KANSAS City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce insisted Friday that he is ready for the circus that comes with the Super Bowl.
He’s been through it three times, after all, and has two rings to show for it.
It has never been quite like this, though.
Kelce’s profile has never been higher than it is now, as the Chiefs prepare to face the San Francisco 49ers on Feb. 11, 2024 in Las Vegas. He is constantly appearing in television ads, selling everything from soup to insurance. He’s been involved in made-for-TV golf matches, charity softball games and had a guest-host stint this past year on “Saturday Night Live.”
You might have heard he’s dating Taylor Swift, too. And that could make Monday night particularly busy, when he takes center stage at what the NFL calls “Super Bowl Opening Night.” The event has become its own televised extravaganza, and the talk that takes place is usually more light-hearted entertainment than heavy-duty X’s and O’s.
In other words, expect Kelce to be asked about his pop superstar girlfriend plenty.
“That’s going to be kind of where it starts for everybody,” Kelce told a few reporters inside Arrowhead Stadium, “and at this point, I just love it. It’s an exciting time. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime type of thing that I’ve been able to enjoy a fewtimes.”
Kelce didn’t say whether he expects Swift to be inside Allegiant Stadium by kickoff, though that appears to be the plan. She has a performance on her Eras Tour in Tokyo on Saturday night, but the time change means she could make it with time to spare.
Swift was certainly front-and-center last weekend in Baltimore, where she watched Kelce score a touchdown while leading the Chiefs to a 17-10 victory over the Ravens in the AFC title game. In the wild, on-field celebration afterward, Kelce was joined by his well-known brother Jason, his parents and perhaps equally well-known mom Donna, and Swift, who gave him a big kiss.
“It’s another memory in the journey that we get to cherish, man,” Kelce said. “I was fortunate to have all the support I need off the field, and you know, it’s given me a reason to play that much harder.”
Kelce has not had quite the dominating statistical season that he’s had in previous years. Part of that was due to a knee injury that kept him out of a Week 1 loss to the Lions, and part of it was the fact that he sat out the Chiefs’ regular-season finale against the Chargers, when they had locked up the AFC West and could not improve upon their No. 3 playoff seed.
But the 34-year-old Kelce balked when asked whether this year, his 11th in the league, has been harder than the rest.
“I mean, every single year is different,” he said, “and I’m not going to lie, there have been years where I’ve kind of battled through some things that frankly were a little more serious, and a little more frustrating than what I had to go through this year.”
One thing that was different this season: losing. The Chiefs lost five of eight at one point midway through their campaign.
“The fact that we weren’t winning kind of piled up on how I was feeling physically,” Kelce said. “You can catch yourself in a, I don’t know, darker room, I guess, if that makes sense. And being able to find ways to win, kind of rally with the group, find a way to still win the division still, find a way to get into the playoffs and where we are today, it just makes it that much more fun.”
Nobody seems to have more fun when the Chiefs are winning. As usual, Kelce commandeered the microphone after their win over the Ravens and barked out his now-too-familiar Beastie Boys victory cry: “You gotta fight for your right to party!”
Asked how he became so comfortable with a microphone in his hand, he replied: “My mom’s home videos, man.”
“Having that camera on me at all times, seeing what silly stuff I’m going to do next,” Kelce continued. “Honestly, I’ve always been comfortable in the rooms I’ve been in, and just fortunate that — I don’t know, I’ve kind of been able to look into a camera with ease, I guess. I don’t know. It’s just having fun out there.”
Kelce does think sports played a role in it.
“Just having confidence in general,” he said, “and sports for me was where I built my confidence. You probably won’t believe me, but I was a shy kid growing up until I got onto the sports field, or the court or the ice rink. Then I kind of let my personality show. I was having fun. I was having success. And that’s just kind of propelled me to have confidence in life.”