This week, the Kansas City Chiefs’ superstar tight end Travis Kelce celebrated his 34th birthday. A player who overcame off-the-field difficulties in college (and missed almost his entire rookie season with an injury) is now — as he begins his 11th NFL season — considered a lock for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Speaking after practice on Friday, Kelce wanted to appreciate those who have supported him during his journey.
“I’m very fortunate to get to 34 and to be able to do what I love,” he said. “I’ve [had] a lot of shoutouts from family friends — a lot of people reaching out — yesterday. Chiefs Kingdom always shows love.
“It’s an appreciating day. As much as everybody wants to make it about me, I just see how much family and friends that I have around me. It’s always a beautiful thing.”
To continue extending his career, Kelce knows he will need to be smart with his body. A knee injury suffered in practice sidelined him for the Chiefs’ opener against the Detroit Lions — which ended up being a 21-20 loss.
“There’s been some things that have popped up that just make you stay on top of it,” he remarked. “I think everybody gets to this point in their career — if they are fortunate to get to year 11 in their career — [that] you’ve definitely got to start to hone in on things more and more. [You have to] make sure that you’re available; make sure you’re doing everything you can to make yourself available. That’s always been the mindset, for sure.”
While the Chiefs have had three consecutive wins since losing to the Lions, their offense has often appeared out of sync. Kelce recognizes that part of that is on him.
“The toughest part for me,” he revealed, “was just to get back in the groove [from] the knee injury and everything going into that week — or coming out of Week 1. There’s been that aspect — and as a whole, just staying on the page for four quarters.
“Staying together for four quarters — putting it all together as an offense, specifically — and just nonstop trying to get better. That’s always been the goal.”
Kelce believes that the offense’s new pieces are still coming together.
“We’re still learning,” he admitted. “We’re still trying to figure things out and make the best decisions. It’s one thing when it goes right — and then you want to do something based on what you just did, knowing that the defense [just] saw it. So it’s just nonstop playing chess with the guys across from you.
“You’ve just got to make sure you’re on the same page so you’re not putting the team in a tough spot — or putting [quarterback Patrick Mahomes] in a tough spot like I did last week a few times.”
Kelce expects the league’s biggest star to rebound from a rough performance in Week 4’s victory over the New York Jets.
“He’s dialed in,” Kelce noted of Mahomes’ approach. “He’s one of the best quarterbacks to ever do this thing because of how he can move on from things, how he can learn from things and make sure he’s being the best he can for the guys around him and the organization he’s in front of.
“I expect him [to] go out there and be Pat Mahomes, baby — nothing less.”
For their Week 5 game against the Minnesota Vikings — who boast former Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores as their defensive coordinator — the Chiefs will need Mahomes to turn in a strong performance.
“Coach Flores is an unbelievable defensive coach in general,” said Kelce, echoing Mahomes’ and head coach Andy Reid’s sentiments from earlier this week. “I have a lot of respect for him — and I know that he’s not shy about bringing the heat and putting the pressure on you. We’ve just got to be ready for it.”
These days, Kelce also needs to be ready for many things off the football field. Over the last two weeks, his relationship with pop superstar Taylor Swift has seemed to overshadow the league’s entire news cycle.
But he still believes he has been able to separate his football life from his increasingly visible celebrity life.
“Everybody’s having fun with it,” he observed. “Whether I think they’re overdoing it or not, I know I brought this to myself — [and] I’ve been fortunate to have fun with it.
“All that really matters is that it’s not pissing anybody off — over here at least... I’ve been pretty good at compartmentalizing; making sure my focus is always about winning the game. I don’t see that changing anytime soon.”
He can say that for a simple reason: for him, Kansas City’s team facilities have always been a place of focus.
“I think it’s always been that for me,” he asserted, “no matter what’s going on in my life — good or bad. I think this is the one place [where] I can get away — and just be locked in and focused. I always check myself (and my ego) at the door — and just come in with a clear mind.”
But as he opens the next year of his life, he knows it’s a good time to be Travis Kelce — whether he’s on or off the field.
“I’m rolling,” he declared. “We’ve won three in a row — and [we’re] trying to get to four in a row. As all of the attention comes, it feels like I was on top of the world after the Super Bowl — and right now, [I’m] even more on top of the world.”