Fun-lov­ing tight ends at big game

Antelope Valley Press - - SPORTS - By DEN­NIS WASZAK

They’ve got swag­ger, style and lots and lots of catches. Kansas City’s Travis Kelce and San Fran­cisco’s Ge­orge Kittle are talk­a­tive tight ends at this year’s Su­per Bowl and among the most en­ter­tain­ing per­son­al­i­ties in the NFL — Rob Gronkowski­types who could play big roles in who wins the big game Sun­day.

MIAMI — They’ve got swag­ger, style and lots and lots of catches.

Kansas City’s Travis Kelce and San Fran­cisco’s Ge­orge Kittle are talk­a­tive tight ends at this year’s Su­per Bowl and among the most en­ter­tain­ing per­son­al­i­ties in the NFL — Rob Gronkowski-types who could play big roles in who wins the big game Sun­day.

“I just love to live life, man,” Kelce said with a big smile. “And I like to en­joy hap­pi­ness along the way.”

That comes from a guy whose silly, en­ter­tain­ing, ridicu­lous, hi­lar­i­ous — or, all of the above — dances to cel­e­brate his touch­downs in­stantly go vi­ral mo­ments af­ter he gets into the end zone.

The 6-foot-5, 260-pound Kelce has “Hit the Quan” and done “The Chicken Head” and ev­ery­thing in be­tween. He’s the life of a foot­ball party that has moved to the NFL’s big­gest stage — and with a world­wide au­di­ence watch­ing.

“I just think any time he gets the ball in the end zone, I ask him all the time, ‘How do you come up with these dances, man? Just how do you come up with all this stuff?’” said Chiefs of­fen­sive tackle Eric Fisher, who was fined $14,037 for dump­ing two beers on him­self while cel­e­brat­ing a touch­down in Kansas City’s di­vi­sional round win over Hous­ton.

“I don’t know, man,” Fisher added. “I think his touch­down cel­e­bra­tions are one of a kind and will go down in his­tory.”

Kelce is also do­ing a pretty good job of get­ting him­self into the record books with his play.

He holds the NFL record for the most sea­sons by a tight end with 1,000 or more yards re­ceiv­ing with four, and count­ing. Kelce is a fa­vorite tar­get of Pa­trick Ma­homes and es­tab­lished him­self as pos­si­bly the best all-around tight end in the game.

“Kelce’s a beast,” Chiefs wide re­ceiver Tyreek Hill said. “He’s spe­cial. I’ve never seen a guy that size to have that much abil­ity or to carry that kind of swag­ger. He’s def­i­nitely a leader.”

The 49ers say the same of the play­mak­ing Kittle, who was se­lected a first-team Al­lPro this sea­son. The thirdyear tight end has had 85 catches or more and 1,000 yards re­ceiv­ing in each of his past two years.

Kittle is a fun-lov­ing char­ac­ter whose ap­proach to the game mim­ics that of a play­ful pro­fes­sional wrestler. Af­ter all, his nick­name is “Stone Cold Kittle” — af­ter “Stone Cold” Steve Austin.

He even uses a ges­ture to cel­e­brate first downs that he bor­rowed from Pen­tagón Jr., a Mex­i­can wrestler. He makes a cir­cle with his thumb and fore­fin­ger to form a “0” and then flicks his wrist so his other fin­gers form an “M” for Pen­tagón Jr.’s catch phrase: “Cero miedo,” which means, “zero fear.”

“I think we’re all a lit­tle dif­fer­ent, but he’s unique and you see it on the field,” 49ers coach Kyle Shana­han said. “He has a per­son­al­ity where he goes 100 mph in what­ever he does. That’s prob­a­bly why he’s go­ing to have a WWE ca­reer af­ter this. What’s cool is that’s kind of who he is and then you see it on the field. That’s why whether he does per­fect or not, he al­ways makes plays with his at­ti­tude when the ball is in his hands.”

That all started when Kittle was in col­lege at Iowa, where then-tight ends coach Le­var Woods gave him home­work. The as­sign­ment: Watch videos of the best play­ers at the po­si­tion and take any­thing he can use to add to his game.

Kittle couldn’t stop look­ing at film of Kelce, filling his iPad with film of the Chiefs star. Ev­ery play, ev­ery game. “Whether it’s what he does in the red zone, how he runs his routes, his mindset ev­ery time he steps on the foot­ball field. I think the thing that re­ally kind of stands out the most is you see his per­son­al­ity when he plays and how much fun he has,” Kittle said. “Very sim­i­lar to Gronk and his per­son­al­ity, the way it shows. I think they just kind of opened the door for tight ends like me to be able to ex­press our­selves on the foot­ball field.”

Or, off it.

Kittle is an af­fa­ble guy who’s al­ways smil­ing and crack­ing jokes. Af­ter the 49ers’ vic­tory over Green Bay in the NFC cham­pi­onship game, the tight end walked around do­ing TV in­ter­views while wear­ing a T-shirt of a bare-chested quar­ter­back Jimmy Garop­polo that a fan sent to him.

Of course, pho­tos and video went vi­ral. Just like his first­down cel­e­bra­tions.

“I think we both have a re­ally good time play­ing foot­ball,” Kittle said. “You can see that on the tape. We both just en­joy be­ing out there with our team­mates. We both make plays when we’re asked to, and I think we both make plays when we’re not asked to.”

They’ve also been able to make plays when they aren’t there.

Last sea­son, Kittle had the most yards af­ter catch since the stat be­gan be­ing tracked in 2010 with 870. He ranked first this sea­son among non-run­ning backs with 602.

“One guy shouldn’t bring us down,” the 6-4, 245-pound Kittle said. “And if you have that mindset, where you’re go­ing to run through some­one’s face, it def­i­nitely makes the YAC a lot eas­ier.”

Kelce isn’t too shabby, ei­ther, rank­ing third among tight ends with 410 yards af­ter catch.

“I do be­lieve the run af­ter catch is some­thing I’ve been able to have a knack since I have been in the league,” Kelce said. “Ob­vi­ously, since Kittle has been in the league, he’s taken that to a whole other level.”

The two tight ends are far from one-di­men­sional. They do more than their fair share of block­ing, too, while con­tribut­ing to their teams’ run­ning games.

They’ll hit de­fend­ers with a smile. And, then show off some dance moves.

“I think we’re both pos­i­tive guys,” Kelce said with a big smile. “We both love to play the game and, at the same time, we both love life.”

As­so­ci­ated Press

BIG MAN Kansas City Chiefs’ Travis Kelce poses dur­ing Open­ing Night for the NFL Su­per Bowl 54 foot­ball game on Mon­day at Mar­lins Park in Miami.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.