Jamaal Charles was greatness personified
Thank you. What else do you say to someone who has given everything he has to you, and millions more like you, who root for 53 grown men in matching clothes?
What can you say when it looks like the final curtain has fallen on an indelible journey, one to long be spoken about with children and grandchildren? What can you say when someone is willing to go through a pair of ACL surgeries and grueling rehabs, along with thousands of collisions in the pursuit of glory, all too often knowing the effort was in vein?
All one can say is thank you.
This is where we are with Jamaal Charles. On Tuesday, the Chiefs running back was placed on the Injured Reserve list, in need of another knee surgery. At 29 years old, the Port Arthur, Tx. native is a young man with a beautiful wife and two daughters. In football, he is old and unreliable, with a creaky knee that won’t let up.
Charles can technically come back in Week 17 or for the playoffs, but that possibility seems remote at best. His knees are done, the life in his legs evaporated with the wear and tear of nine seasons in the great American arena. Next year, he has the final year of his contract which calls for $7 million. He’ll never see that money, as Kansas City needs it for Dontari Poe and Eric Berry.
If he never puts on pads again, Charles will finish with a franchise-record 7,260 rushing yards. He’ll own 64 total touchdowns and the best yards per carry average in NFL history by a wide margin at 5.5.
Charles will likely never see the Hall of Fame. He did not play long enough or find the spotlight often enough, but he will live on in the memories of those who bared witness. His name will be placed on the Ring of Honor in Kansas City. It will be a wonderful day, and a monument to his vast achievements.
Nobody who enjoyed Charles’ vision or speed, elusiveness or power, will ever forget him when talking about the greatest running backs they ever laid eyes on. Charles was brilliant, a Rembrandt in cleats, painting furious strokes with every step. He was fury and grace wrapped into a human dynamo, showcasing the absurd every autumn Sunday.
Simply put, Jamaal Charles was a gift. No matter when he finished up, it would be far too soon.
Oddly enough, Charles’ last carry with the Chiefs was on a stretch play to the right against the New Orleans Saints. It went for no gain. He came out of the contest in front of a packed Arrowhead Stadium, a capacity crowd unaware of that moment’s magnitude. If only to have that wink in time back, there would have been a lasting, thunderous ovation.
For all who watched, there will be a different favorite run, favorite game. Some will point to his 40-yard scoring jaunt against the Baltimore Ravens in the 2010 AFC Wild Card Game. Others will talk of his 259-yard, two-touchdown affair in Week 17 of the 2009 season at Denver. Then there will be his five touchdowns against the Raiders in 2013, giving the Black Hole a show it will never forget.
In my mind’s eye, the essence of Jamaal Charles will always be much simpler. It will be thinking of his countless runs that should have been losses, only to end in a 4-yard gain. To me, No. 25 will always be making the first man miss before picking up a couple yards he had no right getting.
We can all hope for a borderline miracle. We can hope that Charles makes an unspeakable comeback in time for the playoffs and finally gets the recognition he deserves. After being so cruelly robbed from postseason glory in 2010, 2013 and 2015 due to injury, earning it in his final Kansas City season would be poetic.
Of course, if this is the end, Charles owes us nothing. He was phenomenal, a consistent light in so many years of darkness. There is nothing left to say.
Nothing, except, thank you.