BLOOMINGTON, Minn. -- Travis Kelce felt his phone buzz on Tuesday evening. He answered, and his girlfriend gave him the news he secretly feared might be coming.
His quarterback, Alex Smith, had just been traded to Washington.
"I still can't really describe it," said Kelce, the Chiefs' star tight end who was making the Super Bowl media rounds Wednesday at the Mall of America. "It's a (bad) feeling."
Kelce's desire to see Smith remain a Chief had far more to do with Smith -- a man he calls a brother -- than his replacement, rookie Patrick Mahomes. Smith has been Kelce's quarterback since the tight end's rookie year in 2013, and in many ways Kelce sees Smith as a major reason he's not only become a Pro Bowler, but also signed a life-changing extension.
The two men had legitimate on-field chemistry. Smith regularly put his trust in Kelce to do a job and make a play for him, and Kelce -- who is as loyal as they come -- took the news of his friend's trade hard.
"One of my brothers on the team, and he means everything to this franchise, I thought," Kelce said, referencing Smith's 50-26 regular-season record as a Chief. "Your quarterback ... and he just came off his best season yet. It's just tough, man."
Kelce, like many Chiefs, had come to admire Smith for his intelligence and resilience. Few know how hard is to be taken No. 1 overall, be declared a bust and become a Pro Bowl player through sheer force of will, as Smith did.
And while several Chiefs have sang the praises of Mahomes, for the last several months many veterans had nice things to say about the 33-year-old Smith, who is coming off a stellar season in which he set career-highs in passing yards (4,042), touchdowns (26) and passer rating (104.7) while throwing just five interceptions.
"I've always been an Alex Smith fan, even during the tough stretches throughout the year in KC when he'd have some tough games," inside linebacker Derrick Johnson said Wednesday. "I've always stayed true to my word and gave Alex big props, man.
"He's a guy that's been through a lot, keeps coming back and proving people wrong like 'No, I can do this, I can throw the deep ball, I can win the game in the fourth quarter,' " Johnson added.