The Kansas City Chiefs new starting center appears to be third year man Eric Kush. He’s the reason general manager John Dorsey was willing to let incumbent center Rodney Hudson walk away in free agency earlier this offseason. Now, with only Mitch Morse out of Missouri for him to to beat out for starting honors, he looks to make playing center for the Chiefs a Kushy job.
Brawn with Brains
Most people know that Eric Kush played his college ball at California University of Pennsylvania but most may not be aware that he was attending there to Major in Justice Studies (Forensic Science). In fact, Eric made the AD Honor Roll every year.
Eric played every position along the offensive line while at Cal. U. but realized between his sophomore and junior seasons that if he was going to make it to the NFL, a lifelong dream of his, he would have to switch to center. His coach agreed and Kush became a Div-II Second team All-American then ended up a 6th round pick for the Chiefs, #170 in the 2013 NFL Draft.
In 2014, Kush showed up at training camp ripped. While that got him his fair share of attention, muscle men don’t always make the best football players. Once again in OTAs this spring Eric showed up looking like the mythological Atlas.
In reality, Eric Kush is two inches taller and 13 pounds heavier than Rodney Hudson. Hudson is 6-foot-2 and goes 300 pounds while Kush comes in a 6-foot-4 and 313. Plus Kush is much faster than Hudson. Hudson’s 40 time is 5.27 while Kush breaks the 5 second mark that most 300+ linemen can’t at 4.94.
I recall scouting Rodney Hudson during the combine in 2011 and thought he had the best feet — quickest feet — of any lineman I’d ever seen. That’s right, “ever.” That alone made me hope the Chiefs would draft him. In 2013, Kush was drafted for similar reasons as head coach Andy Reid following the draft said Eric Kush had, “Nimble feet, size and plays with toughness.”
Toughness and Energy
In 2013, the year Eric Kush came out, he was asked to participate in the East-West Shrine game. He sat out the first half during practice on Tuesday reportedly because of a lower left leg injury. However, Kush showed up for the second half of practice with his ankle thickly taped, sporting an obvious limp but fought his way through the rest of that day and the rest of the week.
After spending a year with the organization Andy Reid could see what kind of player he had in Kush, “You talk to him for five minutes and you feel it. He is going to look you in the eye and every play he is going to give you 110 percent….”
Last August Terez Paylor of the Kansas City Star posted that Kush,
"“Says he takes pride in playing hard and inspiring his teammates, even under the hot summer sun throughout organized team activities and training camp.”"
Andy Reid calls him “an energy guy.”
When it comes to being an “energy guy” Eric Kush says,
"“When we’re doing our team drills and even just seven on seven, it gets tough and people start getting tired. I try to keep (the energy) up, I try to dap everybody up and keep us going so we can try to finish hard. It helps me too, because everybody wants to just kinda hang their head and feel sorry for themselves.”"
That’s Andy Reid’s kind of guy. You can see why he and John Dorsey may have been planning on executing their “develop from within” plan by allowing Hudson to walk at the end of last season and continuing to develop Eric Kush to step up as the next starter.
A System-Product Player
By allowing Hudson to walk… although I’m sure they wish he wasn’t going to an AFC West rival… and then moving their prize backup into the starting rotation, this regime accomplishes a number of positives. One is that they save millions because Hudson’s rookie deal ran out earlier this year. Another is that they show the rest of the team… as with Allen Bailey who replaced the exiting of Tyson Jackson… that if you work hard and continue to develop yourself as a position player, you will get your chance to start. Then all the work that players put in improving themselves… the blood, sweat and tears… finally becomes a worthwhile endeavor.
K.C. Chiefs Training Camp is in 7 days.
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Then that has a ripple effect throughout the rest of the team. Players often have difficulties accepting what their coaches say if they feel they’ve been misled in any way. Promoting from within sends a clear message to everyone on the team: we do what we say we’re going to do.
Now, Eric Kush is enjoying the ride and not just from being the projected starter. In a piece by Sean Keeler for Fox Sports, he quotes Kush as saying,
"“Year 3 feels great. It felt great before, but Year 3, it’s the third time doing this thing — everything just seems smooth as butter to you.”"
One positive attribute that good veterans exhibit is their willingness to share what they know. Even if it means they’re sharing it with a younger guy who may take their job away from them. Rookie Mitch Morse says of Kush,
"“I think it’s really kind of exciting, because each day, you really don’t know what’s going to happen. For now, it seems like they’re just trying to mix you in wherever, try to put you in situations where you can go and see how you compete… I think Eric’s been my biggest help. He’s been invaluable. He’s invited me over to hang out.”"
When you’re building an organization, Eric Kush sounds like exactly the kind of person you want to build around. The unanswered question now is… can he play at a high level?
Next: Andy Reid on the progress of Eric Kush