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While Patrick Mahomes may get top billing on the Kansas City Chiefs offense, Travis Kelce is an incredible talent in his own right. The tight end isn’t just a big body presence at the end of the line; he’s a legitimate athlete capable of making plays like a wide receiver. His football career, however, could have ended before making it to the NFL.

In college, Travis Kelce was suspended from the football team after testing positive for marijuana. Facing that make-or-break moment, the tight end’s brother, Jason, stepped in; that intervention turned out to make all the difference.

Travis Kelce had a quiet freshman season, then faced a marijuana-related suspension

These days, Travis Kelce is a legitimate star on the NFL stage. In college, though, things initially looked far less promising.

Kelce played quarterback in high school and showed enough talent to earn a scholarship to the University of Cincinnati. After redshirting during his first year on campus, he saw limited action in 2009; as a wildcat formation quarterback and occasional tight end, he finished the season with two rushing touchdowns and one reception for three yards.

When the 2010 campaign arrived, though, Travis Kelce didn’t return to the field. He was suspended for the entire campaign due to violating team rules; as USA Today later reported, his violation “turned out to be a failed drug test for marijuana.”

At that point, Kelce’s relationship with football could have changed forever. He didn’t produce much as a freshman; a year away from the gridiron could have ended his career. His older brother Jason, however, wasn’t going to let that happen.

Jason Kelce steps up to help his brother

When a star player steps out of line, they’re more likely to get the benefit of the doubt. While Travis Kelce didn’t have that sort of clout at the University of Cincinnati, he did have one ally on his side: his older brother, offensive lineman Jason.

“I’m sure you might’ve heard a story, but I got kicked off the team, and my brother had actually went to the university, went to the coaching staff and everybody at the university and really tried to get me to get back on the team — and under his supervision,” Kelce explained on a recent episode of the Players’ Tribune’s  Truss Levelz podcast.

Supervision didn’t just mean that Jason would check in on his brother once in a while, though. The two literally moved in together, sharing a bedroom, in an attempt to get Travis back onto the football team.

“So he took me in,” Kelce continued. “I lived in his room. I literally put two beds in one room, and we just shacked it up his senior year. I owe him so much credit for doing that and putting his name on the line for me to be able to finish my career at Cincinnati. It was something that I cherish so much that’s hard to explain to people, to be honest.”

It’s safe to say that Jason’s efforts paid off for Travis Kelce

When he received a one-year suspension at Cincinnati, Travis Kelce’s football career could have gone one of two ways. Thanks to his brother’s efforts, though, things continued in the right direction.

In 2011, Travis returned to the team and left the quarterback position behind; after two seasons as a full-time tight end, he had shown enough to join the Kansas City Chiefs as a third-round pick in the 2013 draft. While he missed virtually his entire rookie year with a knee injury, he’s more than made up for lost time since then.

In Kansas City, Travis Kelce has developed into a legitimate star; he has the size and physicality of a dream tight end, along with the athleticism and soft hands as a receiver. He’s more than capable of securing a tough catch for a first down or breaking off a 30-yard gain on a post route, making him a favorite target for Patrick Mahomes and Andy Reid. If you prefer stats, Kelce shows up there well, too. Through the first 109 games of his NFL career, the big tight end has pulled in 597 catches, good for 7,715 yards and 46 touchdowns.

If not for Jason Kelce, though, Travis might not have made it to the pros, let alone become an All-Pro and a Super Bowl champion.

Stats courtesy of Sports-Reference and Pro-Football-Reference


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