George Kittle is a showman comparable to a WWE superstar wrestler. He is a human earthquake.
The Pro Bowl tight end doesn’t just love the glamor aspect of the position of running a clean route to leap and catch a touchdown. He loves to layout a hard-hitting block for his running back running down the sideline.
He loves the physical contact of wrestling a defender trying to bring him down by shoving them out of the way with a thunderous stiff arm. He psyches himself up pregame by turning into an alter ego, Heath Ledger’s portrayal of the Joker, who he got tattooed on his forearm the day before getting married. He’s an entertainer, a renaissance man, and a competitor who genuinely loves and is energized by what he does every day.
The general assumption of sports culture when you have a motor like Kittle’s is that you have to villainize your competition to be better than them at everything to be the best. We all saw how Michael Jordan manufactured beef between players and coaches to give himself a chip on his shoulder in the docuseries The Last Dance. When you’re working to be the best at what you do, there are instant comparisons made to the other competitors, and for some reason, we want to pit them against each other like gladiators in a coliseum to determine who the best is.
As Kittle has become one of the best tight young tight ends in recent memory, signing the largest contract for his position in NFL history, we created some rivalry between him and the other comparable greats- the Travis Kelce’s, the Rob Gronkowski’s, and the Darren Wallers of the league.
Rather than create enemies out of those guys, working on adding a move that they don’t have, train privately to get a leg up on them, or analyze their strengths and weaknesses to expose them, George Kittle is promoting the brand.
He’s not rooting for other tight ends to fail; in fact, it’s quite the opposite- he’s fueled up and energized for his fellow tight ends to succeed. Their success makes him want to be better.
He’s so positively extraverted in this way that he took that 5-year, $75-million contract and built a workout barn at his offseason home in Nashville for him and his boys to better each other together. He’s brought guys like Lions’ tight end TJ Hockenson, Packers’ tight ends Robert Tonyan, and Dominique Dafney. That’s what it all started as just a selfless facility for him to better himself and work out with some of the guys, but it’s now grown into something that could potentially shake up the league and grow the value and the ceiling.
of the position entirely. George Kittle, Travis Kelce of the Kansas City Chiefs, and retired all-pro tight end Greg Olsen are using that workout facility to all work together to organize a “Tight Ends Summit” known as Tight End University: UniTE. Tight ends all across the league (the Twitter has already posted pictures of Eric Ebron, Noah Fant, Zach Ertz, Darren Waller, Robert Tonyan, and TJ Hockenson) will all learn from one another’s skillsets; it’s such a versatile position where you have to run and pass block well, run routes well, catch the ball well, and be both equally fast for your size and have explosive strength, so they’ll learn from one another to improve their weaknesses and be balanced athletes.
It all started when Kittle and the Niners organized National Tight Ends’ Day, originally just an inside joke, but now a holiday the league recognized on the last Sunday of October. He’s truly growing the brand and making one of the less “flashy” positions one of the most fun.
Kittle, Kelce, and Olsen are blazing the trail in sports that not everyone at your competing profession or position has to be villainized. We love a good rivalry where the opponents hate each other and are going at one another’s throats for the drama, but isn’t it nice to finally see guys acknowledging that what they do is so much fun and they want others to have fun doing it too? It’s refreshing. It doesn’t feel like manufactured storyline grabbing and reminds us that ultimately, these athletes, although gifted with extraordinary abilities, are human beings. They don’t need to give into competitive animosity to give themselves an internal edge.
That doesn’t mean that Kittle or Kelce don’t want the crown of the best in the league, but the mutual respect and betterment of one another is good for the league. Just this past NFL Draft, Kyle Pitts, tight end out of Florida drafted by the Falcons at #4 overall, was regarded by many as a future Hall of Famer. I would imagine he’ll benefit a ton from learning from those veterans from the get-go.
George Kittle is for the people, and the joy he gets out of doing what he does is contagious in the best way possible.
Featured Image: Henry McKenna/USA Today