When Kansas City Chiefs Tight End Travis Kelce fell to the turf late in the second quarter against the Minnesota Vikings, it sunk the hearts of every fan, including one special fan in New York who was watching from afar, we all felt the injury was significant. Internally it might have been, and externally Kelce showed emotions as to the pain level, but he overcame all that to return in the second half.
We talk much about the drive within Kansas City Chiefs Quarterback, Patrick Mahomes. However, his running mate, Travis Kelce might be even more motivated to show he’s the best to ever play the tight end position in the NFL.
The ankle injury to Kelce was severe enough that some instantly stated it was a high ankle sprain. If so, it was likely he would not return to the game, nor would he be playing Thursday Night when the Chiefs host the Denver Broncos. Further, that injury could put him out for several weeks.
Inside the locker room at halftime, Head Coach Andy Reid said after his team’s 27-20 victory over the Minnesota Vikings, that his star tight end said to give him time to get the injury right. That meant he had to deal with the pain while the trainers wrapped his ankle. When he ran out onto the field with the rest of his teammates in the second half, the angst of the fan base subsided. Still, there was doubt.
Though Kelce didn’t take any snaps on the Chiefs’ initial touchdown drive of the second half, he did attempt to run on the field a few times, before the coaches pulled him back. However, nursing a tender seven-point lead, Kelce returned for what would become the game-winning drive, he put punctuation on the injury with a three-yard touchdown catch from Mahomes.
What was telling about that play was not only how wide-open Kelce was in the slot, but also the celebration afterward between pitcher and catcher. Kelce was hurting but like Mahomes, he too is a warrior who refused to let the ankle injury define his afternoon or his season.
I’ve been around this game a long time, and very few athletes possess the skill and drive of Kelce. As he stated last Friday, he’s on top of the world right now both professionally and in his personal life with his girlfriend, Taylor Swift. Though she didn’t attend the game Sunday, the relationship remains front-page news. Yet, Kelce is clearly focused on football.
Yet, that’s not what drove Kelce to overcome his injury. He did it because above everything else he knew his teammates needed him back on the field. In the huddle before his first snap of the second half, he head-butted his teammates, and had that gleam in his eye, that only elite athletes possess.
At 34, father time will eventually catch up to Kelce, but it’s reasonable to assume, he’ll play for another two or three seasons. In doing so, he’ll further cement his Hall of Fame career and probably break most of the records at the tight end position. Yet, those numbers mean something to the fans who like to play the GOAT card for their beloved player, Kelce only wants more Super Bowl titles on his resume.
That’s why on Sunday despite severe pain, he battled the demon of doubt, by placing his team ahead of himself. If the Chiefs are fortunate to win back-to-back Super Bowls, it’s my guess we’ll look back at the Vikings game as the moment in time when the team understood what it’s going to take to repeat as champions.
If they all give the Kelce effort between now and then, they just might meet in Las Vegas with a chance to set the tone as the next dynasty in the NFL.