Travis Kelce and his talents at the tight end position have become crucial to the Kansas City Chiefs‘ success. His skills, along with the abilities of Patrick Mahomes and Tyreek Hill, have helped form one of the most dominant offenses in NFL history. However, he initially had no intentions of playing tight end. In fact, he made it clear that he wanted to play quarterback until a coach forced him to make a life-altering move.
Travis Kelce played college football for the Cincinnati Bearcats
Travis Kelce redshirted during his freshman season in 2008 with the University of Cincinnati Bearcats before getting minimal playing time in 2009. He only caught one pass for three yards that season and ran the ball eight times for 47 yards and two touchdowns, per his UC bio.
Kelce then got suspended for the 2010 season after violating team rules. He came back in 2011, though, and caught 13 passes for 150 yards and two touchdowns as the team’s third-string tight end.
However, in 2012, he became an absolute star. Kelce — as the starting tight end and the focal point of the Bearcats’ offense — caught 45 passes for 722 yards and eight touchdowns that year. He ultimately broke the single-season school record for receiving yards by a tight end, too.
Kelce’s senior year ended up helping his draft stock in a big way. He went to the Kansas City Chiefs in the third round of the 2013 NFL draft and has since become the best tight end in the NFL.
Kelce almost didn’t play tight end at all, though.
He played quarterback in high school
Before becoming a star tight end for the Cincinnati Bearcats, Kelce was a star quarterback at Cleveland Heights High School.
According to his UC bio, Kelce earned All-Lake Erie League honors during his senior season, as he recorded 2,539 total yards on offense that year. He ultimately ran for 1,016 yards and 10 TDs, and threw for 1,523 yards to go with 21 TDs and eight interceptions.
This led to him wanting to play quarterback at the next level, too.
Travis Kelce wanted to play quarterback in college
According to the Cincinnati Enquirer, former Cincinnati Bearcats head coach Brian Kelly told Kelce in his recruiting pitch that he would get an actual shot to play quarterback at UC. That led to Kelce selecting the Bearcats over Michigan, Michigan State, and West Virginia. Other schools had recruited him to play tight end or defensive end.
Kelce redshirted in 2008. In 2009, though, Kelly chose to make Kelce the team’s Wildcat quarterback. This was so that he could get some reps and show off his athleticism.
“It was all Travis’ world, whatever he wanted to do back there,” former Cincinnati receiver Mardy Gilyard said to the Cincinnati Enquirer. “What he did was crazy, but it worked because we all trusted his athleticism.”
However, after Kelce got suspended in 2010, Butch Jones was then the Bearcats’ head coach. That was then when Kelce was told he would only play tight end.
“It was a process,” Jones said to the Cincinnati Enquirer. “But when you look at the position traits that you look for in a tight end – from a toughness standpoint, from an athleticism standpoint and from the ability to create matchups against a defense – it was a no brainer.”
Kelce did what he had to do to become great, though. According to the Enquirer, he stayed after practice, working on ball drills and his footwork. He essentially had to learn a position that he had never really played before.
Then, after spending time as the third-string tight end in 2011, Kelce was the offense’s focal point in 2012.
“I knew heading into his senior year that he could accomplish great things,” Jones said, according to the Enquirer. “You saw the true Travis Kelce come out in terms of leadership, toughness and effort. He set the standard of what we believed in our football program.”
Kelce’s move to tight end was absolutely life-changing. He has since become one of the greatest tight ends of all-time.
Travis Kelce is one of the greatest tight ends of all-time
Kelce only played in one game in 2013 for the Chiefs. In 2014, though, he gained 862 receiving yards. He has since earned six straight Pro Bowl selections for the Chiefs from 2015 through 2020. He has also gained over 1,000 receiving yards in every season since 2016. In fact, in 2020, Kelce even broke the single-season NFL record for receiving yards by a tight end, as he recorded 1,416.
Through the 2020 season, Kelce ranks ninth all-time in NFL history in receiving yards by a tight end, according to StatMuse. He is also eighth all-time among tight ends in receptions.
The position switch has also made a Kelce a really wealthy man, too. He has ultimately earned over an estimated $33 million as a tight end, per Spotrac.
Travis Kelce has a chance to become the greatest tight end ever, or, at the very least, a Hall of Fame one. It almost never happened, though.
Stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference