July 15, 2021
Philadelphia Eagles center Jason Kelce is a three-time first-team All Pro, three-time Pro Bowler and Super Bowl champion. His younger brother, Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce, is a three-time first-team All-Pro selection, six-time Pro Bowler, Super Bowl champion and holds the NFL record for most consecutive seasons with 1,000 yards receiving by a tight end and the most receptions in a single season for a tight end, with 1,416.
You'd think the world would know how to properly pronounce Kelce, or that one of these brothers would make a point to get it clarified sooner than 2021.
Everybody has been saying "Kel-see" for more than a decade, without complication. Then Travis revealed this week on a Barstool Sports podcast that the proper pronunciation of his name is "Kelse," without the long "e" sound at the end.
"I mean, I just kind of roll with the punches," Kelce said.
This is almost as odd as if Brett Favre let people say the "v" in his name before the "r," Ben Stiller style. It might be stranger given that there are two brothers involved and they apparently didn't even bother to correct their own teammates over the years.
But after the NFL world freaked out about this on Wednesday, Jason Kelce hopped on SportsRadio 94WIP on Thursday morning to set the record straight. Here's how Kelce explained it, via Bleeding Green Nation:
My brother and I have gone by Kel-SEE our entire lives. And I still remember my dad answering the phone as ‘Ed Kelce’ all growing up when he was on work calls and everything. So, our side of the family has always gone by Kel-SEE. But we have a really small family. We don’t have any first cousins. My grandfather on that side was dead before I was born. So, somehow we got so disconnected with that side. And my dad, at some point when he was working in the steel mills in Cleveland, Ohio, got tired of correcting everybody who was calling him Kel-SEE. Apparently, the ‘correct’ pronunciation, the standard pronunciation is Kelss. That’s what the rest of the family goes by. So, my dad, out of pure laziness completely changed his last name. And now, I think we’re at the point where we’re both riding with Ed Kel-SEE. He’s, for some reason, decided to change it and that’s what we’ve gone by our whole lives. So, we’re kind of separate from the rest of the family in that regard. We’ve gotten plenty of messages and texts since becoming NFL players from extended family members all of the world saying: ‘You’re pronouncing the name wrong!’ So, yeah, that’s the story. But we would honestly go by either one, but I prefer Kel-SEE just because that’s the way I’ve said it my entire life and the way our side of the family has said it.
When Kelce played college football at the University of Cincinnati, a broadcasters' pronunciation cheat sheet clearly shows the long "e" pronunciation. Jason's explanation above helps makes sense of why his younger brother would only recently go out of his way to bring awareness to the other pronunciation.
The wild Kel-see/Kelse mixup roots back to 2007. Here is the University of Cincinnati pronunciation guide from that season, when a walk-on named Jason Kelce saw action in nine games along the offensive line in his redshirt freshman season. pic.twitter.com/hKaZWW2lfm— Pete Sweeney (@pgsween) July 14, 2021
Some fans have pointed out that Travis tried to use the alternate pronunciation as part of a broadcast package before the 2020 AFC Championship Game.
Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes and wide receiver Tyreek Hill expressed shock at Kelce's belated correction on Wednesday.
Bro he never corrected us once https://t.co/dukbRjSwev— Patrick Mahomes II (@PatrickMahomes) July 14, 2021
It's going to be hard to get anybody on board with making a switch to the pronunciation this late in the game, but it'll probably be something a few announcers joke about to fill time during the first few games of the NFL season in September. These guys should just stick with what has worked for them, anyway.