Derrick Johnson held his second annual Celebrity Waiter Night on Monday in support of his Defend the Dream foundation. Arrowhead Addict was fortunate to be there and jotted down a few side notes and thoughts from the evening we thought were interesting enough to pass along.
1. Eric Fisher
Fisher is a giant human-being, and it looks like he’s filling out quickly. Fisher was one three starting offensive linemen at the event, joined by Rodney Hudson and Jeff Allen. At one point Fisher was standing side-by-side with Allen and Fisher looked like he was about as big as Allen in terms of girth. Some of my favorite pictures of the night were of Fisher signing autographs for regular-sized people.
Fisher was also the subject of one of the better random overheard conversations of the night.
“You getting tired there?” someone called to Fisher, mocking him for seeming exhausted from signing autographs. It initially looked like it was Husain Abdullah‘s brother but upon further review it most definitely was not. He was, however, someone Fisher knew well and Fisher had an immediate response for him.
“You gain 30 pounds in three months and tell me how you feel.”
It is safe to say the Chiefs are doing everything they can to change Fisher’s body. Is it good weight or whatever, I don’t know. It is probably safe to say that after two offseason surgeries that Fisher isn’t going to be in ideal of shape as he would like to be once training camp arrives. What I can tell you is that those reports of him adding weight are not embellished.
2. Tamba Hali
When the autograph portion of the night began Jamaal Charles was swamped by fans. Everyone wanted to talk to him, take a picture with him, and have him sign their football. There was a period of time where Charles couldn’t move or find space to breath.
Somehow he managed to get over the exterior of the crowd and found himself near other player, creating a makeshift autograph line that featured Tamba Hali, Dontari Poe, and Fisher. Once Charles started to notice he had signed everyone’s ball in the building he let out a sigh audible enough for Hali to hear and scampered off towards fresh air.
Hali noticed this, turned to Husain Abdullah and said, “That’s what happens when you run for all those yards.” Hali didn’t stop laughing for a solid two minutes.
There was probably no player more active serving dinner than Hali. Tampa was all over the place, maneuvering through the maze of tables as if he were working on some new pass rushing moves. For a guy who seemed so laid back for most of the night, he really does have a lot of energy and life in him.
3. Alex Smith
The second most popular autograph Monday night was Alex Smith. He may have spent more time saying “Oh, it looks like I’ve already signed your ball” than he did actually signing footballs. There were few players more fawned over than Smith by fans.
One thing we do not discuss much about Smith is his presence within the community and as a “face of the franchise” type guy. Smith was incredibly likable, and was very cool with being in the supporting role for Johnson’s event. There is no ego in him. He’s about as “Kansas City” of a personality – blue collar, humble, relaxed – as you’re going to find in a quarterback.
There may be something to be said about the value of a guy like Smith to a team and a community. What that value is, I don’t know. What I do know is replacing what Smith is off the field is going to be very difficult.
4. Dee Ford
We are going to love this guy.
Swagger is a word used too often when describing players and their confident demeanor. What Ford has isn’t swagger, it’s something else entirely. The dude just seems incredibly in-tune with himself and acts and speaks with purpose. It’s almost alternative hip-hop zen.
After all of the dinners were delivered the players’ duties were officially done for the night. There wasn’t a hurry or mass exodus of players but it wasn’t too long after the last plate was served that virtually all of the players were gone. I only saw two players remaining before I left:
Derrick Johnson and Dee Ford.
Ford told me he was using Monday night as something as a test run for how he would want to handle his own charity work. Of course it will have his own fingerprints and flair to it, but he considered Johnson to be one of the guys who he was going to look up to and watch how he did things. He clearly was serious about this as he was chatting with a table full of fans not too far away from where Johnson was mingling.
There’s a skeptical view that can be taken here. What else was Ford going to be doing on a Monday night in a town he’s lived in for barely a month? His choices were either to hang out and chill with Johnson or go back to his place and do nothing.
But I wouldn’t say that was the motivation behind Ford staying. There’s a vibe to Ford that suggests he is not the kind of guy who is going to sweet talk you and then do his own thing – there’s some action behind his big talk.
Assuming he can stay healthy and translate his skills to the NFL level, it is hard to not see Ford being a superstar in this town.
5. Derrick Johnson
Mitch Holthus, who is apparently the State Farm Agent that is ready to be at any Chiefs-related event on a moment’s notice, was the MC at Johnson’s event Monday night. In a very Holthusian way, he introduced each player who was serving dinner, their on-field accomplishments, and a little plug about their future role. For instance, Holthus is very high on Dontari Poe turning into one of the best defenders in the NFL and remaining there for years to come.
One would expect that when he got to Johnson that there would be a certain extra-something to his introduction. Holthus noted Johnson is very close to setting the all-time career mark for tackles, will one day have his name up on the Ring of Honor, and is a genuinely decent human-being. Normal kind of “DJ is awesome” stuff.
What struck me about his intro of Johnson is a line Holthus has said before but one that’s never really resonated until now. Holthus said Johnson would be the first guy he looks for in the locker room once the Chiefs finally get that illusive playoff win and, hopefully, a Super Bowl trophy. This got me thinking about how far Johnson has come as a man and player since coming to KC in 2005. Yes, 2005.
There was a point as recently as 2009 that Johnson was a bust of a first round pick. Then head coach Todd Haley demoted him to second-string in training camp that year, and basically said that Johnson wasn’t carrying his weight. There was moping involved, testing of character.
But the instant NFL stardom many predicted has not arrived. And if he doesn’t win his starting job back, it never will. For about six weeks Johnson’s been riding the Kansas City bench, jerked out of the lineup for reasons that have never been made public.
“It stinks,” Johnson said. “It stinks to not be starting or not be playing, or not be playing like I should. Not being out there on the field like I usually am. But it’s made my mind stronger.”
Johnson hasn’t always been who is he now. There’s been a lot of trials on and off the field. And this doesn’t include the fact he has seen three general managers, four head coaches, and a plethora of losses end up at the doorstep of One Arrowhead Drive. To certain degrees, Johnson has become a professional and a man in Kansas City.
Nothing was forcing Johnson to stay in Kansas City and be a contributing member to the community. He doesn’t have set goals to help out 30,000 at-risk youth or be the leader of the Chiefs locker room. And he certainly didn’t have to sign the very team-friendly contract extension.
Considering what he’s been through with this organization, things he’s seen and the things he’s experienced, it gives a whole new perspective for why DJ would be the guy Holthus would want to seek out. It is very hard not to root for Johnson as a football player and as a man.