KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Travis Kelce has long prided himself on his ability to compartmentalize his personal life and his professional life.
That ability has been put to the test the past few weeks.
Ever since the All-Pro tight end’s budding relationship with pop superstar Taylor Swift surfaced shortly before the Kansas City Chiefs’ game against the Chicago Bears last month, Kelce has become an A-list headline-maker in his own right. He learned that when paparazzi staked out Swift’s apartment in New York last week, capturing the moment he walked out the morning before the Chiefs played the Jets, while other photographers have been scoping out his own residence in the Kansas City area.
“We’re learning with the paparazzi taking photos all over the place,” Kelce admitted Friday, “but at the same time it comes with it. You’ve just got to keep living and enjoying the moments.”
Neither of the parties have divulged much about their relationship, and Kelce didn’t go into details Friday when he spoke to the media for the first time in weeks. But given that Swift has twice appeared in a suite to watch Kelce play, including alongside his mother Donna Kelce, it is easy to see why there has been such an intense focus on the duo.
The timing couldn’t be much better for either of them.
Kelce turned 34 on Thursday and is much closer to the end of his career than the beginning, and the elevation of his profile will no doubt help his post-football career. His podcast with his brother and Philadelphia Eagles center Jason Kelce, called “New Heights,” has soared in popularity, and Kelce’s mustachioed mug is suddenly popping up in advertisements and commercials for everything from State Farm and Hy-Vee to Pfizer and Experian.
Swift is on a break from her “The Eras” tour, but a film about it is due to begin playing in at least 8,500 theaters across 100 countries next week. The movie chain AMC Entertainment Holdings, which happens to be based in suburban Kansas City, said it had sold more than $100 million in advance tickets, and produced the highest single-day ticket revenue in its history.
Meanwhile, the NFL and its broadcast partners are keen to take advantage of the pop culture moment.
Asked whether Kelce was surprised by the sudden interest in him, and his relationship with Swift, he replied: “It’s worldwide, man — worldwide. It’s been magnified for sure.”
All the while, Kelce has been trying to help the Chiefs defend their Super Bowl title. They’ve won three straight after losing their opener to Detroit, and they are favored heading to Minnesota on Sunday. (No word on whether Swift will attend.)
“It felt like I was on top of the world after the Super Bowl and right now even more on top of the world,” Kelce said after Friday afternoon’s practice. “At the end of the day, I have always been pretty good about compartmentalizing and being able to stay focused in this building, so I’m just going to keep rolling with that.”
Indeed, Kelce always has juggled a life away from football.
In 2016, he starred in his own reality dating show, coincidentally, called “Catching Kelce.” He’s pitched plenty of products and services. And he’s played in numerous high-profile golf tournaments, such as a made-for-TV match alongside Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes against the NBA’s Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry just before the start of this season.
Yet none of it has ever affected his performance. Kelce had never missed a game to injury since his rookie season before a hyperextended knee kept him out against the Lions; he has played every game since. And he is riding a streak of at least 1,000 yards receiving in seven straight seasons, resulting in eight trips to the Pro Bowl and four first-team All-Pro nods.
His success is a big reason for the Chiefs’ success. They’ve won the last seven AFC West titles, hosted the last five conference championship games and won two of the three Super Bowls they have appeared in over the past four seasons.
Kelce’s profile has never been higher, though, thanks to the aura that Swift has cast upon him.
“I know I brought this on myself,” he said. “I’ve been fortunate to have fun with it. That’s all that really matters, that it’s not pissing anybody off (within the Chiefs) at least. Like I said earlier, I’ve been pretty good at compartmentalizing and making sure my focus is on winning the game, and I don’t see that changing any time soon.”
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