The Kansas City Chiefs and Travis Kelce have been synonymous for more than a decade, especially the last few years as they’ve won two Super Bowls and made five straight appearances in the AFC Championship Game, and the starting tight end has played a vital role in each major accomplishment for the franchise.
Along with his best friend, quarterback Patrick Mahomes, this dynamic duo is feared on game days by opponents and loved by just about everyone that watches football (unless you’re a fan of that team on game day).
But the reality of Kelce’s situation with the Chiefs is that he is 34 years old. In football terms, it means you’re getting old, to the point where thinking about retirement must come into play.
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Kelce has no intentions of quitting the game anytime soon. The Chiefs have him under contract, making just over $14 million per season until 2026, when he’ll be an unrestricted free agent at 37 years old.
However, in an in-depth look at the life of one of the most recognizable talents in the game – who is destined for the Hall of Fame as arguably the best tight end ever – by the Wall Street Journal’s J.R. Moehringer, Kelce admits retirement is on the mind.
“More than anyone could ever imagine,” Kelce told Moehringer.
One reason retirement is on the mind of Kelce is the physical toll of football – not just in the NFL, but over many years of play.
Moehringer highlights Kelce’s close-knit friend group, how after games they sit around his kitchen island and “chop it up.” But he doesn’t always disclose how he’s feeling, what his body is going through during a season.
“That’s the only thing I’ve never really been open about, the discomfort. The pain. The lingering injuries – the 10 surgeries I’ve had that I still feel every single surgery to this day,” Kelce said.
But that’s football, unfortunately. All players must keep going through the grueling injuries, bruises, scratches and so on.
“He has phenomenal pain tolerance,” Chiefs tight ends coach Tom Melvin said. “He’s played through things that other athletes I’ve coached through the years have not been able to push through. Mentally tough – way off the charts.”
This year alone, Kelce had to miss the season opener with a bone bruise in his knee. Then, against the Minnesota Vikings, he suffered an ankle injury that was expected to sideline him, but he returned and played through it.
But Kelce also knows that he’s built a brand, one that allows him many options after football is over.
“Sometimes he sees himself in a broadcasting booth,” Moehringer writes. “Sometimes his manager talks about action flicks.
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“You also get the sense Kelce toys with notions of doing some form of comedy. He haunts clubs, lives for open-mic nights, and he’s gotten to be friendly with several rising stand-ups.”
Kelce has already hosted “Saturday Night Live,” while being the spokesperson for Pfizer and Bud Light, among many other endorsements. His celebrity status has also taken a major shift due to his relationship with music megastar Taylor Swift.
He’s also not the only Kelce dealing with what comes after retirement. In the Amazon Prime Video documentary “Kelce,” we find Philadelphia Eagles center and older brother, Jason Kelce, battling emotions toward the end when thinking about hanging up his cleats for good.
He eventually made the decision to play another season with the Eagles, and their now-household name mother, Donna Kelce, told Fox News Digital recently that he’s been teetering with the decision for years now. At the end of the 2023 season, Jason Kelce may very well make the announcement that he’s done with the game.
His little brother seems to have some time left. He’s still arguably the best tight end in football, playing a pivotal role on a Chiefs team that will see the Eagles for a Super Bowl rematch on Monday night.
Kelce will try to make more superstar plays to bring his team to victory. He hopes he can continue to do that for quite some time, with more Super Bowl rings to add to his collection.
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But retirement is still in the back of his mind. When will it start to come more toward the front is the big question.