Almost all of the historically good players in sports have a specific trait in common: the desire to be better than they previously were.
It's something the Kansas City Chiefs have frequently preached over the past few years: strive to get 1% better every day and do things the right way. That outlook on improvement has undoubtedly played a major role in the team's success, as it's now headed to a second-consecutive Super Bowl.
Aside from quarterback Patrick Mahomes, there may be no greater example of this obsessive mindset than tight end Travis Kelce. At the age of 31, the three-time All-Pro is at the very top of his game. This season, he set career-highs in receptions (105), receiving yards (1,416), yards per reception (13.5) and touchdowns (11). Had he played in the team's final regular-season contest, those numbers would've been even more astronomical.
Despite holding records such as the tight end single-season receiving yards mark and being on pace to finish his career atop many all-time leaderboards, Kelce wants more. He knows that no matter how good he is, there's room for improvement. After Sunday's AFC Championship win over the Buffalo Bills, he put his hard work and self-reflection into perspective.
"It’s all I know how to do," Kelce said. "Attack the day, find a weakness, or find something that I can get better at when I’m in the building and when I’m out on the practice field. When I watch film, I’m my worst critic. I tell myself I’m a scrub all the time when I see myself not doing something the right way or getting locked up."
Kelce was the star of the show against the Bills, recording 13 catches for 118 yards and a pair of touchdowns on 15 targets. It didn't matter what defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier threw at him — he was going to dominate. He and Tyreek Hill, who led the team in receiving yards with 172, spearheaded an aerial assault with Mahomes delivering strike after strike. Kelce knows the best is yet to come.
"I just love this team, man," Kelce said. "This team has helped me in life in so many different ways just because of how we handle adversity, how we win football games and how we just keep getting better. I love it here, man. I can’t wait to go down to Tampa in two weeks and give them our best shot."
It would have been easy for someone in Kelce's position to take their foot off the gas and let up a little bit. His personal accomplishments transcend any tight end of this generation, with apologies to Rob Gronkowski. He's won at the highest level. He's under contract for the next five seasons.
Kelce doesn't see it that way, though. While he has at least five more years of football left, he has endless opportunities to fine-tune his already-elite game. He can be better. The Chiefs can be better. That's the scary part, and it's also why betting against this team as they pursue their second ring in as many years would be foolish. They've put the work in, and they know there's another level they still have yet to reach.