Donna Kelce is my new best friend. OK, so I’m not quite sure whether the feeling is mutual, but we did bond over weathering the chaos of raising our respective all-boy households: broken furniture, roughhousing mishaps, and so many groceries. The difference is, my boys are still tweens and teens throwing a football across the living room — and hers, 35-year-old Jason and 33-year-old Travis — are preparing to throw a football across State Farm Stadium in Arizona for what is arguably the biggest U.S. sporting event of the year: the Super Bowl. The Kelce brothers are on opposing teams, Jason playing as center for the Philadelphia Eagles and Travis playing as tight end for the Kansas City Chiefs, which makes Donna the first mother to have two sons play against one another in the Super Bowl … and, consequently, a hot commodity these days.
I asked her if all the recent media attention was overwhelming, but she takes it all in stride: “I’m very comfortable meeting anyone. The trick is to just be yourself, right?”
When it comes to watching her sons battle it out for the Super Bowl win, though, I’m not sure she’ll be able to maintain that level of calm. As any sports parent knows, it’s nerve-wracking enough to watch your middle-schooler compete in some sort of regional championship — so I can’t imagine handling Super Bowl-caliber stress levels … times two. But Donna and her husband, Ed Kelce, wouldn’t miss it for the world.
Just don’t try to ask them which team they want to win, which Donna says is one of the things she’s asked the most. “You can’t answer because you want them both to win,” she says, like any mom who doesn’t want her child — not even her grown child — to face the heartbreak of a major loss. “One’s gonna come out a broken person, you know. It’s difficult when you put in that much effort, that many hours, at anything … and to not get the end result you want is very frustrating, of course. So there’s nothing that I can say or help them with, to make it any better.”
But handling a disappointing loss is nothing new; it’s all part of the good sportsmanship that Donna and Ed worked hard to instill in their boys from childhood, when they played a variety of youth sports. They could try out anything they wanted, Donna tells me, and they did — basketball, soccer, football, lacrosse, hockey, and even a little wrestling — but the Kelces had a rule for their kids: if you wanted to try out a sport, you had to commit to the entire season — no quitting. “Once it’s over, if you don’t like that team, or if you don’t like that sport, you don’t have to play anymore,” she says. “But your team depends on you. You have to show up on time, every day, whether you want to or not.”
Between practices, games, and tournaments, I know how much weekly time my kids’ sports consume (spoiler alert: a ton), so I had to ask Donna an important question, mom to mom: on busy weeknights, when she and Ed were trying to balance work and household and extracurriculars, did she manage to get a healthy meal into her kids every evening? I mean, surely it takes some sort of supremely nutritious diet to raise NFL champions, right? I can barely manage to throw something in the Crock Pot on even the slowest of days, so I had to know.
Laughing, Donna admits that like most moms, she fed her kids convenience foods probably more than what was ideal. Many of their meals, she said, were “from a jar, from a cup, from a pastry.” This was backed up by her sons on a recent episode of their hit podcast, New Heights With Jason and Travis Kelce, when Ed and Donna made a guest appearance.
“We never got vegetables growing up,” the brothers dished. “We ate Georgio’s Oven Fresh Pizza every single night … Hamburger Helper … Bagel Bites …” There was also mention of an abundance of PB&J sandwiches and the ubiquitous “beans and weenies.” Donna insists she would try to get them a well balanced meal at least three times a week, but that Travis refused to eat a vegetable. “You do what you can,” she says, and some of my dinnertime mom-guilt is instantly relieved.
One non-vegetable treat she still feeds her kids? Cookies. She famously delivered them each a container of home-baked chocolate chip cookies on Super Bowl opening night, because, she says that of all the kinds of cookies she bakes, “those are their favorites.” She even let me in on what makes hers so special: she melts the butter, uses two types of chips — white and milk chocolate — and refrigerates the dough overnight before baking. Ever the supportive mama, she knew that her boys would appreciate the pre-game pick-me-up.
But Donna’s motherly encouragement doesn’t end at cookies. She partnered with KIND snacks to record the sweetest, most uplifting message to her sons — and in turn, KIND is donating $10,000 to the Philadelphia Youth Sports Collaborative and Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Kansas City to help ensure all kids have the opportunity to play sports. What a win, no matter who takes home the championship!
When it comes to taking home the coveted Vince Lombardi trophy, Donna tells me, both her sons are equally determined. “They’re pros,” she says. “Winning is the only thing. Getting those dubs. Losing is non-negotiable; it’s not going to happen.” Confidence, she says, is key: “They have to truly believe every single time they go out there, they’re gonna win. Because if you don’t believe it, it’s not gonna happen.”
Regardless of the outcome of this year’s Super Bowl, one of her boys is going to lose … and it’s going to sting. But like the pros that they are, Donna says, whoever takes the loss is just going to deal with it over time — and the winner is going to have bragging rights at the Thanksgiving table.
“All I can do is tell them I love them,” she says. Spoken like a true mom.
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