George Kittle is many things. Let’s get the obvious out of the way first: He’s one of the best tight ends in the NFL and one of the funniest guys out there. Kittle has always been good at providing comic relief while also delivering honest, candid commentary. He’s the kind of guy you want on your team.
But he’s so much more than just the people’s tight end. He’s got real depth. All of that starts at home, a place he’s come to value with a life spent on the road. He and his wife Claire have built quite the compound in Nashville and debuted it here in partnership with USAA and ESPN.
I caught up with George to learn about the Kittle home base, who George is off the field, advice he’d give his younger self, his dream wrestling tag team, and my most burning question: Panda Express or Panchero’s?
Celia Palermo: I want to start by talking about your partnership with USAA and the Home Base segment you guys worked on. First of all, I love Claire’s taste. How important was building the perfect home base for you guys?
George Kittle: Oh, it was really important. She did most of the house. You know whether we remodeled a couple things here or there. What was really fun to see is how creative she gets and how much she loves to do the interior of our houses and stuff. She always does that. But just how much she just loves doing it. Honestly, she did a fantastic job with our home.
And she does a fantastic job with every home that we ever move into her as we move around a lot. But it’s fun, fun to actually be able to plant our roots in Nashville, Tennessee, and have a place with land around. So it’s a place we’re going to be for a while, and she was very excited about that.
She did spend countless hours picking things out for the house, looking at different houses about what she liked. That meant a lot to me just to see her passion. So that was awesome.
Being able to partner with USAA and ESPN to film about the Home Base was really fun, and just kind of share a behind-the-scenes view of our home and the things that we did to it was very special.
CP: I loved the barn and your workout facility. How important was it for you to kind of have everything that you need right on the property?
GK: It was huge. It’s always been a dream of mine to be able to not leave my property and have everything I need in my spot. I got lucky just with being able to have access to a three-story barn. We started remodeling it right after we bought the house.
It was a horse barn, and we poured some cement, cleaned up a whole bunch of stuff, the interior of it, and remodeled a lot of it. It turned out to be exactly what I wanted it to be. The whole recovery room, yoga room, massage room.
It’s actually everything you need to be a professional athlete from rehab, to working out, nutrition. That was a really fun process for me to design. My dream came to life as well. There are bigger, better things coming forward on it. We’re expanding it a little bit. But so far, it’s been super fun to be able to work out there and let it come to life.
CP: I know you have veterans and service members in your family. How much have they influenced and inspired you throughout your career and just your life in general?
GK: Oh, my grandpa served before I was born, actually. So his service sort of obviously wasn’t a huge influence on my life growing up because he was out and retired by then. But my uncle Pat, who’s my mom’s side of the family, is married to one of my mom’s sisters.
I grew up hanging out with my cousins and him and their family all the time. And so he always had an influence on our life. And he’d be gone for periods of time that were, I know, were hard for the family. But whenever he came back, he would just always be so grateful for the love he had back at home waiting for him.
And you could tell he never took a minute for granted. He would always be do everything he could for his kids, his family. And he was always just such a positive person. It was just fun to see something like that. And the things I learned from him while there it was, really, the big family, always have a good time.
Just love the people that are around, never waste time on things that don’t matter. And just be grateful for the opportunity that you have. Wake up every single day and be around the people that you love that care for you. So that definitely influenced me and a lot of ways and definitely helped me be the person I am today.
CP: I want to transition a little bit and kind of just talk a little bit more about you in general. I focus on who athletes are as people off the field. I’m wondering if someone met you, and they didn’t really know about all of your football accomplishments, your athletic career. Who would you tell them is George Kittle is, the person you are off the field?
GK: I’m just a happy guy that enjoys life every single day. It’ll be hard for you to find me in a bad mood, no matter what the circumstances. Just always very grateful that I do I get to play a sport that I’ve dreamed about playing my entire life. It’s hard for me to ever really be in a bad mood, surrounded by people that love me every single day.
It’s hard for me to be in a bad mood, be grumpy like that. I’m very outgoing, a very open person. So I’ll talk about whatever you want to talk about. Especially like superhero movies, I’m big into those. I’m just a 13-year-old kid.
CP: Speaking of, you have probably one of the best senses of humor in the NFL; where do you get that sense of humor from?
GK: Whoa, wow. A lot of things. I surround myself with some of my best friends. I try to do things every single day that my 13-year-old self would be proud of. I just kind of live my life like that. I just try to have fun. I can’t take anything too seriously.
Because like I said, I’m living my dream life, and as long as I can be on the field playing football, and I got those around me that love and supported me, I’m doing all right for myself. So it’s hard for me to take a lot of things seriously. That gets me in trouble sometimes. But it is what it is. And it’s doing all right for me so far.
CP: You mentioned your 13-year-old self. If you could say something to your 13-year-old self, you know, whether it’s like don’t give up or anything like that, is there anything you would want to tell your younger self about what’s to come?
GK: Just have fun every single day, and there are always brighter days ahead. It doesn’t matter what the circumstances are currently. Put your head down, grind through it. It’ll make you a better person. There are rewards for those who work very hard. And don’t take shortcuts.
CP: I love your relationship with Claire. How much of a grounding force has she been for you through your college career, through your professional career? Every step of the way. How huge has she been to have in your corner?
GK: I mean, you kind of just said it, every step of the way. She has been there for me through college as we really started dating our freshman year of college. It was fun to be able to see her basketball career. She interned with them and supported my football career.
What’s great about Claire and it actually just intertwines with the USAA deal with the Home Bases. Everywhere that we’ve been, whether it’s an apartment building, condo, AirBnBs...no matter how many months...but everywhere that we go, she makes it feel like home. And she’s does a fantastic job of that. That’s one thing I love her for. Because everywhere I go...I feel like it’s my house, and that’s where I can be safe in my home base. So she’s been incredible for me, has just made my life a lot easier.
CP: In a game of horse, who would win between you guys? I know she’s quite the accomplished hooper.
GK: Hey Claire, would you beat me in horse? She says yes, but she wouldn’t beat me.
CP: A couple of wild cards here for you. If you could pick one tag team partner from any era, who would you pick and why?
GK: I’m going to say, Shawn Michaels.
CP: Panda Express or Panchero’s?
GK: Oh my gosh, I love Panchero’s. But I love Chinese food so much. So Panda Express. I was actually out in Iowa for a wedding this summer, and I had Panchero’s twice, and it was incredible both times. After they make your burrito, they stir it up. So every bite, you get all the ingredients. You don’t just get a chunk of guacamole or chunk of sour cream, or just rice. It’s all stirred in and blended wonderfully. The queso is also fantastic.
CP: How much are you just looking forward to getting back out there and just the season beginning getting into the swing of things once again?
GK: I’m very excited. I have missed football. I love football. I got hurt a little bit last year and missed almost half the season. So that was tough for me. So just getting back out there and having an opportunity to play is really important too.