Growing up with Jamaal Charles
By David Thomas
One Chiefs fan reflects on the joy of watching Jamaal Charles play for the Chiefs, even through the losing seasons.
After a promising start to his career, Jamaal Charles got hit with a setback. In Week 2 of 2011, Charles tore his ACL and his season was over. Thomas Jones, Jackie Battle and Dexter McCluster would try to fill the void left by the All-Pro running back. Combined, the three managed to rush for 1,591 yards, 3 touchdowns, with just a 3.8 yard per carry average. Their head coach Todd Haley was fired and replaced by week 14. It was a completely lost season on all sides for the Chiefs, and was arguably worse than the next.
Charles did not back down from the challenge of proving the injury hadn’t phased him. In his third game back from injury Charles rushed for 33 times for 233 yards a touchdown. Charles proved that he was still the backbone of the team, but unfortunately the rest of the team wasn’t doing so well. The team would ultimately finish 2-14 and fire its second head coach in two years.
Despite the abysmal efforts by the rest of the team, Charles never wavered and, in fact, kept me glued to the screen. Losing was certainly nothing new as a Chiefs fan, but at times it certainly was hard to watch as a young fan. Charles’s unwavering attitude and determination was certainly worthy of modeling. It was my senior year in high school and I wore my Charles jersey at least once a week. Some other students would make comments that the Chiefs are losers, but there was no shame to be felt for me.
The following season, Charles had what most would likely consider the best season of his career. The Chiefs jumped out of the gate to a 9-0 record and Charles had already accumulated 1,114 total yards and 8 touchdowns. But Charles’s best game of the season was still to come. In week 14, Charles destroyed the Raiders through the air with 195 yards and 5 touchdowns. The Chiefs won 56-31, and I couldn’t wait for the playoffs to begin. Charles and many other starters were rested in the final week of the season, but it may have done them no good. Charles was hurt on the first series of their wild card game, and Kansas City would go one to lose in the second largest upset in playoff history.
The End of an Era
2014 was a quiet year for the Chiefs. It was the second year under Andy Reid’s tenure, and the team would end up missing the playoffs after a 9-7 season. Charles would finish with a modest 1,033 yards and 9 rushing touchdowns. During week 7 Charles passed Priest Holmes as the Chiefs leading all time rusher. Little did we know that it would be the last time we saw a mostly healthy Charles play out the season.
In 2015, the Chiefs started the season 1-5 and looked to be heading to another lost season. In week 5 Charles tore his 2nd ACL and was lost again for another season. But that’s not quite the end of the story for the Chiefs. After Charles’s injury, the Chiefs won their next 10 games to make the playoffs, and won their first playoff game since 1994. It was the first Chiefs playoff win I had ever witnessed.
Charles would have just 12 carries in 2016 before being sidelined again with more knee issues. It was very clear he would likely be cut after the season. Charles was due around $7 million, and there was no dead money on his contract. On February 28, 2017, Jamaal Charles was cut by the Kansas City Chiefs. It is highly unlikely he will return on a new contract, and has yet to declare if he will retire or not.
Charles gave the Chiefs five great seasons of football, and will one day be enshrined in the Chiefs Ring of Honor. He will be missed, and will never be forgotten. Charles has overcome much in his life, and I wish him nothing but the best going forward in all his future endeavors.
In closing I want to state that Charles perfectly exemplifies one of my all time favorite quotes. “Heroes get remembered, but legends never die…”