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How Jason and Travis Kelce Became ‘The Men That They Are Today,’ According to Mom Donna (Exclusive)

It’s not easy being the most famous mom in America. “Every once in a while, I’ll have somebody that runs into the bathroom after me, and I’m like, ‘Can we wait until we get out of here before you take my picture?’” Donna Kelce told Us with a laugh.

The 71-year-old has been a household name since her two sons, Jason and Travis Kelce, went head-to-head in Super Bowl 2023. She says she’s still adjusting to life in the public eye. “It can be a little unnerving at times, but basically, everybody’s been very, very kind and respectful.”

Months after Travis won his third Super Bowl ring and Jason announced his official retirement after 13 years with the Philadelphia Eagles, Kelce Mania is still in full effect. In late April, the Chiefs offered Travis, 34, a two-year deal worth $34.25 million, making him the highest-paid tight end in the NFL. His high-profile romance with Taylor Swift has propelled him to A-list status, and as Us first reported, he’ll be hosting the Amazon Prime game show Are You Smarter Than a Celebrity? Meanwhile, 36-year-old Jason — who shares daughters Wyatt, 4, Ellie, 3, and Bennett, 14 months, with his wife of six years, Kylie Kelce — is joining ESPN’s Monday Night Countdown. The siblings’ podcast, “New Heights,” remains on the top of the charts.

No one is more proud of the pair’s successes on and off the field than Donna. In signature Kelce fashion, she refuses to take too much credit for raising two of the most beloved — and grounded — sports figures in recent history alongside their dad, Ed Kelce. (The pair divorced in 2008 after 25 years of marriage.)

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“[Travis and Jason] had phenomenal coaches, fantastic teachers and great families who were around us,” she said. “It was a menagerie of all those individuals with all those great qualities that rubbed off on them. I’m just very happy they turned into the men that they are.”

Donna Kelce Jason Kelce Travis Kelce Us Weekly 2421 No Chip Cover
AP; Getty Images

Beyond their record-breaking athletic achievements, the duo are equally celebrated for being stand-up guys. They’ve been hailed for their refreshing vulnerability, with neither shying away from showing emotion. In the 2022 Amazon Prime documentary Kelce (the streamer’s most-watched doc ever chronicled Jason’s 2022-2023 NFL season), Travis tears up when recounting how his big brother vouched for him after Travis was kicked off the University of Cincinnati’s roster for testing positive for marijuana. (“Without that big guy, I don’t know what I’d be doing,” Travis said.)

The siblings cried openly during Jason’s touching retirement speech on March 4, prompting an outpouring of emotion from fans on social media. “Jason & Travis Kelce should be considered role models for modern men,” wrote one commenter. “Whatever Ed and Donna did to help their sons become emotionally available needs to be studied,” posted another.

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Donna says that, above all else, she and Ed raised their sons to be kind. “I just wanted to make sure that they treated everyone the same. I said, ‘I don’t care if they’re the individuals who are cleaning the toilets or they’re the CEO of organizations,’” Donna told Us at the QVC Women’s Summit on April 24 in Las Vegas. “It’s basically, treat everybody with respect, like you would want to be treated.”

Travis and Jason grew up in Cleveland Heights, Ohio, playing every sport imaginable. (Donna previously told Us that she was a high school sprinter, noting, “It stands to reason that my boys would be able to move quickly on the field too.”)

Donna Kelce Instagram How Donna Kelce Turned Jason Kelce and Travis Kelce Into The Men They Are Today Us Weekly 2421
Courtesy of Donna Kelce/Instagram

“Jason and Travis were very active, and if we wanted any sanity in the household at all, we knew we had to keep them extremely busy,” Donna says in Kelce. Money was tight. “There’s always a thought of, ‘Financially, can we handle it?’ And maybe [we] scrimp and save on some other issues,” she added. “Like maybe not have the best house on the street, not have the best car.”

Donna, a former banker, made sacrifices — she and Ed didn’t have the happiest marriage but stayed together for the kids. Without a ton of relatives around, they were a tight-knit unit. “Our family has always been very small,” Donna told Us. “[It was] just the four of us.”

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They’re all still close. (Donna and Ed have both been fixtures at games, with Donna recently sharing that they remain “friends to this day.”) In February, Travis called his unaffected mom “a saint,” adding, “You can ask her anything. She’s very down-to-earth, very humble.” Donna’s been nearly as busy as her boys, working with various brands including Ancestry and Heluva Good! dips.

How Donna Kelce Turned Jason Kelce and Travis Kelce Into The Men They Are Today Us Weekly 2421
David Eulitt/Getty Images

She approves of Travis’ nine-month romance with Swift, 34, telling Us at the QVC event that she thinks Swift’s new album, The Tortured Poets Department, is her “best one.” She also has a great bond with Kylie. “We’re very similar in our likes and dislikes and how we feel about the world,” Donna said. She’s a hands-on grandma to Kylie and Jason’s girls. “When I’m with them, I’m in the moment,” she said. “I want to read to them and build blocks, and I try to be as active as I can be.”

The parenting advice she now gives Jason is the same philosophy she lived by when he and Travis were kids. “Let your children choose what they love to do,” she told Us. “They will be good at whatever they love. It’s just the way it is. Find out what [that is] and support it. That’s the best you can do.”

For more on the Kelce family’s rise to stardom, watch the video above and pick up the latest issue of Us Weekly, on stands now.

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