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Yahoo Sports’ Senior NFL Writer Charles Robinson is joined by San Francisco’s star tight end. Kittle explains how TEU, which he co-created with Chiefs TE Travis Kelce, and former Pro Bowl TE Greg Olsen, is growing in just its second year. They’re not only hoping to increase the number of participants from 49 to 80, but work together to bring the position of tight end to the forefront of football at all levels. Hear the full conversation on the You Pod to Win the Game podcast. Subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher or wherever you listen.
CHARLES ROBINSON: What I'm hearing in my mind is people are freaked out about tight ends becoming better athletes. And they're [BLEEP] themselves trying to figure out, how do we-- we've got to find linebackers who can cover these guys. Or figure out a way to roll a DB onto them.
To me, this school is-- this is perfect. Like this is great. And it's-- I feel like it's been a long time coming. I feel like this position is-- it's ripe. Like it's ready to blossom, and become-- it's already important.
But I think now you see teams are really starting to lean into-- this is the mismatch that we can create.
GEORGE KITTLE: Oh, you're not wrong at all. I mean I think after either the 2018 or 2019 season, two teams in our division drafted linebackers in the first round. And you can see that, I mean, every team in the AFC West, if you don't have a legit linebacker how are you going to cover Travis Kelce, Darren Waller. Let's see, who else is over there.
Yeah. I mean those two just by themselves are incredible. But like, there's just tight ends all over the league right now. I mean there's a good starter in almost every team. And it's also shown if you look at the past Super Bowls how many of the teams haven't had, like, a phenomenal tight end as a starter.
I mean I know Higbee missed for the Rams, but he was a huge part of their team, and he's a very good football player. I mean in my opinion, he gets underutilized. But he's a hell of a football player too. And you look at the Patriots success with Gronk. The Buccaneers success with Gronk. Travis Kelce.
Like, you have all these teams have these legit tight ends, and it's like oh, hey, if we have a guy that can just dominate the middle of the field, and also help in the run game, hey, that is an absolute weapon and we might as well invest in them.
CHARLES ROBINSON: Well, the Atlanta Falcons passed on quarterbacks to draft Kyle Pitts. I mean--
GEORGE KITTLE: Yeah, he's a freak.
CHARLES ROBINSON: Yeah. I mean it's-- to me, the idea of the massive number of mismatches that can be made. I remember, I mean, when Antonio Gates came on the scene. And I was covering the league, and it was like, is this [BLEEP] real?
Like is what this guy is doing right now? Is this-- and I thought at that time, if this is where the league is going with the tight end position, a guy like this. I feel like we're getting a lot closer to that. But I'm curious whether you think you start to look at, like, you're seeing all these draft classes where it's like loaded.
Wide receiver, wide receiver, wide receiver. It's loaded because you see lower levels are developing the kids. They're playing a lot more. They're playing through the Summers. There's 7 and 7 camps, all these different things.
Is there just kind of a void of teaching at the lower levels with tight ends? Like why-- I feel like you-- more kids, particularly in high school, and I guess even college have to start to recognize, hey, if I really want-- if my goal is to get to the NFL, and I'm special, and I'm an athlete, maybe I should be-- maybe I shouldn't wait for the coach to slot me somewhere else, maybe actually say, hey, I want to play tight end. I want to be a different cat out on the field.
GEORGE KITTLE: You know what's crazy, so we had this discussion. I was on-- I was on part of my take last night with Greg Olson, and we were talking about that exact thing. And it was like, I don't want to say that coaches in high school are bad. I just think coaches in high school don't understand how to coach the tight end position because it's never really been an important position in high school.
It's, hey, we're going to toss the ball to our five star running back, or we're going to throw a slant to our best guys. So it's just-- it's a basic offense. And I know there's better offenses out there to do more stuff, but, like, that's the basics of it. And the tight end position has always been kind of one well, hey let's put the lanky kid over there who's not heavy enough to play offensive line, but he's not fast enough to play wide receiver.
And so that's just kind of where the tight position is in high school. And hopefully with tight end U in the next couple of years we get it to a point where we can invite high school kids with new NIL stuff. And that would be pretty spectacular.
So we're looking into that stuff, but really, it is a little bit of the coaching. Like I didn't play tight until I got to college. They-- I showed up day one, and they were like-- literally my scholarship it says I was an athlete, and they put me at tight end at 200 pounds. They said, hey, learn how to run block or you'll never play. And I said, OK. Let's just see what happens.
And then that worked for me. But yeah, I mean, if you can develop like-- can you imagine being a 17-year-old kid that actually has an understanding of how to run block? You know, how much of an advantage you'd have going into college. Just so you're not just going into it blind.
There's-- the possibilities are-- you know, the coach and tight ends, like, for us. Like Greg Olson, me, Travis Kelce, I feel like we can all give them such insight. And also, tight end U this year, which is proudly presented by Charmin.
CHARLES ROBINSON: Yes, absolutely.
GEORGE KITTLE: We're bringing legends back. And Antonio Gates is one of the legends we're trying to bring back. So he'll hopefully be up in front of all these tight ends--
CHARLES ROBINSON: That's awesome.
GEORGE KITTLE: --speaking to us. You know, we've got him. Tony Gonzalez is going to come for a day. And then my personal favorite Dallas Clark will also be there. So I'm excited to learn from him as well. And maybe learn about what kind of sticky tape he used on his fingers instead of gloves.
CHARLES ROBINSON: Well, you had like 50 last year, right? Was it like 50 guys last year? And then--
GEORGE KITTLE: We had 49. That was our number. So go Niners.
CHARLES ROBINSON: And so you've grown it this year, right? And you're tipping on 80 now, right?
GEORGE KITTLE: Yeah. So I mean, literally, so our goal is to get to 80. We have a bunch of invites out there. Hopefully with this announcement as well more guys will reach out and be like, hey, where's my invite, and then I could send them said invite.
Because it's hard to-- wrangling tight ends is a lot like cats. You know, everyone's just kind of everywhere and not paying attention, or they're busy doing stuff. So it's just like-- you're just kind of casting a wide net, and hoping people check their Instagrams because I don't have everybody's email or text mess-- or their phone numbers.
So we're working on it. But yeah, no. Our goal is to get to 80. And like, it's all-- I gotta-- I gotta plug my sponsors here because they are the reason it's all possible. You know, it starts off with Charmin. Because tight end U is presented by Charmin because they have your backside. They love tight ends. They love them so much.
No just-- they're incredible. So they've blessed us with a fantastic donation. Levi's is coming in strong because they want to give jeans to those tight ends and protect those tight ends as well.
And Levi's is a great company as well. They work with-- that's our stadium name is Levi's. So that's fun to be able to work with them. One of my personal favorites because when the boys are all together, what's better than a couple cripsy Bud Lights? And so Bud Light is going to be there with us as well.
And then just to end it. Bridgestone. Which is based out of Nashville is going to be there and help us out too. Just kind of help us take over that downtown Nashville area. And so we've got four sponsors, big sponsors that are really helping us out.
And they're allowing us to bring these guys in. We're basically paying for everything but their flights. So their hotel room their food, their transportation, their evening events. Everything's on us.
And once we go through-- once we spend all that, all the money that we have left over gets donated right back to charities. You know, like the Boys & Girls Club. I mean other charities throughout Nashville. So it's a fun experience to be able to bring everybody in, then also give back at the same time.