Inside Donna Kelce's Past Relationship With Her Ex-Husband

These days, Donna Kelce is primarily known for one of two things — depending on who you ask. To NFL fans, she is the proud mother of Travis Kelce and Jason Kelce — the two brothers who famously faced off against each other in the 2023 Super Bowl. Meanwhile, to Swifties, she is Taylor Swift's potential future mother-in-law. After all, Travis and Swift are something of an item — and Donna seems to approve.

Speaking to People about the matter, an insider close to the Kelces stated, "Donna likes Taylor and thinks she's very sweet and down to earth." That being said, in an interview on the podcast, "Got It From My Momma," the proud mother of two revealed that she was shocked by how much press coverage Travis Kelce and Taylor Swift have received since they started seeing each other. "I thought it would be over at that point, but it seems to just continue, and every week just seems to trump the week before ... So it's really kind of wild, a wild ride" (via People).

Although watching this relationship has been a whole new experience for Donna Kelce, the famous NFL mom is no stranger to romance. Back in the day, she and her now ex-husband, Ed Kelce, had their own love story — filled with moments of joy and also self-sacrifice.

Ed and Donna Kelce met at a bar in the 1970s

Back in the 1970s, before Taylor Swift was even born, Ed and Donna Kelce embarked on a surprising whirlwind romance. At the time, Ed was working in the steel industry and Donna worked at a bank. Desperate to wind down after a long work day, the couple-to-be both found themselves grabbing drinks at Fagan's bar. Before long, the two ran into each other. Recalling this moment in Travis Kelce and Jason Kelce's podcast, "New Heights," Donna said, "He came up to me with the illustrious, I guess, pickup line, 'Did you say Joe?' And I said, 'No.' And he said, 'Oh I thought you said Joe.' I said, 'Is your name Joe?' And he went, 'No, it's Ed.'"

On the same podcast, Ed admitted that he didn't remember that initial run-in, but he sure seemed to remember what he was wearing. "You got to realize, I'm coming there out of a shop that I worked at ... where I made ceramic fire pieces for the steel industry ... I'm in coveralls that are covered with cement and stuff." Knowing that this outfit was not exactly ideal for a first date, Ed decided to go home and change. "We started talking and ... I didn't have a car, and I needed a ride home ... She gave me a ride home ... [I] took a quick shower and cleaned up, and we went out to a bar."

The pair had an instant connection

In some ways, Donna Kelce's first date with Ed Kelce might sound totally laid-back and natural. However, the truth is that the encounter was not only unplanned — it also swept Donna completely off her feet. On her sons' podcast, "New Heights," the NFL mom admitted, "I was supposed to go out with a [different] guy that night and we were supposed to go to a play, and I never made it."

Apparently, Donna was so engrossed in her chat with Ed that she couldn't bring herself to step away. "Your dad and I talked forever," she recalled fondly. When asked by her sons if she completely stood the other guy up, Donna replied in the affirmative. Interestingly, though, she did not seem to have very many regrets about that night. "It was meant to be," she said of her relationship with Ed. "It was meant to be just the way it was."

They got married and welcomed two children

Soon after that initial encounter, Donna Kelce and Ed Kelce got serious. The pair tied the knot and eventually decided to start growing their family. Unfortunately, however, fertility issues got in the way of the couple's dream of having a baby, creating all sorts of disappointments. On the podcast, "New Heights," Donna opened up with her sons about this trying time. "We were trying to have kids. It wasn't working for us, for whatever reason."

One day, however, the couple's luck changed. Donna recalled, "I went in [to the doctor], and one day she just told me. She says, 'You're going to have a little one.' And I went, 'Woah.'" Nine months later, Jason was born. His younger brother, Travis, soon followed.

Fascinatingly, Travis' birth may have brought along one of the first little rifts that would eventually tear Donna and Ed apart. After all, when it came time to name the baby, Donna had something unusual in mind. As the mother of two shared on "New Heights," "There was another 'Travis' on a soap opera during the day. And I had just thought he was the most gorgeous man in the whole world. And I named you after him." Donna, though, was not forthright with Ed about this choice, telling him that she got the name Travis from a character on "Overboard." This tiny rebellion might have been an early sign that things between the couple weren't going to last.

Donna and Ed enjoyed co-parenting

Despite some of the early tensions that eventually plagued Donna Kelce and Ed Kelce's relationship, they took co-parenting very seriously. As they raised their sons, Jason Kelce and Travis Kelce, Donna and Ed did their best to deal with their children's high-energy personalities — settling fist fights, and, at least, trying to prevent a never-ending bombardment of flying footballs from breaking lamps or windows. 

Of course, one of the best ways to put Travis and Jason's energy to good use was through sports, and it didn't take long for Donna and Ed to enroll them in numerous activities. As Ed once told the Los Angeles Times, Jason "would play football and go right into hockey, go right into lacrosse." As such, it was up to Donna and Ed to coordinate their children's hectic sports schedules, and the two did not disappoint.

Looking back at this time in the podcast "New Heights," Donna told her boys that she was grateful for the way that she and Ed had co-parented in light of all their sporting commitments. "We both were like a tag team with you two and did all kinds of fun things. When one of you had to go out of town, another person would help the other child. So, it was just perfect." In her view, this coordination between parents allowed Travis and Jason to thrive. "You got to do whatever sports you wanted. You got to go on all the tournaments."

Donna and Ed realized they weren't right for each other

As time went on, Donna Kelce and Ed Kelce came to understand they weren't exactly a good match. The way that Donna remembers things, it was not that anything huge or explosive happened. Instead, the couple slowly began to realize that they did not have that much in common. As she put it on "New Heights," "It's just sometimes people, you know, they move apart, that's all."

Because of this, the couple considered parting ways while Jason Kelce and Travis Kelce were still growing up. However, they eventually decided to remain together for the sake of their children. In the documentary, "Kelce," Travis recalled just how unique his parents' dynamic was. "I knew my mom and dad's situation was different than other parents. I would go have sleepovers at other houses and the other parents are staying in the room, and my parents didn't stay in the same room" (via People). The professional football player added, "I started making those connections when I was in middle school and I realized that they were probably gonna split. But they stayed together for me and Jason's benefit I believe."

In the same documentary, Ed spoke about the way that separating without divorcing worked for their family dynamic. "If we had split as we probably both would have preferred, that would have been a nightmare with the logistics, getting kids where they had to be and providing all the support."

The pair got divorced but have no regrets

In the end, after nearly 25 years of marriage, Donna Kelce and Ed Kelce officially filed for divorce. Although the split was — in many ways — a long time coming, Donna and Ed waited until their children were in college to actually part ways. They felt that divorcing while their kids were still in the house would have been just too complicated and so they held off on filing the paperwork for as long as they could.

Compellingly, though, neither Ed nor Donna wishes that things between them had gone any differently. When Jason Kelce asked his father on "New Heights" if he regretted marrying Donna, Ed's reaction could not have been more intense. "No," he practically shouted. Donna, of course, had a similar response on the podcast, telling her sons that she could "never" regret marrying Ed. "Because I got you two. I wouldn't be here. I wouldn't be on this show if it wasn't for [our marriage]."

Donna went on to add that, had the family dynamic been any different, Jason and Travis probably would not have achieved so much recognition as adults. "You got to do everything [sports-wise], and it worked out. If there would have been another kid, somebody was going to lose out. So, it just happened to work out for the best."

They remain friendly to this day

It's not always easy for divorced couples to get along, but Donna Kelce and her ex-husband, Ed Kelce, seem to be the exception. Despite the fact that their relationship is, effectively, over, Donna and Ed remain connected by all the years that they spent living under a shared roof. Speaking about this bond on "New Heights," Donna revealed, "I don't hate him. We're friends to this day ... We get along great."

Later on in the podcast, Jason Kelce told his father, "We know that you don't hate [Donna] because you still remind us to call her all the time. You still remind us to reach out to her on her birthday. For a divorced couple, boy, you two sure do care about each other still." Ed seemed to agree with this assessment, "I would want nothing but happiness for your mother," he said. On occasion, Ed has been known to share these warm wishes with Donna — even once sharing a picture of her on Instagram for Mother's Day.