football age. “I believe that’s the most significant thing. He understands how to get himself open. He understands how to utilize other individuals and other parts of the idea to get himself open, and he’s wise about how he obstructs, how he can pin people and get in the ideal position.
“He’s just continued to evolve and be even better as a tight end. He is getting up there [in age]. I’m going to try to keep him here as long as possible, I promise you. He’s not taking any screens like 80 [yards] anymore, I don’t think. But he’s still going to make some production on the field.”
IT TOOK REID little time after signing up with the Chiefs to identify they had a shortage at tight end. They’d had one since trading Tony Gonzalez in 2009.
In his initial draft as coach, Reid and the Chiefs prepared Kelce in the 3rd round.
He didn’t play as a novice after having microfracture surgical treatment on his knee, however Kelce returned the next season, and Reid’s ideas on him were rapidly validated.
In the 2014 preseason, Kelce took a brief pass and outran 4 Bengals protective backs for a 69-yard goal.
“At that point, I said, ‘Well, this kid’s got something to him,'” Chiefs tight ends coach Tom Melvin stated.
Kelce’s profession rapidly removed. He captured 67 and 72 passes his very first 2 seasons and hasn’t been listed below 80 receptions or 1,000 lawns considering that.
He may have done much better in those early seasons had he not let his feelings obstruct. Kelce got a variety of unsportsmanlike conduct charges, was fined by the NFL 6 times and was even ejected from a 2016 video game versus the Jaguars for tossing a towel at an authorities.
“We kind of had to reel him in a little bit,” stated Jacksonville coach Doug Pederson, who was the Chiefs’ offending planner when Kelce showed up. “He’s excitable. Once you got him focused on his craft — the way he runs routes, the way he can wiggle and slither and get open and the toughness that he plays with — those were all things that we saw or I saw at an early stage of his career that led you to believe he could have a great career in this league.”
Since 2017, Kelce has actually been fined by the NFL simply when, for soaking the ball over the goalpost in a 2020 video game versus the New York Jets.
“He can definitely still get a little bit crazy at times, but that’s probably getting older I feel like,” stated Jason Kelce, whose Eagles advanced to the NFC Championship Game on Saturday. “Testosterone starts to go down and you stop losing your s— as much as you used to. But he’s doing good. I think he’s matured a lot, especially since college.”
Now, Kelce is among the veteran leaders in Kansas City. That was on display screen in Saturday’s win as he assisted a backup quarterback provide a goal pass. He likewise has actually ended up being a coach to young gamers.
“Having Travis Kelce in the room is huge. I’ve always said that I’ve been grateful for that,” Chiefs tight end Noah Gray stated. “There’s a lot that you can learn from him, whether it’s route running, even in the run-blocking game or pass-blocking game. There’s a lot that he’s been able to teach me. He does a great job of watching everyone’s reps, so that’s been really helpful to have an older guy like that be really tuned in to stuff like that.”
Gonzalez stays the all-time leader amongst tight ends in lawns (15,127), receptions (1,325) and goals (111). Kelce is the just active tight end amongst the leading 4 in lawns, and his durability might assist him capture Gonzalez.
Former Patriots and Bucs tight end Rob Gronkowski is the single-season goal holder for tight ends with 17 and jokingly stated he fears Kelce breaking his mark.
“I was just on his podcast the other day and I told him, ‘Hey, man, it’s great what you’re doing for the position,'” Gronkowski stated. “But I said, ‘You’re not allowed to break one record — my tight-end touchdown record.’ He can break them all, but that one’s not allowed.
“He is so smart in his route-running capabilities. How loose he is; I would state that likewise adds to why he has actually never ever missed out on a video game. You can inform simply the manner in which he runs — he’s very loose, very complimentary. His body is simply really spongy when he’s out there playing — simply the method he runs paths and gets open is very excellent. He has actually had 7 1,000-yard seasons in a row — for a tight end, never ever been done — it’s simply amazing.”
SINCE HIS ROOKIE season, Kelce hasn’t missed a game because of injury. He sat out the final regular-season games in 2017 and 2020 after the Chiefs had clinched a playoff seed and opted to rest Kelce and some other starters.
That doesn’t mean Kelce has always been injury-free. He at times has played through injuries that required postseason surgery, prompting Melvin, an NFL coaching veteran, to say, “He has the greatest discomfort tolerance and is among the hardest kids that I’ve ever coached.”
Kelce chalked up his ability to stay in the lineup to luck, saying, “There are a lot of variables that enter into that. It’s difficult to determine that. I simply attempt to go to work and make certain I’m all set for any scenario.”
Others who play his position state it’s amazing for a tight end to have such sturdiness. According to his bro, Kelce remains all set by using a group to keep him healthy. He has a chiropractic practitioner, chef, masseuse and fitness instructor.
“Playing in every single game, not a lot of guys can do it,” stated 49ers tight end George Kittle, who has actually missed out on 16 video games in his six-year NFL profession. “Being available for every single game no matter what he’s dealing with, I think that’s a testament to — you see all of his stats, you see how he plays — but it’s just a testament to his character because he’s probably grinded through some stuff. Everybody deals with certain injuries, but to play in every single football game available besides your rookie season, it’s incredible.”
The Chiefs do not provide Kelce any experienced day of rest at practice. He’s on the field when they are.
“We monitor his reps,” offending planner Eric Bieniemy stated. “We don’t need to see Kelce every play in practice … but when he’s in there, he’s maximizing the opportunity. He’s not taking it for granted. He’s doing all the little and necessary things that we’re harping on with some of the newer guys to make sure they understand the culture that we’ve built as far as finishing, as far as detailing, as far as understanding how we practice.
“When he does get a chance and he captures it, you’ll see Kelce at his age capturing it and taking it the range. It’s not by possibility that Kelce is making those plays on video game day. You see it every day in practice.”
Though Kelce doesn’t consider it remarkable that he hasn’t missed a game because of injury in nine seasons, he does seem impressed with what he’s accomplishing at 33. He referenced his game-winning touchdown against the Los Angeles Chargers in the final minute of Week 11, a 17-yard catch.
Kelce lined up on the right side and then crossed the formation, running away from a top coverage safety, Derwin James.
“I beat him with my legs, these 33-year-old legs,” Kelce stated later.
The Chiefs required a huge season from Kelce as much, if not more, than ever after trading pass receiver Tyreek Hill. Kelce acknowledged some preliminary issue about how the offense may run and how reliable he may be, however that dissipated on the Chiefs’ very first drive of the season in the opening video game versus the Arizona Cardinals.
Kelce scored the Chiefs’ very first goal on a 9-yard catch and later on suggested the season stimulated him in such a way he didn’t totally anticipate.
“I think I get excited for a new game plan more than anything,” Kelce stated. “How are we going to attack these guys? How can I visualize how I’m going to attack my opponent all week long and all the various outcomes that could come on any given play? That’s what you get fired up for.”
The goal in Arizona set the tone for the remainder of the season. The video game was the very first of his 6 with a minimum of 100 lawns. Kelce led the Chiefs in catches in 12 of their 17 video games and in getting lawns in 9. He had 4 goals in a Week 5 video game versus the Raiders, and the Chiefs required each to take a one-point win.
This season is another tip of why the Chiefs made Kelce among their initial draft choices after working with Reid as coach ten years back.
“Every single day, it doesn’t matter if it was my first day on the job or a day like today,” Kelce stated after the Arizona video game. “I always feel like I have something to prove, and I always feel like I want to take my game to the next level. It’s just the mentality I’ve always had and just keep getting better to perfect my craft.”
ESPN’s Tim McManus, Mike Reiss and Nick Wagoner added to this report.