Travis Kelce opens up on Chiefs’ slow start, how Kansas City will turn season around, and more

Travis Kelce and the Kansas City Chiefs aren’t off to the start they wanted, even though the team is showing signs of turning the season around. Kansas City earned a tough victory over Washington last week — led by a strong second half on both sides of the ball. The Chiefs have another tough challenge on Sunday when they face the Tennessee Titans, a game that could dictate how their 2021 will unfold in their quest to win a sixth straight AFC West crown.

While Kelce has been productive on the field (38 catches, 468 yards, four touchdowns), he’s been dominant off the field through his Eighty-Seven & Running foundation. Kelce, who already raises money through the foundation with his production on the field, collaborated with Pepsi and his clothing line, Tru Kolors, to launch limited edition T-shirts where a portion of the proceeds will go toward the foundation. 

“I’m encouraging everybody to stay true to themselves and am appreciating others toward doing the same,” Kelce said. “It’s really just giving back to the community and gets into the youth, the kids in the community. It affects the historically underserved, underprivileged kids throughout the city.”

Pepsi also gave $10,000 toward the Eighty-Seven & Running foundation, a donation Kelce admires as their partnership continues to grow — along with his foundation. Kelce started the Eighty-Seven & Running foundation in 2015 to provide opportunities to disadvantaged youth and to help them aspire beyond their current situations.

“I’ve teamed up with them (Pepsi) throughout my career in Kansas City. I’ve done a lot of stuff with them over the years because they give so much back to the community,” Kelce said. “This is just another way we’re on the same page. Eighty-Seven & Running has done a huge job in terms of giving back to the community and the underserved kids in the community in Kansas City. Pepsi is just being grateful in helping out with that and catapulted us in that direction as well. These past couple years have been hard times on everybody and a little help is always worth it.” 

Kelce sat down with CBS Sports to talk about the 2021 Chiefs so far, the Week 7 matchup with the Titans, and how Kansas City is going to turn its season around.

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The Chiefs are back to .500 and sitting at 3-3. Where do you see this team after six games? 

Kelce: “Confident. We’re coming off a big win and Washington is a good football team. They’re a very physical football team and we knew that going in. It didn’t start off the way we wanted it to, but it ended the way we wanted it to. We came out in the second half wit a lot of energy and a lot of passion to play for each other. 

“That’s what this game is all about. Going out and being accountable, wanting to win the game for the guy next to you. Sure enough, we rallied together and we had a fun second half.”

You guys must have said something at halftime to get the flames burning with 21 unanswered points in the second half.

Kelce: “To be be honest, it’s just us being who we are. We have all the confidence in the world we can win any game in the National Football League. We really do. We think our team sizes up great against anybody. So just going out there and not hurting ourselves with penalties and turnovers, missed tackles — opportunities we’re not taking advantage of. 

“I think everything has been kind of self-inflicted. I’m not taking anything away from the teams that we lost to. Those teams are really good teams and they beat us. We have to live with that the rest of the year. I think what it’s done is motivate us to kind of tighten the ship, get us a little bit more focused on the details, and play a little bit harder for each other knowing how much people are trying to separate us.” 

The Chiefs have another tough matchup this week against the Titans. Can you tell me a little bit about this Titans team?

Kelce: “Watching that Monday night game, that was pretty impressive. This is a big challenge for us based on how physical this team is. They got great coaches over there. Coach (Mike) Vrabel is someone I’m very familiar with being from Ohio and going up against his defenses throughout my career and they’re always very well-prepared going into a game.

“We’re up for the challenge to go into a hostile environment in Tennessee and try to find another way to win.” 

How does Mike Vrabel and his defenses make your job difficult?

Kelce: “They’re very physical. They run a very physical team over there. You can see in the way they run their offense how they like to run the ball and play downhill. They have big, big receivers out on the wings and they have great tight ends that can make plays in the run and pass game.

“And defensively, that front seven is one of the best in the league. They have big physical guys that try to come off the ball and be the bully and force their physical dominance. We have some big dudes up front that are physical as well.”

Can you explain the success of your offensive line this year. Personally, I think it’s been phenomenal. 

Kelce: “It’s been awesome just having the guys in the building. The young guys have turned into real professionals because of the leadership that the veteran guys have come in with. Joe Thuney, Orlando Brown, Mike Remmers — there’s a lot of leadership in that room. 

“When you’re around that offensive line group, you can see they’re having a blast. That helps the camaraderie, the chemistry of the team. You have a lot of good dudes that just want to get better at football and have fun doing it. What they’ve done for the offense this year has been second to none. I think they’ve really catapulted us into being one of the top offenses in the league.” 

Does it feel like the Chiefs are the underdog this year? Are you embracing an underdog role?

Kelce: “I don’t think anybody has the mentality on this team that we’re lesser of a team than anybody else. There’s a lot of confidence in who we are and what we built here over the past couple years. We just have to go out there and play a little bit harder for the guy next to you. This year, in general, has definitely challenged us more so than others and it’s going to make us a better football team in the long run.” 

You played your brother a few weeks ago. How was that exchange after the game? Any jersey exchanges or anything special you two did? 

Kelce: “Oh I’ve stolen a few of his jerseys, so I got a few of them around the house! It was cool to see him, my mom, my father, all my family. Those are memories that I’ll hold dear to my heart my entire life. Being on that field, sharing that experience with my brother. Not a lot of brothers get to do that. It’s something special and definitely cool to come out of Philly with a win, too.”

The Eagles played you guys pretty tough.

Kelce: “They have a lot of good talent. They have some good coaches over there that are putting them in good situations. We were hitting on all cylinders in terms of the offense and everyone was making plays. We handled business going in there and playing the Eagles, especially in the Linc (Lincoln Financial Field).”

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