Kelce brothers are no strangers to fighting it out — just ask their dad
In a region where everyone is decked out in Philadelphia Eagles gear, especially with the team headed to the Super Bowl for the second time in six seasons, Ed Kelce is easy to spot.
He is a tall, sturdy man with broad shoulders and meaty hands, and even at 71 has a thick head of hair that’s parted down the middle and more salt than pepper.
What’s different about Kelce is conflicting attire. Under his requisite green Eagles windbreaker is a red Kansas City Chiefs T-shirt. How nervy — or maybe just absentminded — to rep the Chiefs in this Philadelphia suburb. The Eagles will face Kansas City in Super Bowl LVII.
Only Kelce isn’t confused. Just a proud dad.
His son, Jason Kelce, is the All-Pro center for the Eagles. His younger son, Travis Kelce, is the All-Pro tight end for the Chiefs.
On Feb. 12, the Kelce boys will make history as the first brothers to play against each other on football’s biggest stage. They each have one Super Bowl ring already.
“Cool scenario to be in, you know?” Travis Kelce said after the AFC championship game win over Cincinnati. “My mom can’t lose.”
Well … for the Kelce parents, it’s wonderful and torturous all at once.
“I’ll be screaming the whole time,” Donna Kelce said in an interview with Fox 8 in Cleveland, where the boys were raised. “No matter who’s out there, I’ll be screaming.”
The Kelce parents have done well with the dilemma so far. Although they were divorced a decade ago — she lives in Orlando, Fla., and he lives outside of Philadelphia — they have worked out a system to be in attendance for their sons’ games.
“We each try to be at one of the games,” Ed Kelce said. “Divide and conquer.”
At the Super Bowl, one parent will be staying at Kansas City’s team hotel, and the other at Philadelphia’s.
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The parents didn’t coordinate as well in the playoffs, so they were both in Kansas City for the AFC divisional round, and both in Philadelphia for the NFC championship game. However, that allowed them to watch Kansas City play Cincinnati in the AFC title game, at a sports bar near Lincoln Financial Field, while sitting with Jason, who had just finished his game against San Francisco.
A crowd gathered at Chickie’s & Pete’s to watch the Kelce trio root on Kansas City. Donna Kelce wore a jersey that was half-Eagles, half-Chiefs. The burly, bearded Jason wore a Chiefs T-shirt, which he dramatically ripped off at game’s end. He could only stomach being a KC fan for so long.
In Philadelphia — and Kansas City for that matter — brotherly love is paramount.
“You won’t see me talking too much trash with how much respect and how much I love my brother,” said the comically bombastic Travis, who reminded Chiefs fans after the win that they indeed have to fight for their right to paaaaarty.
“But it’s definitely going to be an emotional game.”
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The Kelce boys are nothing if not emotional. They grew up in a suburb of Cleveland, first falling in love with hockey, then baseball and basketball, and finally football.
As with most brothers, they had their share of scrapes with each other. Once, when they were 14 and 12, they exchanged words and shoves on the driveway basketball court. That carried over into the kitchen, where their dad tried to separate them. This was the first time Travis fought back, punching his older brother.
“We’re in the kitchen and I’m looking around and all I see are 90-degree corners to crack your head on, the countertops and everything,” Ed said. “I’m yelling at them to stop. They get tangled up and this is all going to go down. There’s potential here for ER visits, which I didn’t want.”
Ed, who was preparing a casserole for dinner, grabbed both his sons and dragged them to the floor. The three landed so violently in a heap, however, that the oven door fell off and the casserole fell to the floor.
Then, a bit of paternal bluffing.
“We hit the floor and I screamed out, ‘Oh, my back!’ ” Ed said. “Changed the whole dynamic. All of a sudden they weren’t mad at each other; they were worried about dad. There wasn’t a damn thing wrong with me, but it ended the fight.”
Jason was a rough-and-tumble kid, always big and thick for his age, and was just as passionate about music as he was sports. He played the saxophone throughout his childhood, and more than once stayed up all night writing songs with a computer program. He didn’t lift weights — that turned off a lot of would-be college suitors — but transitioned from sport to sport throughout the calendar year.
“He was never bulked out,” his father said. “Everyone questioned Jason’s commitment to playing football, because he didn’t work out with weights. Michigan State’s where it really went downhill because he couldn’t bench press enough weight. There was a target they expected guys to hit and he wasn’t even close to it.
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“They never paid attention to the fact that he would play football and go right into hockey, go right into lacrosse. He was an accomplished jazz musician in a prestigious ensemble in high school and was also in two other jazz bands. So he never really spent a lot of time in the weight room.”
Travis, two years his brother’s junior, seldom averted his eyes from the TV if any sporting event was on, then would go out in the yard and practice what he’d just watched.
“Travis would sit in front of the TV from about the age of 3 and just watch football, basketball or hockey,” his father said. “You know how some little boys would have those VHS tapes of construction trucks? For Travis, it was always a game of some sort. He’d watch that until hell froze over.”
Their parents both worked outside the house. Donna was in banking. Ed was a sales rep who sold products to steel manufacturers, and made sure his sons understood what it meant to work in a steel mill.
“I’d take them there — hard hat, safety glasses, boots, the whole nine yards,” he said. “I’d tell them, `You can have a job like your mother’s, or you can have a job like mine.’ ”
In the end, the boys chose neither. They both played football at the University of Cincinnati and rounded into such solid performers that they were drafted. Both were selected by their teams when Andy Reid was coach.
Philadelphia made Jason a sixth-round pick in 2011. Two years later, when Reid was in Kansas City, Travis went to the Chiefs in the third.
Now, Jason anchors the best offensive line in the league. He’s considered undersized at 6 feet 3 and 295 pounds, but he’s quick and knows blocking angles as well as any lineman in the game.
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In 2020, early in the coronavirus pandemic, Ed Kelce moved from Cleveland to the Philadelphia suburbs so he could be closer to Jason and his wife, Kylie, who have a nine-acre farm and are expecting their third daughter in February.
Ed lives a mile away, gets to see his granddaughters all the time, and helps the family grow produce in their four 100-foot raised vegetable beds. They grow tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, all sorts of peppers and the like, and donate the bulk of it to underprivileged families.
When he visits Kansas City, Ed stays with Travis. His son has a suite in his home for his dad that’s tucked behind the weight room and is quieter than the more heavily-trafficked parts of the house.
Now, the parents are bracing for a new and unprecedented situation and challenge.
“We’ll try to enjoy it,” Ed said of the Super Bowl. “But by 10 o’clock Sunday night, somebody’s brokenhearted and somebody’s celebrating. We’ll deal with that the best we can when it happens.”
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