Kansas City Chiefs tight end has made a name for himself in the NFL as one of the best tight ends in the league. While sidelined for the vast majority of his rookie season, Kelce has been a consistent force over the past five years. He was recently named a member of the AFC Pro Bowl team for the fourth consecutive year following his best statistical season as a pro (1,336 yards receiving on 103 catches and ten touchdowns.
Kelce has been a first or second team All-Pro for the past three years and is one of Patrick Mahomes’ favorite targets.
Kelce’s consistent dominance as a tight end in the NFL isn’t surprising at this point, but it’s a bit surprising when you look at his college career.
Kelce Played for the University of Cincinnati
A two-star prospect out of Cleveland Heights High School, Kelce chose Cincinnati over six other schools. He actually played quarterback in high school. His brother, current Eagles center Jason Kelce, was a left guard at Cincinnati when Kelce committed.
As a freshman, Kelce appeared in eleven games, but he mainly played from the wildcat formation, rushing for two touchdowns on eight carries (47 yards total). He caught one pass for three yards.
Kelce Was Suspended for His Entire Sophomore Season for Failing a Drug Test
Before his sophomore season, Kelce was suspended for smoking marijuana. After he was drafted by the Chiefs in 2013, Kelce addressed the suspension.
“It was a suspended drug test for marijuana, it was a one-time thing. I haven’t touched it since. I am a guy that is a clean-cut guy and I’m going to give the organization everything I can and that’s that.”
As a junior, Kelce’s production went up when he moved to tight end. However, his stats still didn’t indicate that he would be a big time NFL prospect. He caught 13 passes for 150 yards and two touchdowns.
Kelce had a Breakout Season as a Senior in 2012 & Was Named All-Big East
In his second full season at tight end, Kelce grew comfortable in the role. His production skyrocketed, as he caught 45 receptions for 722 yards and eight touchdowns. His big season led to him being named First-team All-Big East.
Just as Travis’ older brother Jason helped bring him to the University of Cincinnati, another connection probably helped land him with the Chiefs in the third round of the 2013 NFL Draft. New Chiefs head coach Andy Reid drafted Jason Kelce when he was coaching the Eagles. Reid went on to draft Travis with the 63rd overall pick.
It’s still somewhat remarkable that Kelce’s college numbers during his best season were lower than any season Kelce has played thus far in the NFL. But Kelce is undeniably one of the best tight ends in the league. Looking back on it, he was a steal in the third round, as he has shown he always had first round talent.