The Travis Kelce Reality Dating Show He Doesn’t Want You to See

“Travis is different from anybody Taylor has dated before,” an Us Weekly source said this week of the burgeoning relationship between Taylor Swift and Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce. That statement is true on a few fronts: not only is Kelce the first professional athlete to catch Swift’s eye, but he’s also the first podcast host and, perhaps most unexpectedly, only former reality dating show lead.

Back in 2016, Kelce was being pursued on the E! dating reality series Catching Kelce—which Tom Kludt called “pretty rough viewing” in Vanity Fair’s profile of Kelce published earlier this year.

The athlete previously addressed the series while hosting Saturday Night Live in March. “It was kind of like The Bachelor, except instead of roses I handed out footballs, and instead of watching, people did not.” Case in point: “That show is owned by NBCUniversal, so it should be on Peacock, but Peacock said, ‘Nah, we good.’” At least, that was true until Kelce’s actual dating life heated up—and the streamer promptly made all seven episodes available again.

The renewed interest in Kelce’s backstory makes sense. But how did he get his own dating show in the first place? Well, despite five-year, $46 million contract extension with the Chiefs—which the show frequently references as a sign of Kelce’s relevance—Kelce says that in those days he was strapped for cash.

“I turned down the show about 100 times is what it felt like,” he said on The Pivot podcast this year. “I was having so much fun buying whatever the hell I wanted to, going wherever the hell I wanted to. There were times in the off-season, I was avoiding the rent lady. It was that bad.” So finally, he gave in, “I heard about this situation where I could make six figures in two weeks and I was like, ‘Hell yeah. And 50 ladies? I’m like, ‘This is actually starting to sound a little better.’”

Like Love Is Blind’s pods or the hands-off conceit of Too Hot to Handle, Catching Kelce’s gimmick is that 50 women—one from each state—will compete for the footballer’s affections. He’s armed with guidance from his manager Aaron Eanes and older brother Jason, a center for the Philadelphia Eagles with whom Travis hosts their hit New Heights podcast. Unlike The Bachelor, the winner can’t expect an engagement; unlike Love Island there is no cash prize., They’ll only get the treasured title of Kelce’s “first girlfriend in the NFL.”

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