How ‘Uncle’ Andy Reid became part of the Kelce family: legendary coach took a chance on ‘cocky’ Travis after working with Jason… and put both brothers on the road to Super Bowl glory

It was in private, back in April 2013, when Andy Reid had the ear of Travis Kelce and gave the tight end a piece of his mind. It was in front of the world, almost 11 years later, that Kelce gave the head coach his own, ferocious talking to.

Few images from the first Super Bowl in Sin City will endure like the sight of Kelce bumping into Reid and screaming into his coach’s face.

No matter that the Kansas City Chiefs went on to secure back-to-back championships. No matter that it was Patrick Mahomes who orchestrated (yet) another slice of history.

That first-half clash was caught on camera and flooded social media. The incident was revisited time and again during the post-match debrief, too.

Who could have blamed Reid had he wound the clock back, to the 2013 NFL draft, when he picked up the phone and called the younger Kelce brother. In Las Vegas  the coach could have been forgiven for thinking: maybe I was right all along.

Travis Kelce screamed at Chiefs coach Andy Reid during the Super Bowl in Las Vegas

Travis Kelce screamed at Chiefs coach Andy Reid during the Super Bowl in Las Vegas


But over the past decade, the tight end and head coach have formed a father-son-like bond

 

After all, the story goes, Reid – who had already drafted Jason Kelce to the Eagles in 2011 and was now considering bringing Travis to Kansas City – reprimanded the tight end over his behavior and apparent volatility.

As Kelce later recalled, Reid all-but said: ‘Are you going to screw this up? I need a mature guy. I don’t need a guy who’s going to come in and be silly.’

More than a decade later, Kelce accepted that he had crossed a line in Las Vegas. But Reid shrugged off the meltdown. A ‘cheap shot,’ he jokingly called it. ‘I didn’t see him coming, or I would have forearm ripped him.’

It was a masterclass in how to defuse a bubbling PR disaster. But also another glimpse into the special relationship that has helped propel two brothers and one family towards superstardom.

Jason only worked with Reid for a couple of seasons but still he says the coach and his family ‘played such an incredible part of me and my brother being able to play at this level’. Travis credits ‘Big Red’ with dragging him on to the straight and narrow.

Sometimes it only takes a look for his message to land; their bond goes beyond the professional. The 65-year-old coach considers himself part of the Kelce family. Jason agrees. As for Travis? ‘He’s like one of my kids,’ Reid has said. ‘There’s nobody I get better than I get him.’

Reid had earlier worked with Kelce's older brother Jason (left) on the Philadelphia Eagles

Reid had earlier worked with Kelce’s older brother Jason (left) on the Philadelphia Eagles

'He's like one of my kids,' Reid has said of Travis, 'there¿s nobody I get better than I get him'

‘He’s like one of my kids,’ Reid has said of Travis, ‘there’s nobody I get better than I get him’

‘For Travis, Coach Reid has almost been like that uncle you have that you listen to and get advice from,’ quarterback Mahomes told ESPN. ‘He makes Travis a great football player but I think even a better person. He has a good feel for getting on Travis when he needs that motivation, but at the same time he lets Travis be who he is.’

Jason is a different character but Reid brought both into the NFL. He plucked them from Cincinnati – hardly a football powerhouse back then. Neither had garnered much hype. Neither was taken before the third round of the draft.

And yet? Jason recently retired a Super Bowl winner and a future Hall of Famer. Travis – a three-time champion under ‘Big Red’ – threatened to walk away too. His rationale?

‘I love Coach Reid, Coach Reid knows how much I love to play for him, how much I love to be a product of his coaching career. I’m not playing for anybody else but Big Red. If he calls it quits this year I’m out of there with him.’

Fortunately for the Chiefs, neither coach nor tight end is off quite yet. The ties that bind this football family continue to strengthen.

The veteran head coach selected the center with the 191st overall pick of the 2011 draft

The veteran head coach selected the center with the 191st overall pick of the 2011 draft

Earlier this month, Jason Kelce then called time on an incredible career with the Eagles

Earlier this month, Jason Kelce then called time on an incredible career with the Eagles

Jason took a trip down memory lane during his 41-minute retirement speech earlier this month.

‘When I look back down the road, I’m sure there are things I will forget. But these are some of the things I’m sure I won’t,’ he said.

‘I won’t forget the call I got from Andy Reid on draft day, and my father (Ed) rushing into the room with tears streaming down his face as his son’s dreams had just been realized… and I won’t forget two years later and that same man (Reid) and my brother (Travis) receiving a call and him being drafted by the Kansas City Chiefs.

‘This time, the tears streaming down both my father and (my) face as my brother had just realized his own.’

The waterworks resumed – and barely relented – during Kelce’s retirement announcement. The reality, of course, is that those early days were beset by turbulence. There were more than tears of joy.

Particularly when Travis’ college career hit the rocks in Cincinnati. He was kicked off the team and lost his scholarship after testing positive for marijuana. Only thanks to Jason – then a teammate – was the younger brother steered back on to the road towards the NFL.

Travis Kelce was kicked off the University of Cincinnati team, where Jason was a teammate

Travis Kelce was kicked off the University of Cincinnati team, where Jason was a teammate

Reid watched Kelce play during those days. The tight end reportedly addressed the veteran coach as ‘big fella’.

‘Deep down, I’m going, “If I get my hands on that son of a buck, I’m going to rip his heart out,”‘ Reid once recalled. ‘Cocky, cocky, damn, he was cocky. But I knew the roots.’

Only thanks to Jason was Reid convinced that Travis had more than his bravado. Only thanks to Jason did Reid end that 2013 phone call convinced that Travis was worth the trouble.

It’s said that after chastising Travis, Reid asked him to put his brother on. ‘Jason convinced me that he was going to be OK,’ the coach recalled. ‘And if he wasn’t, he was going to beat him up.’

The elder Kelce sensed that Reid was, at least in part, holding him responsible for the fate of his gamble.

‘They knew the type of player they were getting. Because of the inside scoop I guess with me, they were able to kind of get over some of the concerns with him,’ he told ESPN.

Kelce celebrates a third Super Bowl win under 'Big Red' with girlfriend Taylor Swift

Kelce celebrates a third Super Bowl win under ‘Big Red’ with girlfriend Taylor Swift

From there, through one-on-one meetings and through ‘challenging’ him ‘every single day’ the coach helped tease bad habits out of Travis.

‘I was late to meetings, hanging out too much throughout the week, not necessarily focusing,’ Kelce once revealed.

‘Now, football is the only place in my life where I’m really detailed, really professional… I’m dialed in. I can lock in, really compartmentalize. That’s because of Coach Reid.’

Even last season, their 11th together, there were still kinks that needed ironing out. Kelce threw a tantrum on the sideline in the Chiefs’ Christmas Day loss to the Raiders. The tight end struggled for motivation at times and had to battle the distractions that come with life as Taylor Swift’s boyfriend. By the postseason, however, Reid had guided him out of a slump.

During that call in 2013, it’s said, Kelce attempted to reassure Reid by promising to work towards becoming the coach’s best ever tight end.

More than a decade on, that promise has been fulfilled. Thanks to bonds forged between two brothers and a father figure who knows what makes them tick. Even after their family expands to include a pop sensation. Even after they scream in his face.

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