Eagles’ Jason Kelce and his brother, Chiefs’ Travis Kelce, find podcast success comes naturally | Bowen (2024)

PHILADELPHIA -- Jason Kelce says he didn’t embrace the idea of the “New Heights” podcast he does with his brother, Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce, out of any aspirations to fame as a quipster or storyteller.

Wednesday, I asked Kelce his favorite thing about doing the show, which debuted Sept. 7. On Sept. 21 it became the No. 1 most popular sports podcast on Spotify, ranking third at that time on Apple.

“Just talking to my brother,” Kelce said. “In the span of the season, obviously, you get a lot of stuff going on. In past years we don’t do a great job of keeping in touch. Being able to do this once a week, like, forces us to keep in touch. It’s been really fun, just from that perspective.”


Has the quick success surprised him?

“Yeah. I’m surprised -- I never really had that many expectations, going into it,” Jason said. “I guess I’m surprised because I still feel like we’re not very good at it.”

The Eagles center and the Chiefs tight end, pillars of their respective NFL franchises, record on Tuesdays, the day players traditionally are off. They don’t just wing it -- there’s a production staff that helps set the list of topics and so forth. This week, the staff got actor-comedian Paul Rudd to become the podcast’s first guest. Rudd, a Passaic native, is a Chiefs fan and a friend of Travis Kelce.

“Kudos to you guys,” Jason Kelce said to reporters. “Interviewing people is not easy. You’re supposed to make it feel like a conversation and make somebody comfortable. I feel like I was just not very good at it at all. It was a surprise for my brother [whose 33rd birthday was Wednesday], so the whole burden was on me to kind of set the stage. Paul kind of saved the day by just being the charismatic guy he is, but I’m quickly realizing that might not be as easy as other people have made it look.”

The brothers have an easy rapport, as you might expect. Travis tends to come off as more voluble, excitable; Jason, who turns 35 on Nov. 5,often seems to take on a more serious, reflective tone. Nothing about their interaction seems forced or faked.

“We’re just talking ball. Obviously, there’s a lot going on with football right now, so there’s plenty of football to talk about,” Jason said. “We know a thing or two in that realm. Outside of that, it’s really just how my brother and I talk to each other, regardless of whether the camera’s on or not.”

In their first episode, Jason spoke of the podcast as “a way for us to be authentic,” and promised “unframed opinions.” The title is a reference to their hometown of Cleveland Heights, Ohio.

Travis kidded Jason about the cattle farm Jason bought in Missouri -- something that Travis, who plays in Missouri, indicated he would not ever think of doing.

“I had to castrate my first bull,” Jason said. Then he demanded of his brother: “Have you ever cut a bull’s nuts off? I have!”

There was a discussion of Jason’s years-long dance with the topic of retirement. Jason said he would not want to announce he was going to retire, going into a season, and embark on a farewell tour.

“It becomes about you, and not about the team,” he said. “It would be a weird dynamic. If you know you’re going to retire at the end of the year, your head is not in the right place.”

On the most recent episode, the brothers recounted their teams’ Week 4 victories and reflected on the boost their podcast got from being mentioned on Monday Night Football, when Jason’s Eagles played the Vikings in Week 2. They made a nod toward Jason’s underdog apparel line, to benefit Philadelphia youth -- underdogphl.com.

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There was a candid discussion of Travis’s journey from being a very large quarterback who got thrown off the University of Cincinnati football team for a year after a positive marijuana test, to All-Pro, Hall-of-Fame bound tight end.

“I had too much fun and I was easily pulled away from what I needed to focus on,” Travis said. “There was always another party.”

“I think what you went through was one of the best things that could have happened to you,” his brother said, and Travis agreed.

They contemplated the topic of media criticism.

“We deal with it a lot in Philadelphia,” noted Jason. Both Kelces acknowledged that defensiveness is always a player’s first response. Jason went on to say that that ultimately, “you write the narrative as a player.” -- If you are doing your job, nobody’s going to say you stink.

The Rudd segment did, in fact, lag at times, maybe going on a little longer than necessary. Rudd has just wrapped up another Ant-Man movie; Jason asked about a possible tie-in with Darius Slay’s “Batman” theme for various Eagles this season. Rudd noted that Batman is DC Comics, Ant-Man is Marvel, so, probably not.

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Rudd, 53, told of the first NFL game he attended, Eagles-Giants at the Meadowlands when he was 5 or so. He mentioned Harold Carmichael, but Rudd’s most vivid memory seemed to be his father letting him urinate in the parking lot afterward, something he had not done previously.

“It really kind of opened the floodgates, so to speak,” Rudd said.

Rudd asked Jason about his iconic Super Bowl parade speech from 2018, delivered in Mummers attire. I thought I’d heard more than enough on that topic already, but it turned out I had not.

Jason told of being unable to sleep for days after the Super Bowl, and of contemplating the journey through “adversity and longing” of his teammates, his coaches, himself, and the fan base. He said nothing was written down, and that it “felt natural coming out.”

He seems to have a knack for that.

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Les Bowen is a freelance columnist who covers the Philadelphia Eagles and the NFL for NJ Advance Media.

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Eagles’ Jason Kelce and his brother, Chiefs’ Travis Kelce, find podcast success comes naturally | Bowen (2024)
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