Chiefs’ Travis Kelce says bad Combine meeting may have kept Cowboys from drafting him

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Travis Kelce was the fifth tight end selected in the 2013 NFL Draft, which seems ludicrous when viewed a decade later.

The Bengals selected Tyler Eifert with the 22nd overall pick, and Zack Ertz was taken in the second round by the Eagles. Two other tight ends were picked in the second round: Gavin Escobar (by the Cowboys) and Vance McDonald (49ers).

With the 63rd overall pick, the Chiefs chose Kelce. And that was a surprise to Kelce.

On his “New Heights” podcast with brother Jason, the Eagles center, Kelce talked last week about meeting with the Chiefs at the NFL Combine that year.

“Honestly, it didn’t even feel like they were really interviewing me,” Kelce said of the Chiefs. “It felt like everybody knew you (Jason) so well that it was just like, ‘Alright, let’s just interview the family member.’ It was almost like I was just in a room, chopping it up with like, my extended family about football. You know what I mean? It didn’t even feel like it was a real interview.

“And so I left that room like the Chiefs don’t want me. They were just doing that because of you. I mean, one of their favorite guy’s little brother, you know? Little did I know they were looking for a tight end.”

In the podcast episode, the brothers talked about all things NFL Combine. That included the two types of meetings that take place between players and teams.

One essentially is a meet and greet with other team around. The second is a formal 15-minute session with team executives and coaches.

Kelce said he didn’t make a great impression on Chiefs tight end coach Tom Melvin.

“Tom was grilling me on some, you know, plant and break steps on my routes,” Kelce recalled. “And I told him, ‘I mean, at the end of the day, I just gotta catch the ball and you know, screw the fundamentals. I gotta catch the ball.’ And Tom was like, ‘Hold on, hold on, not screw the fundamentals because it hit my hands.’ So I was essentially saying like, no matter what the fundamentals look like the ball hit my hands I gotta catch the ball.

“I don’t know if I actually said screw the fundamentals. It was just like in my head.”

That may have added to Kelce’s belief that the Chiefs wouldn’t draft him.

Infamous Cowboys meeting

Kelce estimated that he talked to about 10 teams at the Combine, which is held a month before the NFL Draft. One in particular went south quickly.

It was with the Dallas Cowboys, who asked early on about Kelce having his scholarship at Cincinnati taken away after he failed a marijuana test.

“The Cowboys were kind of pressing me about me having this red flag of missing a year and smoking weed,” Kelce recalled. “I don’t know if I was having a bad morning or what was going on but I basically was just — I don’t even know if I want to say this — it ended really fast. That meeting ended really fast. And they’re typically 15 minutes long, and I was in there for about 5 minutes.”

Jason pressed Travis to spill the beans.

“I basically just said, ‘If you guys think I’m, you know, gonna be that kind of guy or you’re questioning if I’m still that person after everything that I’ve kind of battled through to get to where I am now from missing a season, then you guys probably go somewhere else and pick somebody else,’ and that is exactly what they did,” Kelce said.

Kelce laughed as he told the story. As noted, Dallas took San Diego State’s Escobar in the second round with the 47th overall pick, and Kelce was selected by the Chiefs in the third round.

“They were trying to find the (successor) for Jason Witten. Yeah, and I botched that interview. And yeah, well, I lost a few dollars,” Kelce said, noting his draft position. “Not to say that they didn’t think Gavin was a better player going into that interview. Who knows what it really was? But I know I didn’t help myself with that. All the other meetings I stayed a full 15 minutes.”

We’ll never know if the Cowboys would have taken Kelce in the second round were it not for that interview, but either way it worked out well for the Chiefs.