PHOENIX -- Travis Kelce wouldn't be on the fast track to the Pro Football Hall of Fame without his brother, Jason. Once a talented tight end prospect at the University of Cincinnati, the younger Kelce -- flamboyant and wild in his own way -- was more trouble than he was worth.
Travis was suspended from the Bearcats due to a violation of team rules. Cincinnati didn't want him around the program and was ready to move on from the younger Kelce.
In came big brother Jason, a staple of what the Cincinnati program represented. Travis needed to get back on his feet.
"I got my scholarship taken, too. I was actually staying with my brother," Travis said this week. "I was in his room, his house. Kind of like two brothers growing up living in the same room. In terms of rent, I wasn't paying it. In terms of food, he was helping me with that.
"I was literally living off him for quite a while. He was my lifeline. That being said, every single day I was trying to do the right things."
The process wasn't easy to get Travis reinstated to Cincinnati. Jason stuck his neck out for Travis as he was getting his life back together.
"He's matured," Jason said regarding his younger brother. "He came in young and very rambunctious, but we all change over the course of a career. Life changes as we get older, with values and energy level. He's gotten older. He's gotten more mature."
Jason wasn't going to allow Travis to throw it all away, and he didn't want Cincinnati to waste an opportunity, either. Travis was on the right path, a road that was worth Cincinnati taking another chance on him.
"He went into the coaches office and talked to numerous coaches to try and give me another chance," Travis said. "I'm forever in debt to this guy for putting his name, our name -- the Kelce name -- on the line. When I say I owe it all to him, I really do."
Twelve years later, the Kelce brothers are the first brothers to face each other in a Super Bowl. They are the stars of Super Bowl LVII, both on their own unique paths to the Pro Football Hall of Fame and franchise icons for the Philadelphia Eagles and Kansas City Chiefs.
Jason has always looked out for Travis over the years, being the older brother of the Kelce clan. The Kelces aren't that far apart in age (Jason is 35 and Travis is 33), as the 25-month gap is close enough for the two that they engaged in the same sports and had the same friendships. Being only two grades apart, Travis looked out for Jason as much as Jason looked out for him.
"As a big brother, you probably offer a little bit more in terms of mentorship. But he's been there for me, too; it's not like it's a one-way street," Jason said. "I really think that both of us are incredibly lucky to have a lot of people that when self doubt crept in, we all were very fortunate to have coaches, mentors, parents, teachers, that have been there to continue to fortify that belief in ourselves.
"There's been critical moments for me when he's been there for me. There's been moments when I've been there for him. We truly do believe in each other. We always have. That's not just the role of a big brother, but a brother in general. We've certainly done that for each other."
There wasn't a better example of that moment than when the Eagles won the NFC Championship Game two weeks ago and were celebrating in the locker room. The Chiefs were minutes away from kicking off, and Jason knew the story was coming on potentially facing Travis in the Super Bowl.
He didn't hesitate.
"I got a Kansas City sweatshirt I'm gonna wear for the next three hours, and then that's it for the rest of the year," Kelce said after the win. "Win or lose, I'm done being a Chiefs fan."
Jason stayed true to his word, immediately taking off the Chiefs sweatshirt once Kansas City punched its Super Bowl ticket. Travis' reaction was priceless when Jason had nothing under the sweatshirt, showing off his lineman belly as he put on his Eagles gear.
"Initially I got a little teary eyed to see my dad and his disbelief that this was actually happening," Travis said when he finally got to see the video. "To see my mom and her disbelief, those are the moments you don't get to experience. Those moments are family, you see the emotion they pour in watching me and my brother play.
"I get to experience that watching him. To see the excitement and the happiness they get. Man, that's the best."
The Hall of Fame case
Both of the Kelce brothers will be heading to the Hall of Fame when their careers are over, which is part of what makes this brother matchup so special. Jason is the top player at his position in the game while Travis easily can say the same -- both dominating the sport in their mid 30s.
Jason has five first-team All-Pro selections at center, all of which coming in the past six years. The elder Kelce brother is one of just eight centers to earn five first-team All-Pro selections, and the previous seven each have made the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Travis is fifth all-time amongst tight ends in receptions (814), fourth in receiving yards (10,344) and sixth in touchdowns (69). He's has the most 1,000-yard seasons for a tight end with six, all of which have been consecutive. His 127 receptions are second all-time in NFL postseason history, and his 1,469 receiving yards are also second. The 15 receiving touchdowns Kelce has in the playoffs are tied for second most in NFL history.
The Kelce brothers could retire together and both would get in Canton on their first try.
Jason Kelce and Travis Kelce (Tale of the Tape)
First Team All-Pro selections
Super Bowl titles
Cleveland Heights represent
The Kelce brothers are the pride of Cleveland Heights, Ohio, eight miles to the east of Cleveland proper. Jason and Travis grew up as competitive athletes, each working to be the best player in any sport they practiced.
Travis always had the leg up over Jason in that department. He was a former quarterback while Jason was anchoring the offensive line.
"Trav could have been an athlete in a lot of other sports," Jason said. "He's got a natural gift of size and speed obviously. He's got a good mind for sports. He's not just big and tall and fast -- it's how he uses his body. It's how smooth he is. It's how he can deceive people. All of that stuff, he's brilliant in that regard.
"I think he would have been successful in a lot of different sports. My best bet was offensive line, not him."
Travis and Jason kept that competitiveness long after leaving Cleveland Heights High School. As evidenced by their respective championship parades, the Kelce brothers can drink with the best of them. Have they engaged in a drinking contest recently?
The last time they faced off, Travis didn't hold back on who took first place.
"I haven't had a chug off with my brother since like college. I steeped up to the plate and won that duel," Travis said. "I'm not gonna say I won by a landslide, but it was a clear-cut winner. That was probably the biggest win of my life."
Jason had to point out how well Travis does when the Chiefs square off against the Eagles. Not only has Travis never lost to Jason in the NFL, but he's played well when he's faced off against his brother -- including having eight catches for 103 yards and a score in a Chiefs' victory in 2017.
"I think he's motivated by the fact he's playing me," Jason said with a smile. "Hopefully we can limit that motivation this week."
As for Cleveland Heights? The high school resembles the famous jersey Donna Kelce wears to games, lit up and red and green throughout the week to show support for the community they are proud of.
"It's huge for my brother and I. It's huge for our family. It's huge for our community, too," Jason said. "Everybody might think it's Christmas up there. Maybe they're being lazy with the Christmas decorations, but it's actually for a reason.
"We went to the same high school, the same college. There's been lot of people that helped us and get to where we're at today. I feel very helpful, very prideful that we're out there together and all the people that have been there along the way are able to celebrate and enjoy they played a hand in getting us here."
The hectic week
Both Kelce brothers have embraced this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, not letting the brother-vs-brother matchup become a distraction in the craziness leading up to the game. The Kelces are the story of Super Bowl LVII, soaking in every single moment of a week that they will remember forever.
"I'm doing a lot more media than I probably care to do, but it's all good," Jason said. "I'm having a lot of fun. I'm having a blast."