KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The rise to the NFL for Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce didn’t come easy.
Jeff Rotsky knew that from the jump.
The former Cleveland Heights head football coach, who coached Kelce in his senior year of high school, has seen everything, even when Kelce lost his scholarship and was suspended for one season at the University of Cincinnati.
But now, Rotsky has seen the growth and improvements.
“He wanted to win at everything and compete. He wanted everyone to be at his level from the phases and involvements I had with him,” Rotsky said.
“There are great stories about Trav, starting with the competitiveness to the recruitment trips with my son. He knew how to have fun and have a good time.”
Kelce was a third-round pick for the Chiefs in the 2013 NFL Draft. He’s been a standout player ever since, with many players, coaches and fans considering him the best tight end in the league.
The stats support why that may be the case.
During the 2022 season, Kelce recorded his seventh consecutive 1,000-yard receiving season. While doing that, he had 152 targets and caught 110 passes for 1,338 yards and 12 touchdowns, marking a career-high in all categories besides yards since coming into the league in 2013.
In addition, during two postseason games so far this year, Kelce caught 21 passes for 176 yards and three touchdowns.
It’s another example of his growth over the years.
Kelce played quarterback in high school, but Rotsky knew he had the talent to play tight end due to his abilities.
“He was terrific and the only guy I know that can play in Division I in football, basketball and baseball,” Rotsky said. “One of his challenges was he needed to learn to uplift his team and become a leader. Not only I saw that when I coached him, but I can see it now with the Chiefs.”
“He had an arm and can run as well,” Rotsky added. “I knew in my heart that he would be a tight end. I told his parents that he would be one of the greatest athletic tight ends even when playing in Cincinnati and would have a monster success in the NFL if he achieve the right things.”
It was easy for Rotsky to compare Kelce to other famous tight ends due to his athleticism and his size.
“Six-foot-six, athletic and had unbelievable ball skills,” Rotsky said. “When you go back and think about Tony Gonzalez and Antonio Gates, Trav was them.”
Rotsky said Kelce is a role model now to those growing up in challenging circumstances and looking for motivation to rise above their situations and strive for greatness.
“I appreciate all the things he’s done in his career and what he has done for my family,” Rotsky said. “That’s simply saying what kind of person he is.”
Rotsky had a man-to-man talk with Kelce about doing it right as he struggled, trying to turn losses into lessons.
That’s what Rotsky preaches to his players all the time, and Kelce came back stronger from the struggles.
“The story is your going to have issues in your life, and it can be lessons,” Rotsky said. “Look at Trav for example, he didn’t put his head in his pillow. He didn’t cry about it, and he made some mistakes and came back stronger and was better for it.”
“That’s what I tell my players all the time. Learn how to get back up when you are knocked down. Most of the players I coach are young Black men, and I know our kids learn my philosophy of G.F.G.F. — God, family, grades, and football. That’s what Trav was all about.”
Rotsky said he thinks both Kelce brothers will be in the NFL Hall of Fame, and he’s excited they’ll make history this year as the first brothers competing in a Super Bowl.
When asked for his prediction to win the Super Bowl, Rotsky said he’s picking the Chiefs.
“I love them both, and I have to stay with my heart,” he said. “It’s going to be one the greatest Super Bowls of all time.”