Travis Kelce is making sure he's putting in work both on and off the field this year.
The Kansas City Chiefs tight end, 31, and the NFL recently partnered with Tide to urge others to switch to using cold water in hopes of saving energy and reducing greenhouse gas emissions — even offering a chance to win a Kelce-voiced washing machine for those who join the mission in the process.
Aside from his recent partnership, the football star tells PEOPLE that he has a lot up his sleeve lately, focusing his philanthropy primarily on giving back to the youth and those in similar "melting pot" communities that he witnessed growing up.
"It's what it's all about, in my mind," Kelce says. "Over the course of my career, do I care about football? A whole lot. I care about my career and the legacy that I leave, but I do know that I have the opportunity to relate to a lot of people in this community. And with that, I think it's a bit of a responsibility to do the right things."
He does so by making strides with his foundation, Eighty-Seven & Running, which he established in 2015 as a way to help underserved youth develop critical life skills. Kelce's foundation recently took on the task of raising money to purchase a local muffler shop in Kansas City, which he has now transformed into an educational lab.
"We use that muffler shop to turn it into a place where 14 to 18-year-olds can go and work on coworking life skills, career training, skills in STEM programs," Kelce explains. "It's just an unbelievable organization that's going to help out kids... and give these kids opportunities to keep getting better in the careers that they want to."
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Kelce says his foundation has allowed him to connect with young kids, adding that he still considers himself to be a kid, too.
"I found a way to relate to the youth, knowing that I was once a kid looking up NFL athletes or NFL stars from back in the day, and seeing how I can relate or how I can try and motivate somebody to do better or just be better," he shares.
Meanwhile, on the field, Kelce has been giving just as much effort with the Chiefs, who have kicked off the season with a 1-0 start led by Kelce, Patrick Mahomes and Tyreek Hill. The tight end says he's looking to take the season day-by-day, bouncing back from the team's 2020 Super Bowl loss and focusing on "trying to get better and having the right mentality" rather than the stats.
"We've had success, and I've had success on the field. And we found ways to win ball games. But I think just week in week out, just finding ways to you just never letting my team down," Kelce says.
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As he begins his ninth season in the NFL, the athlete — who's been praised by teammates for his quick thinking on the field — tells PEOPLE that he takes "a lot of ownership" in being in sync with his quarterback, Mahomes, to make big plays. Over the weekend, Kelce scored his 50th career touchdown during his 112th game, becoming the fifth-fastest tight end to reach the milestone.
"We challenge each other to get better and to be as accountable as we can be on every single play... and make sure that my team knows that I got their back and I'm trying my hardest," Kelce says. "It's just wanting to find ways to keep improving and to never, you know, let there be a cap on what that could possibly be."