Tamba Hali: Hail to a great Kansas City Chiefs player


This is the first of many tributes to outstanding Kansas City Chiefs players, whom Chiefs Kingdom is proud to be a fan of.

Hali was born in civil war-torn Liberia, and fled to America at the 10 years old. He went to live with his father Henry, a Fairleigh Dickinson University chemistry professor and Teaneck High School chemistry teacher.

Hali attended high school in Teaneck, N.J., where he played for the Teaneck Highwaymen football team. He was named a high school All-American, and also lettered in basketball.

Hali was considered a four-star recruit coming out of high school, and the fifth-ranked strong-side defensive lineman in the nation in 2002. After receiving an athletic scholarship, Hali played for head coach Joe Paterno’s Penn State Nittany Lions from 2002 to 2005.

“It starts with his motor. I love the way he plays. Physical. Every snap he goes. Great use of hands. You’ve got to block him every snap. Just a relentless player. Physical, smart, obviously loves to play. I just appreciate players like that.”- Rex Ryan on Tamba Hali

In his senior season, Hali led the Big Ten with 11 sacks and 17 tackles for loss. He also earned numerous accolades for his play and was a finalist for the Bronko Nagurski Trophy — presented to the nation’s top defensive player — and the Ted Hendricks Defensive End Award.

Hali’s single-season sack total is tied for sixth-best in Penn State history, and his 36 career tackles for loss are tied with Matt Millen for 10th-best. Hali also received the Robert B. Mitinger Award which is given to the Nittany Lion football player who best personifies courage, character and social responsibility.

Following his senior season in 2005, Hali was recognized as a unanimous All-American, the Big Ten Defensive Lineman of the Year, and a first-team All-Big Ten selection. He was the driving force in the Nittany Lions’ 11–1 finish, as they went on to win the Big Ten championship and the Orange Bowl that same season.

After being named the defensive MVP in the 2006 Senior Bowl, Hali entered the 2006 NFL Draft ranked as the third-rated defensive end behind Mario Williams and Kamerion Wimbley. He was selected 20th overall by the Chiefs, earned the nickname of “The TambaHawk,” and the starting position of defensive end.

On July 31, 2006, Hali was excused from Kansas City’s two-a-day practices at training camp in River Falls, Wisc. and flew back to his home in Teaneck, N.J., to be sworn in as a permanent citizen of the United States. A month later, Hali’s mother arrived in Kansas City, Mo., and saw her son play for the first time as the Chiefs shut out the San Francisco 49ers, 41–0.

Hali won the Mack Lee Hill award as the top Chiefs rookie for 2006, and at the end of the 2006 NFL season, he led Kansas City with eight sacks, 3.5 more than top-overall draft pick Mario Williams.

In 2009, Hali was moved to outside linebacker to accommodate new head coach Todd Haley’s 3–4 defense. Led by new defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel in 2010, Hali finished the season with an AFC-leading 14.5 sacks, leading to his first invitation to the Pro Bowl.

In 2011, Hali had an All-Pro season, racking up a career-high 83 tackles and lead the team in sacks (12) for the fifth time in his six seasons in Kansas City. He was named an All-Pro and selected to play in the 2012 Pro Bowl.

Hali started all 16 games in 2011 and finished second in sacks in the AFC. He tied for third in the conference with four forced fumbles, a team-best 12 tackles for loss, and 31 quarterback pressures. His career sack total is good for fourth best in Chiefs history.

At the start of the 2015 free agency period, the Chiefs were strapped for cash and in need of some help on both sides of the ball. With 2015 being a contract year for Hali, there were rumors that he would either be retiring or, more likely, moving out of the shadow of Justin Houston’s looming payday for more money of his own.

But in a surprising show of loyalty, Hali proclaimed his desire to multiple news outlets that he wanted to stay a Chief for the entirety of his career, and on March 8, 2015, Hali restructured his contract to free up $3 million in cap space to stay in Kansas City.

For that, Chiefs Kingdom says, “Hail to the TambaHawk.”

What say you, Addicts? Comment below and suggest the next Hail to a Chief!