Kansas City Chiefs Tight Ends Travis Kelce And Tony Gonzalez Share Tight Bond
Travis Kelce ranks fifth all-time in NFL history for gaining yards under tight ends. Leading the #1 tight end is Tony Gonzalez, also a Kansas City Chiefs tight end with 15,127 yards.
When asked if he might one day match that record, Kelce interjected.
“It’s still looooong away,” he said.
Kelce now has 9,559 yards in 134 games. Gonzalez — who played in 270 career games, including with the Chiefs from 1997 to 2008 — backs him.
“I’m so proud of him,” Gonzalez exclusively shared. “I want him to take that position as much as he can. I’m not one of those cranky old men who talk about records and all that stuff. Hey, you can get them Travis!”
Gonzalez has received many receptions and touchdowns during his 17-year career. His 1,325 receptions rank first among tight ends and third among all NFL players, and his 111 touchdowns received rank second among all tight ends in NFL history.
Gonzalez’s final year in that Hall of Fame career was 2013, which coincided with Kelce’s rookie year.
Shortly into the Chiefs’ tenure—after hearing from members of the Chiefs organization raving about Gonzalez’s work ethic—Kelce reached out to the veteran tight end for tips.
Gonzalez stressed the importance of working hard and making sure he catches extra balls before and after practice. He told him to focus on where his eyes and hands were with each catch.
“Everything he said was down to the smallest detail — whether it was the tech or I was watching a movie,” said Kelce, speaking on behalf of a Tide campaign encouraging fans to wear their favorite jersey with Tide’s Hygienic Clean Heavy Duty 10X Power to wash PROTECT. “He told me exactly what I needed to hear.”
Kelce texted back a picture of one of Gonzalez’s highlights showing him studying Gonzalez’s routes in the film.
Now the tables have turned to her film criticism.
“I watched him like a hawk,” Gonzalez said.
The two tight ends also send messages to each other, especially when Gonzalez will be in Kansas City.
When Gonzalez was last in town as part of his co-hosting duties at Amazon Prime Video thursday night football, where the Chiefs hosted the Los Angeles Chargers as the opening game, Kelce invited him to the after party he was throwing.
However, Gonzalez, 46, joked that he didn’t make it because he was too old and needed his sleep.
“It’s been like my uncle since I was growing up,” Kelce said. “It was very cool. We’ve stayed in touch 100% over the years.”
One of their most significant interactions took place during Super Bowl LIV. Before Gonzalez was on Amazon Prime Video, he worked for FOX, which broadcast the Chiefs’ win over the San Francisco 49ers. So Gonzalez was on the sidelines in the dying seconds of Kansas City’s first Super Bowl win in 50 years.
He hugged Kelce.
“I was so happy for him,” Gonzalez said.
Ahead of that Super Bowl, which saw Kelce square off against the 49ers and tight end George Kittle, Gonzalez likened Kittle to a HEMI, the engine for Chrysler muscle cars. and Kelce to a Mercedes.
The sturdy, 6-5, 250-pound Kelce cackled at Gonzalez’s description before realizing it would be part of Mercedes’ four-wheel drive line.
“If I’m a Mercedes, I’m like the G-Wagen. You know what I mean?” said Kelce. “I’m like the military version.”
Last Sunday, the Mercedes and Hemi raced through the field again. The Chiefs won 44-23 and each had exactly 98 receiving yards National Tight Ends Day.
More than the stats, however, Gonzalez is impressed with Kelce’s approach to the game.
“The guy’s a mind killer,” Gonzalez said. “That’s really what separates good players from great players.”
When asked about Kelce’s skills on the field, Gonzalez then began playing a tune.
“His track run is — I’d say — like smooth jazz,” Gonzalez said, “just so silky, silky smooth.”
But he is also difficult to bring down.
With 1:21 left in the first half of Sunday’s game against the 49ers, the Chiefs were assisted at their own eight-yard line. Kelce started moving, catching a pass down the left and then cutting linebacker Dre Greenlaw’s tackle before rounding cornerback Deommodore Lenoir. The 22-yard gain had 16 of the yards chasing the catch.
Gonzalez said the yard-after-catch ability was better than any tight end he had ever seen.
“I’ve always admired that part of his game,” Gonzalez said. “If he can get his hands on the ball he can make people miss it – he’s like Gumby. It’s weird how he can contort his body.”
The gumby-like Kelce can flex, but will he break Gonzalez’s tight-end records of 1,325 receptions for 15,127 yards?
Gonzalez played until age 37, and Kelce, who has three years left on his Chiefs contract after this season, turned 33 earlier this month.
Kelce has 114 catches and 1,343 receiving yards this season. If these are his final 2022 numbers, he would have to average 126.75 receptions and 1,194.5 yards over the next four seasons or 101.4 receptions and 955.6 yards over the next five seasons just to match Gonzalez’s numbers reach.
“It’s all about staying healthy,” Gonzalez said. “He has a chance to break it and I wouldn’t be surprised if he does. I wouldn’t be surprised at all.”
Kelce downplayed his pursuit of Gonzalez’s stats, noting that he only takes pride in continuing the legacy of big bottlenecks at Kansas City.
“I’m coming into an organization that has the greatest tight end that’s ever played, and I have to follow in this guy’s footsteps,” Kelce said. “I don’t necessarily have to follow in his footsteps because I’m another lifetime behind catching one of his career numbers, but it’s been cool to succeed and somehow get the recognition that I’m dominating games, like 88 has been for so many has done for many years.”