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The Chiefs’ Travis Kelce wants this AFC Championship more than the others

This isn’t the Kansas City tight end’s first rodeo — and he’s planning on riding in them as long as he can.

AFC Divisional Playoffs - Kansas City Chiefs v Buffalo Bills Photo by Perry Knotts/Getty Images

If there was ever a team that could rest on its laurels and take a moment to bask in the glow of their past accomplishments, it’s the Kansas City Chiefs.

They’ve appeared in three of the last four Super Bowls — and on Sunday, they’ll play the Baltimore Ravens in their sixth consecutive AFC Championship game.

But they’re not going to take it easy. It’s just not in their makeup.

If there was any doubt about that, the team’s star tight end Travis Kelce sought to dispel it on Friday.

“I ain’t thinking about a single one I already accomplished,” he told reporters. “I’m thinking about this one on Sunday — and I want it more than I ever wanted one in my life.”

This has been a wild year for Kelce — both on and off the field. In his 11th NFL season, his production took a dip — at least by his own standards. His numbers were still really good — only the San Francisco 49ers’ George Kittle had more receiving yards as a tight end — they just weren’t 2022 Travis Kelce good. In his personal life, he started dating popular music superstar Taylor Swift. That made his personal profile skyrocket — and brought increased scrutiny on him.

But he’s not upset about it.

“I brought this upon myself,” he acknowledged, “and I do enjoy having fun with it all.”

Still, he wanted to emphasize that one thing has remained the same: he’s not sacrificing his NFL career.

“The biggest thing,” he said, “is making sure my focus is right here in this building.”

According to Kelce, the key is blocking out all of the outside noise.

“You hear the media throughout the year if we’re not having success,” he observed. “Maybe throwing it out there that I wasn’t focused — or that the team isn’t focused on certain things. And if you’re in this building, you know exactly what’s going on... So you’ve got to compartmentalize what you’re hearing and make sure that you’re staying on task. And giving everybody in the building — and on [the] team — the right perception.”

While one analyst after another has predicted Kansas City will be no match for Baltimore, Kelce knows that the team has one significant advantage: significantly more playoff experience.

“It’s just situational awareness,” he said. “It’s being big enough for the moment — [and] not letting the moment get too big [for] you. [It’s] just going out there and playing with a certain determined mindset — and not letting any of that clutter get in between. It’s definitely a luxury to have it — but at the same time, you can’t depend on that kind of stuff.”

After five straight conference championships on GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium, Sunday’s game will be on the road — but Kelce isn’t worried about that.

“It doesn’t matter who you are [or] where you play,” he declared. “If you rally together with the men and women that you’ve got — and the team that you got — you can play anywhere you want to. You’ve got to bring that juice no matter who’s in the crowd.”

Still, there is no place like home.

“Winning at Arrowhead is pretty damn good,” admitted Kelce. “Hopefully I’ll find out on Sunday what it feels like to win the AFC Championship on the road.”

Kelce said the team’s success all starts with head coach Andy Reid setting the tone.

Miami Dolphins v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by Alex Grimm/Getty Images

“He challenges us with the right mentality — and the right determined mindset — week in [and] week out. And I haven’t found that challenge off the field. I only find it [during] every single day I walk into this building.”

Reid’s approach has rubbed off on the tight end — and according to Kelce, even more on quarterback Patrick Mahomes.

“[Mahomes has] done what I’ve tried to do year in and year out; I haven’t been as successful as he has. [You] answer the bell — answer the challenges that are presented to you — and get excited about that... He’s playing his best football right now. And you’re seeing why he’s the best quarterback in the league.”

Kelce believes that Mahomes isn’t the only one of his teammates who has “answered the bell.” This season, they’ve weathered their share of adversity this season and come out the other side hardy and battle-tested

“We’re resilient,” claimed Kelce. “We grew together. You saw this. You saw the struggles.

“I think that’s what makes it special. You just come into that locker room. You’ll see the chemistry. You’ll see how much we want it for the guy next to us. And that’s when you’ve got a real good team.”

And even though there have been reports that Kelce is considering retirement sooner than has previously been thought, he’s a cowboy with no plans to ride off into the sunset.

“It’s been a hell of a ride up to this point, baby,” he declared. “And I don’t feel like getting off the roller coaster any time soon.”

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