Who Is Travis Kelce?

Part of Who HQ Now

Illustrated by Dede Putra
How did a young boy who played three sports become a two-time Super Bowl champion? Find out in this exciting Who HQ Now book about one of America's favorite football players.

Travis Kelce was born an athlete -- he played football, basketball, and baseball in high school. He excelled at football, and served as Cleveland Heights High School's quarterback -- though he'd one day become a famous tight end because of his impressive skills on the field. Travis was offered a scholarship to play football at the University of Cincinnati. After being drafted in the NFL to play for the Kansas City Chiefs, Travis got his first Super Bowl win. Travis won his second Super Bowl in 2022, when the Chiefs defeated his brother's team, the Philadelphia Eagles. Although he is best known for his excellence in football, Travis is also the founder of the Eighty-Seven & Running Foundation, which provides children in need with opportunities in education, athletics, and the arts. He is also a podcaster and an avid car collector.
Who Is Travis Kelce?
It was February 12, 2023, and tight end Travis Kelce (say: KEL-­see) of the Kansas City Chiefs was ready to shine! He was playing at the largest event in American sports, the Super Bowl. Millions of people watched the game from all over the world. Travis played his best in the spotlight. He and the Chiefs faced the Philadelphia Eagles. Travis’s brother, Jason, started at center for the Eagles. It was a historic moment . . . the first time brothers had ever faced off as players on opposing teams in the Super Bowl, the biggest game of the National Football League (NFL).

On the Chiefs’ opening drive, quarterback Patrick Mahomes lofted an eighteen-­yard pass to Travis. Travis seized the moment. He snatched the ball out of the air in the end zone.

Touchdown! Travis dropped the ball on the ground and broke into a dance move. He swiveled his hips and jiggled his leg. For a couple seconds, Travis moved like he was in the middle of a dance club, not on a football field. “End zone dances” were started in 1969 by football player Elmo Wright as a way to celebrate scoring a touchdown, and now many players do them . . . but not always tight ends.

“You don’t really see tight ends out here doing dances in the end zone,” Travis said. “But if you see me at night out on the town, I’m having a good time—­I’m always dancing. It started in the backyard, not to necessarily showboat—­but to be a showman. It’s part of how we grew up, how we played the game, and now that I’m in the NFL, why not break it out?”

Travis is the best tight end in the league. He is big, fast, and strong, with great hands—­which means he hardly ever drops a pass. Travis is also a proven all-­league dancer. He busts a move every time he scores—­from the shmoney to the nae nae to the Ric Flair, to name just a few. Off the field, Travis is just as much fun to watch—­whether it is his colorful clothing choices, his outspoken role on his popular podcast, his hilarious Saturday Night Live appearances, or his very public dating life. Fans and foes alike cannot get enough of the Travis Kelce show. How did a kid from Ohio blossom into the NFL’s ultimate tight end and entertainer?
 
Chapter 1
A Rough-­and-­Tumble Childhood
 
Travis Michael Kelce was born on October 5, 1989, in Westlake, Ohio. His mother, Donna, worked at a bank, and his father, Ed, worked at a steel mill. Travis’s brother, Jason, is two years older. The family lived in Cleveland Heights, about twenty minutes east of Cleveland.

As the boys grew up, they played a wide variety of sports, including ones they made up. In their backyard, they created one called “hand baseball.” In this game, the boys used their hands to hit a rolled-­up sock. When the sock hit the house, it was ruled a home run.

The brothers also played street hockey in their driveway, leaving the sides of the house and garage with dents from the pucks. Travis and Jason broke windows in their house from missed shots in hockey, thrown footballs, and foul balls in baseball. Once, their dad went into his home office and noticed the vacuum cleaner was there instead of in its usual spot. He knew his boys would not just clean for fun, so he asked Travis about it. Travis told his dad that he was eating potato chips and had vacuumed up the crumbs. Later though, Ed noticed some broken glass on the floor, too. He lifted the blinds and saw the window was shattered. Travis had been afraid to get in trouble and had fibbed to his dad. When Ed confronted his son, Travis fessed up that he had tried to hit a golf ball over the house—­and the ball did not make it!

Ed and Donna rarely got mad at their sons—­no matter how many windows they broke. When it was too cold to play outside, Travis and Jason played hockey in the basement. Ed built a mini arena for his sons. Ed said he remembers it just being “fun” to raise his athletic boys.

“It was very apparent to me that there was something outrageously special about both of you,” Ed told his sons when they were grown.

The siblings competed fiercely in whatever they did. “It was a competition to see who could get to the table first, who could get to the front seat of the car—­they egged each other on,” Donna explained.

Once the boys were old enough, they played organized sports. Ed coached his boys in Little League Baseball. They also played basketball and ice hockey. The family traveled all over for tournaments and games. Donna and Ed juggled their sons’ busy schedules.

“We were like a tag team,” Donna said. “When one had to go out of town, the other person would help with the other child. It was perfect.”

Travis was a natural athlete and exceptional at every sport he tried. In high school, he weighed over two hundred pounds. Donna said she could never keep enough food on the table for her boys.

“They ate a lot,” Donna said about her sons. “They could sit down and eat an entire chicken—­not together; each one of them could finish a chicken.”

Travis was a smart kid, but he did not do well in school. He wanted to be on a field or ball court, not sitting at a desk. Often though, Travis was the center of attention in the classroom—­telling funny jokes and chatting with friends. Sometimes this outgoing behavior meant he was not studying as much as he should have and was focused on socializing instead. At Cleveland Heights High School, Travis played baseball and basketball, and he was the quarterback on the football team. During his sophomore year, he was not allowed to play football because he failed his French class. High school athletes need to pass all their classes in order to compete on a team. Travis was back on the field by his junior year, but failing to take French class seriously had cost him his last chance to play on the varsity team with his brother, Jason, who was two years ahead of Travis and was graduating.

During Travis’s senior year, he was named All-­Lake Erie League quarterback after totaling 2,539 yards. He was a dual threat: He rushed for 1,016 yards, including ten touchdowns, and passed for another 1,523 yards and twenty-­one touchdowns. Several college coaches offered Travis a scholarship to play on their team. Travis wanted another chance to play on the same squad as his brother. He chose the University of Cincinnati, where Jason was the Bearcats’ starting left guard. The younger Kelce couldn’t wait to be a Bearcat, too!

 
Chapter 2
A Second Chance
 
Travis arrived at the University of Cincinnati as an eighteen-­year-­old quarterback in the fall of 2008. He redshirted his freshman year. This meant that Travis practiced with the team but did not compete in games. A redshirt season gives a college athlete time to mature physically and mentally.

The following fall, Travis and the Bearcats finished the regular season with a perfect 12–­0 record. As the backup quarterback, Travis played in eleven of those games.

The team faced the University of Florida Gators in the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans, Louisiana, on January 1, 2010. After the game, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) tested players for drug use. Travis had smoked marijuana in the week leading up to the game, so he failed the test. The Bearcats coaches were furious at their young quarterback for using drugs. They kicked Travis off the team and took away his scholarship. Travis always loved to goof off and have fun. Usually though, his behavior was harmless. Now, he had messed up for real, and there were consequences.

“I threw this scholarship away and down the drain like it didn’t mean nothing to me,” Travis said. “I had to grow up.”

Travis remained a student at the University of Cincinnati, but he was no longer a football player. Now that he had lost his scholarship, he had to pay his school tuition. Travis moved in with Jason in his off-­campus house and shared his bedroom. He continued to take classes, but also worked for a call center. He talked to people on the phone and asked them to sign up for health care. The job was boring and he didn’t earn much money.

“All I had been doing is playing outside, playing sports my entire life,” Travis said. “I had never sat down and tried to earn a living like that.”

Everything usually came easy to Travis, but for the first time in his life, he had to focus and work really hard. He had to make big changes to get back on that field. Travis and Jason talked to the Cincinnati coaches. They asked them to give Travis another chance to play. Travis promised he would not mess up again. After seeing how dedicated Travis had become, the coaches said Travis was allowed back on the team only as a walk-­on. This meant he was on the squad, but he did not receive a scholarship; he still had to pay for school on his own.

“He was a good kid who’d made a poor choice,” said Cincinnati head coach Butch Jones.

There was another big change for Travis. The team did not need an extra quarterback anymore. The coaches told Travis that he could play tight end instead.

A tight end is one of the most versatile and athletic positions on the field. The player may catch the ball or run with it, but may also be called on to block for and protect teammates who are carrying the ball. Travis worked hard to learn his new position, but he didn’t get in many plays in his first season back with the team. Travis improved his footwork and learned passing routes. He tried to understand blocking angles and how best to use his body.

“[Travis] was a big athlete, and he was tall, he would block you and bury you into the ground, but had such great body control,” said Mark Elder, a Cincinnati offensive assistant coach. “For us, there was no question about it that tight end was the position he was meant to play.”

By the beginning of Travis’s senior year in 2012, he earned his scholarship back and proved to be an awesome tight end. Travis finished the season with forty-­five catches for 722 yards—­the most receptions of any college tight end in the country.

In Travis’s last game in December 2012, Cincinnati faced the Duke University Blue Devils in the Belk Bowl in Charlotte, North Carolina. The score was tied 34–­34 with less than a minute left in the game. Cincinnati quarterback Brendon Kay spotted Travis and threw him a long pass down the middle of the field. Travis grabbed the ball in stride and bolted thirty-­nine yards into the end zone. Touchdown! The Bearcats won the game 48–­34.

Travis’s college career had ended in a spectacular fashion! And now that Travis had turned his football life around, he wanted to follow his brother to the NFL—­one of the most popular and exciting sports leagues in the United States.
Who HQ is your headquarters for history. The Who HQ team is always working to provide simple and clear answers to some of our biggest questions. From Who Was George Washington? to Who Is Michelle Obama?, and What Was the Battle of Gettysburg? to Where Is the Great Barrier Reef?, we strive to give you all the facts. Visit us at WhoHQ.com View titles by Who HQ

About

How did a young boy who played three sports become a two-time Super Bowl champion? Find out in this exciting Who HQ Now book about one of America's favorite football players.

Travis Kelce was born an athlete -- he played football, basketball, and baseball in high school. He excelled at football, and served as Cleveland Heights High School's quarterback -- though he'd one day become a famous tight end because of his impressive skills on the field. Travis was offered a scholarship to play football at the University of Cincinnati. After being drafted in the NFL to play for the Kansas City Chiefs, Travis got his first Super Bowl win. Travis won his second Super Bowl in 2022, when the Chiefs defeated his brother's team, the Philadelphia Eagles. Although he is best known for his excellence in football, Travis is also the founder of the Eighty-Seven & Running Foundation, which provides children in need with opportunities in education, athletics, and the arts. He is also a podcaster and an avid car collector.

Excerpt

Who Is Travis Kelce?
It was February 12, 2023, and tight end Travis Kelce (say: KEL-­see) of the Kansas City Chiefs was ready to shine! He was playing at the largest event in American sports, the Super Bowl. Millions of people watched the game from all over the world. Travis played his best in the spotlight. He and the Chiefs faced the Philadelphia Eagles. Travis’s brother, Jason, started at center for the Eagles. It was a historic moment . . . the first time brothers had ever faced off as players on opposing teams in the Super Bowl, the biggest game of the National Football League (NFL).

On the Chiefs’ opening drive, quarterback Patrick Mahomes lofted an eighteen-­yard pass to Travis. Travis seized the moment. He snatched the ball out of the air in the end zone.

Touchdown! Travis dropped the ball on the ground and broke into a dance move. He swiveled his hips and jiggled his leg. For a couple seconds, Travis moved like he was in the middle of a dance club, not on a football field. “End zone dances” were started in 1969 by football player Elmo Wright as a way to celebrate scoring a touchdown, and now many players do them . . . but not always tight ends.

“You don’t really see tight ends out here doing dances in the end zone,” Travis said. “But if you see me at night out on the town, I’m having a good time—­I’m always dancing. It started in the backyard, not to necessarily showboat—­but to be a showman. It’s part of how we grew up, how we played the game, and now that I’m in the NFL, why not break it out?”

Travis is the best tight end in the league. He is big, fast, and strong, with great hands—­which means he hardly ever drops a pass. Travis is also a proven all-­league dancer. He busts a move every time he scores—­from the shmoney to the nae nae to the Ric Flair, to name just a few. Off the field, Travis is just as much fun to watch—­whether it is his colorful clothing choices, his outspoken role on his popular podcast, his hilarious Saturday Night Live appearances, or his very public dating life. Fans and foes alike cannot get enough of the Travis Kelce show. How did a kid from Ohio blossom into the NFL’s ultimate tight end and entertainer?
 
Chapter 1
A Rough-­and-­Tumble Childhood
 
Travis Michael Kelce was born on October 5, 1989, in Westlake, Ohio. His mother, Donna, worked at a bank, and his father, Ed, worked at a steel mill. Travis’s brother, Jason, is two years older. The family lived in Cleveland Heights, about twenty minutes east of Cleveland.

As the boys grew up, they played a wide variety of sports, including ones they made up. In their backyard, they created one called “hand baseball.” In this game, the boys used their hands to hit a rolled-­up sock. When the sock hit the house, it was ruled a home run.

The brothers also played street hockey in their driveway, leaving the sides of the house and garage with dents from the pucks. Travis and Jason broke windows in their house from missed shots in hockey, thrown footballs, and foul balls in baseball. Once, their dad went into his home office and noticed the vacuum cleaner was there instead of in its usual spot. He knew his boys would not just clean for fun, so he asked Travis about it. Travis told his dad that he was eating potato chips and had vacuumed up the crumbs. Later though, Ed noticed some broken glass on the floor, too. He lifted the blinds and saw the window was shattered. Travis had been afraid to get in trouble and had fibbed to his dad. When Ed confronted his son, Travis fessed up that he had tried to hit a golf ball over the house—­and the ball did not make it!

Ed and Donna rarely got mad at their sons—­no matter how many windows they broke. When it was too cold to play outside, Travis and Jason played hockey in the basement. Ed built a mini arena for his sons. Ed said he remembers it just being “fun” to raise his athletic boys.

“It was very apparent to me that there was something outrageously special about both of you,” Ed told his sons when they were grown.

The siblings competed fiercely in whatever they did. “It was a competition to see who could get to the table first, who could get to the front seat of the car—­they egged each other on,” Donna explained.

Once the boys were old enough, they played organized sports. Ed coached his boys in Little League Baseball. They also played basketball and ice hockey. The family traveled all over for tournaments and games. Donna and Ed juggled their sons’ busy schedules.

“We were like a tag team,” Donna said. “When one had to go out of town, the other person would help with the other child. It was perfect.”

Travis was a natural athlete and exceptional at every sport he tried. In high school, he weighed over two hundred pounds. Donna said she could never keep enough food on the table for her boys.

“They ate a lot,” Donna said about her sons. “They could sit down and eat an entire chicken—­not together; each one of them could finish a chicken.”

Travis was a smart kid, but he did not do well in school. He wanted to be on a field or ball court, not sitting at a desk. Often though, Travis was the center of attention in the classroom—­telling funny jokes and chatting with friends. Sometimes this outgoing behavior meant he was not studying as much as he should have and was focused on socializing instead. At Cleveland Heights High School, Travis played baseball and basketball, and he was the quarterback on the football team. During his sophomore year, he was not allowed to play football because he failed his French class. High school athletes need to pass all their classes in order to compete on a team. Travis was back on the field by his junior year, but failing to take French class seriously had cost him his last chance to play on the varsity team with his brother, Jason, who was two years ahead of Travis and was graduating.

During Travis’s senior year, he was named All-­Lake Erie League quarterback after totaling 2,539 yards. He was a dual threat: He rushed for 1,016 yards, including ten touchdowns, and passed for another 1,523 yards and twenty-­one touchdowns. Several college coaches offered Travis a scholarship to play on their team. Travis wanted another chance to play on the same squad as his brother. He chose the University of Cincinnati, where Jason was the Bearcats’ starting left guard. The younger Kelce couldn’t wait to be a Bearcat, too!

 
Chapter 2
A Second Chance
 
Travis arrived at the University of Cincinnati as an eighteen-­year-­old quarterback in the fall of 2008. He redshirted his freshman year. This meant that Travis practiced with the team but did not compete in games. A redshirt season gives a college athlete time to mature physically and mentally.

The following fall, Travis and the Bearcats finished the regular season with a perfect 12–­0 record. As the backup quarterback, Travis played in eleven of those games.

The team faced the University of Florida Gators in the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans, Louisiana, on January 1, 2010. After the game, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) tested players for drug use. Travis had smoked marijuana in the week leading up to the game, so he failed the test. The Bearcats coaches were furious at their young quarterback for using drugs. They kicked Travis off the team and took away his scholarship. Travis always loved to goof off and have fun. Usually though, his behavior was harmless. Now, he had messed up for real, and there were consequences.

“I threw this scholarship away and down the drain like it didn’t mean nothing to me,” Travis said. “I had to grow up.”

Travis remained a student at the University of Cincinnati, but he was no longer a football player. Now that he had lost his scholarship, he had to pay his school tuition. Travis moved in with Jason in his off-­campus house and shared his bedroom. He continued to take classes, but also worked for a call center. He talked to people on the phone and asked them to sign up for health care. The job was boring and he didn’t earn much money.

“All I had been doing is playing outside, playing sports my entire life,” Travis said. “I had never sat down and tried to earn a living like that.”

Everything usually came easy to Travis, but for the first time in his life, he had to focus and work really hard. He had to make big changes to get back on that field. Travis and Jason talked to the Cincinnati coaches. They asked them to give Travis another chance to play. Travis promised he would not mess up again. After seeing how dedicated Travis had become, the coaches said Travis was allowed back on the team only as a walk-­on. This meant he was on the squad, but he did not receive a scholarship; he still had to pay for school on his own.

“He was a good kid who’d made a poor choice,” said Cincinnati head coach Butch Jones.

There was another big change for Travis. The team did not need an extra quarterback anymore. The coaches told Travis that he could play tight end instead.

A tight end is one of the most versatile and athletic positions on the field. The player may catch the ball or run with it, but may also be called on to block for and protect teammates who are carrying the ball. Travis worked hard to learn his new position, but he didn’t get in many plays in his first season back with the team. Travis improved his footwork and learned passing routes. He tried to understand blocking angles and how best to use his body.

“[Travis] was a big athlete, and he was tall, he would block you and bury you into the ground, but had such great body control,” said Mark Elder, a Cincinnati offensive assistant coach. “For us, there was no question about it that tight end was the position he was meant to play.”

By the beginning of Travis’s senior year in 2012, he earned his scholarship back and proved to be an awesome tight end. Travis finished the season with forty-­five catches for 722 yards—­the most receptions of any college tight end in the country.

In Travis’s last game in December 2012, Cincinnati faced the Duke University Blue Devils in the Belk Bowl in Charlotte, North Carolina. The score was tied 34–­34 with less than a minute left in the game. Cincinnati quarterback Brendon Kay spotted Travis and threw him a long pass down the middle of the field. Travis grabbed the ball in stride and bolted thirty-­nine yards into the end zone. Touchdown! The Bearcats won the game 48–­34.

Travis’s college career had ended in a spectacular fashion! And now that Travis had turned his football life around, he wanted to follow his brother to the NFL—­one of the most popular and exciting sports leagues in the United States.

Author

Who HQ is your headquarters for history. The Who HQ team is always working to provide simple and clear answers to some of our biggest questions. From Who Was George Washington? to Who Is Michelle Obama?, and What Was the Battle of Gettysburg? to Where Is the Great Barrier Reef?, we strive to give you all the facts. Visit us at WhoHQ.com View titles by Who HQ