Travis Kelce: Cowboys Passed On Me Over Pot-Related Suspension

Travis Kelce: Cowboys Passed On Me Over Pot-Related Suspension

Travis and Jason Kelce—probably the most famous brothers to play recently in the NFL—discussed how weed-related suspensions can haunt players for years to come in a recent podcast. But for Travis it changed the course of his career, sending him on a path as a tight end for the Kansas City Chiefs.

In a recent podcast New Heights with Jason & Travis Kelce, they discussed the year-long suspension that haunted Travis after he tested positive for THC in 2010 while playing for when Travis played college football for the University of Cincinnati Bearcats. In 2013, the Dallas Cowboys passed on him in an interview while scouting for talent, he explained in the podcast.

After testing positive for THC in a drug test, was suspended the entire 2010 season for what the Bearcats called a “violation of team rules,” which was in fact failing a drug test for cannabis. When he tested positive, Travis was in New Orleans for the 2010 Sugar Bowl with Cincinnati. Not only was he judged and ridiculed for supposedly being immature for smoking pot, but it ended up having serious consequences at the NFL’s annual combine where they scout out new talent for future NFL stars. 

USA Today reported that while future Kansas City Chiefs coach Andy Reid had faith in him, regardless of the failed drug test and subsequent suspension, “America’s Team”—the Dallas Cowboys—declined to accept him at the annual NFL combine in 2013, instead recruiting someone else. He recalled the course of events that year on the podcast, as his brother Jason pressed him for more details.

“At the combine, I had some bad interviews,” Travis said. “The Cowboys, they were kind of pressing me about having this red flag of missing a year—smoking weed. I don’t know if I was having a bad morning, I basically was just, I don’t even know if I want to say this.”

While Travis seemed reluctant to discuss it, Jason encouraged his brother to elaborate.

“It ended really fast,” Travis added. “I basically just said, ‘If you guys think I’m gonna be that kind of guy or you’re questioning if I’m still that person after everything that I’ve battled through to get to where I am now from missing a season, then you guys probably go somewhere else and pick somebody else.’ That is exactly what they did.”

So who did the Cowboys recruit instead of Kelce? The Cowboys ended up drafting tight end Gavin Escobar in the second round. He spent five seasons in the league, catching just 30 passes for 333 yards and eight touchdowns. In 2023, Travis caught 984 receiving yards, with 1,138 receiving yards in 2022.

Escobar ended up being the 47th overall pick in 2013, while Kelce fell to 63, the first selection of the third round, by the Kansas City Chiefs.

The episode was shared March 2 on social media.

The brothers have discussed the 2010 suspension several times before. In an earlier podcast in December 2023, episode 231 of Bussin’ With the Boys, Travis mentioned his 2010 suspension and explained that it actually led him from switching positions as quarterback to tight end.

“What it did was it really kicked me into the tight end room,” Travis said. “I was still playing QB then. It was like, ‘Alright, you can come walk on the team, but we don’t need a quarterback. You can just be an athlete on scout team for a year, we’ll figure it out.’”

The tight end acknowledged how much things have changed. Travis in particular has opened up before about how common pot is for NFL players, and how they typically get away with it despite drug tests.

In June 2023, Travis estimated that up to 80% of players in the NFL smoke pot. “If you just stop [smoking weed] in the middle of July, you’re fine,” he said. “A lot of guys stop a week before and they still pass [drug tests] because everybody’s working out in the heat and sweating their tail off. Nobody’s really getting hit for it anymore.”

Former tight end Martellus Bennett estimated that closer to “89 percent” of NFL players smoke pot, and former running back Ricky Williams, who was also suspended for smoking pot, suggested “at least 80%” of players did the same. Williams, Marshawn Lynch, Tiki Barber, Calvin Johnson, and others have also invested in pot-related companies.

This aligns with what is seen in other pro sports leagues like the NBA and MMA organizations like the UFC. 

Jason also recently announced his retirement from the NFL after playing for 13 seasons.

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