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Kyle Pitts has become an avid golfer since picking up the sport in January, playing a ton during this past offseason. He allowed to join him for a round with his father Kelly on June 12 at Chateau Elan resort, where it became clear father and son share an unmistakable, unbreakable bond. This is the story about that relationship, how it helped shape Kyle Pitts and how their dynamic has changed over time.

Story by Scott Bair

BRASELTON, Ga. – Kyle Pitts stood in the middle of Chateau Elan golf course's third-hole fairway, both thrilled with a drive absolutely crushed and semi-stressed over what would happen next.

Kyle's a natural despite only picking up golf in January, no surprise considering size, power and stellar coordination rank high among his freakish athletic gifts.

His father Kelly is not. Nor is dad experienced. This is, in fact, his first real round of golf. And it's happening in an unnatural setting, with three carts full of videographers, a director, a photog, an audio tech and a writer documenting their every move.

So, when Kelly Pitts lined up over the ball, Kyle broke golf's scared code of pre-shot silence to offer some tips.

"Swing slow and sweep the ground."

Kelly Pitts tensed up, swung too hard and missed.

"Man, I'm swinging too hot."

"Swing sloooooooooow."

"If I swing slow, it ain't gonna go too far, right?"

"Swing slow and hit the ball."

Father took son's advice, made solid contact and the ball sailed straight and true.

"There you go! That's all you gotta do. Slooooooooooow."

"Zero patience you have."

"I'm telling you to swing slow and you're swinging as hard as you can."

That type of blunt, friendly-jab banter only occurs between those who know each other well, and it rarely stopped over nine holes at Chateau Elan. Conversation seamlessly flowed between father and son, from Kyle's newfound passion for golf to his path to the NFL, with some tangential trips down memory lane and a pit stop revealing Pitts is deathly (at least for comic effect) afraid of certain birds. All of it had an edge that will be familiar to fathers and sons who become friends as the child grows up and the dynamic evolves.

Even after briefly celebrating Kelly's successful shot on that third hole, the ribbing continued.

"Kyle, I bet you stunk when you first started."

"Nope. I was great when I first started."

"Listen son, the apple doesn't fall far."

From the tree? Nope. Kyle and Kelly Pitts are competitive and passionate and pretty darn funny. There's also an unmistakable, unbreakable bond between these two, built over the life of this father-son relationship.

There was a disturbance in the force, however, a new element altering how things normally go. Advice, about life, sports or otherwise is normally dispensed from father to son.

Not on this day, when the student had become the teacher. Pitts tried to help his dad learn the game on the fly, with varied levels of success. They both had fun with it, even while, at times, driving each other nuts.

"We just flipped roles today," Kyle said. "He was the frustrated one. I was the hard-headed one, kind of like when I [kept saying], 'keep your head down' and he kept picking it up. That used to be me. He would keep telling me to clean my room and I wouldn't. It would eventually click and, after a while, you realize that he's telling you things for a reason."

Kelly remembers well those days gone by.

"He was just your normal, average 10-year-old who didn't want to take out the trash or make his bed," Kelly said. "It was no different than anyone else's experience. It's just that he gravitated towards sports, towards football."

Kelly Pitts knew early on that his son was athletic, a combination of tall, quick and coordinated. And that sports spoke to him. Kyle played them all, with a real knack for basketball and football.

Kelly's plan in those early days was to have him try everything and "let him decide what he wants to do with his talent."

The gridiron called to Kyle, even as a young kid. And he was good at football, so good that he was playing above his age group. He kept facing adversity in better competition and growing as a player from that experience.

Kelly admits that, early on, he was a bit overbearing when it came to his son's athletic path and his success.

"I was the douchebag dad at first," Kelly said. "You start off thinking your kid's the greatest, thinking he can do everything better than everybody. Then you start to think about how he's growing and developing, and you gain perspective on what you need to do as a parent to help your child succeed.

"At that point, you have to be humble and go with what he likes to do and what he's motivated to work on. If I have to coerce you into practicing or going to camps, that's not where you want to be. You're feeding off of what he likes and what he wants to do. You never wanted him to get turned off."

Kyle Pitts was internally motivated to be a great football player and worked hard to maximize his talent. He got quality instruction. Kelly and Kyle drove from their Philadelphia hometown all over the Eastern Seaboard playing in 7-on-7 tournaments and participating in elite football camps. And Kyle had a blast doing it.

"It was something I loved to get up and go do," he said. "It wasn't something [my dad] forced me to go do, or something I had to do to shut my parents up."

There was a moment in that process, where Kelly Pitts could see his son was on the right path, and he decided to take his foot off the gas. Just a little bit.

"One day, he went crazy at a 7-on-7 camp," Kelly said. "You could tell that he was running different, he was supremely confident and, most importantly, he was having fun. At that point, I'm no longer overbearing football dad. I could sit back and watch."

He was still active in important decisions, with one absolute mandate for Kyle: Don't let coaches see you throw the ball.

If they saw his arm talent, Kelly feared, they'd make him a quarterback. That's not where he believed Kyle would thrive at the next level. It happened anyway, -- Kelly insists he wasn't there when coaches saw him throw -- and Pitts ended up behind center during early parts of his prep career. He eventually ended up at tight end, where his dad pushed him play, a switch that set him on course to earn a scholarship to the University of Florida and then become the No. 4 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.

That's a fact Kelly Pitts doesn't let his son forget, even on the golf course all these years later.

"Remember what I said? Where are you going to make your money?"

"Catching the ball."

"At what position, though?"

"Tight end."

"So I'm kind of a lightweight genius."

"Genius is a stretch. Intuitive, yeah. Maybe."

While the dynamics have shifted and father and son stand on more equal footing, Kyle quickly acknowledges his old man knows a thing or two about a thing or two. Kyle is also proud to say he was raised right, with proper perspective to keep him grounded even when the so many line up to pat on the back.

That's because the Pitts family is tight. Even when they're scattered, they still come together when they can. Kyle and Kelly were about to tee off on the second hole when Kyle's sister Tenae pulled up in a golf cart while glued to her phone. There was a good reason for it. Her mom Theresa was on FaceTime, watching the round of golf from Philadelphia. Nobody, it seems, wanted to miss this day.

It's clear from the entire family's interactions that Kyle's status hasn't put him on a pedestal. Not even a little bit.

"Absolutely nothing has changed within our family dynamic," Kyle said. "We're the same people we were before I got drafted. We have always been grounded in that way. We understand what's important and what's not."

Pitts credits his immediate family for keeping his head on straight.

"I think the way I was raised helped mold me into the human I am today," Kyle said. "Not just the son or the brother, but the person I am away from my family. When I'm at work, at the golf course or anywhere, I'm nice and respectful to the people around me. I'm always appreciative of other people. I never feel cocky or entitled because of my position in life, which can get taken away in an instant."

That's real perspective. From a 21-year-old millionaire.

"You wouldn't know he's 21, almost 22, unless someone told you," Kelly Pitts said. "He's mature. He's smart. He gets it. That's no accident. That's what my wife and I try to instill in him at an early age.

"We raised him be self-sufficient, to stand on his own. And that has certainly paid off. Kyle is mature beyond his years."

Unless he's talking trash to his dad on the golf course, during a rare time where Kyle beats Kelly at a recreational sport.

"Does it feel good to beat your dad? Real talk."

"It feels amazing. Ahhhh-maze-ing."

It probably won't be the last time Kyle takes his dad down on the links, even though Kelly's had a few nice shots in this round and is committed to practicing a ton on his quest for redemption. Kyle's sure isn't going to let dad win the next round.

He's a competitive sort looking to outdo himself each day. Whether it's golf or, more often, football, he's always chasing greatness.

That's how he ended up in this place, an elite NFL talent with vast potential and the work ethic to realize it. His family has been there most every step of the way, from youth football games to his professional debut with the Falcons.

"You get goosebumps see him run out of the tunnel, thinking, 'Wow. Where'd all the time go?'" Kelly Pitts said. "He was just this big. Now he's this big and he's an NFL player. I mean, wow. That's serious."

Kelly Pitts remembers the time when he would tell young Kyle to eat his vegetables, clean his room and mind his manners. Over the last few years, he has sent his son out into the world and reminded him to make good choices. It's a different job these days, but it remains one based on love and mutual respect.

"It's not always going to go smooth, and there are different phases to our relationship," Kelly said. "Things change as they get older. He's an adult. He's a man now. What he needs from me evolves and you have to evolve with it. You stand back a bit more, but still make your voice heard. Even when he's not listening, he hears me. And I think he knows that I always have his best interest in mind the whole time."

Kelly is the one dispensing advice most often, even now. But knows that, sometimes, he'll take some advice from his son. Especially at the end of his first round of golf.

"You take your hat off and say, 'pleasure playing with you.' That's golf etiquette."

"Where'd you learn that?"

"It's just what you do."

"Great game, son. I'll be back in six months. And don't let the first round fool you. I'll be ready for you next time."


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