Catching up with former Kansas City Chiefs DL Bill Maas

Former Kansas City Chiefs defensive lineman Bill Maas reflects on his playing days and the camaraderie he still enjoys with former players.

If you were a Kansas City Chiefs fan in the ’80s and early ’90s, then Bill Maas will need no introduction. The two-time Pro Bowler was a cornerstone pick in the 1984 NFL Draft, at No. 5 overall, and he helped turn around the Chiefs fortunes, reaching the playoffs in only his third year after a 15-year postseason drought.

From his Rookie of the Year win and draft day memories to the many ways he’s still giving back to the K.C. community, Maas recently covered a lot of real estate (his current business) in our latest AA interview.

I’d love to start with what you’re up to these days, and how much is football a part of your life?

[Laughs] Well, football is a part of my life every day because I carry the injuries with me. I’m getting a new hip here in August. But on a day to day basis, I work in commercial real estate. I’m also very active with the Chiefs Ambassadors in community outreach.

Were you into real estate at all as a player?

I wish I had the knowledge and expertise back when I was playing to afford less mistakes. I’m actually talking to Chiefs rookies about some of these things. When I was done playing, I was in broadcasting and in both of those periods, I was purchasing real estate. It’s always been a part of what I’ve done. Later on in life, I started devoting all of my time to understanding it. I went back to school and then got certified to learn the nuances of finance, taxes, depreciations — all the things that are intricate when you’re investing in properties.

Have you been in that role before, talking to rookies?

Ever since Andy [Reid] has been here, we’ve had a rookie dinner. When they first come into minicamp, a lot of the local alumni and the Chiefs Ambassadors group, which are pretty much one in the same, have a dinner with the rookies. We can sit down and get to know them and their personalities a bit. Last year, I spoke with Bobby Bell, Anthony Davis and Jan Stenerud at a rookie symposium about things that never change over the course of time—the things any revered 22-year-old who suddenly has a lot of money. It’s something we’ve all been through so we talk about the responsibilities that come with that, both good and bad.

What specifically does being a part of the Ambassadors mean for you?

When you’re a non-profit group, fundraising is always a big concern. We have partnerships with Kids CLC, Camp Quality and Big Brothers, Big Sisters. Those partnerships involve our commitment to fixed dollar amounts every year. In order to be able to fulfill those commitments, we have to raise funds and I play a big role in that.

How meaningful is it for you to have that camaraderie with former players?

It’s really a unique group. There’s been a bunch of teams that have reached out to us to try to put the same thing in place—the Broncos and Eagles both have little groups. It’s really unique how active these guys are. There are over 40 of us and they stem from the incoming Chiefs team in Kansas City back in ’66 to as recent as Jon McGraw. The common thing about it is that all of them decided to make their residence in Kansas City and none of them are from Kansas City. I think that speaks volumes about Kansas City itself and the connection with the fans and community.

You mentioned even the physical issues earlier with the hip. Is it safe to assume that an important part of that camaraderie with the Ambassadors is having a group who can identify with the rare sort of experiences you’ve had?

Chiefs defensive lineman Bill Maas was on top of the world — and the Raiders’ Marc Wilson — in 1987. ORG XMIT: HUUJCRD Image Courtesy of Bill Maas

I really believe that the CTE thing brought out a connection with all of us. Even if you saw each other, you never really complained to one another. It’s a tape it up and go mentality that you’ve lived with for your entire life, you know? Now it’s one of the first things we say to each other when we see each other. It’s also not just the Chiefs Ambassadors. It’s a league-wide alumni thing, even over social media or at golf tournaments or gatherings at NFLPA conventions. It’s one of the first things you say now: “How are you and how do you feel?”

It’s something that previously, 10 years ago, no one would talk about. You’d live with your injuries and your depression and it wasn’t a topic. So right now, to answer your question, it’s really beneficial that we all know. We all feel the same things and are going through the same things. At least you know you’re not alone going through it.

I’d love to look back a bit. You had a rare chance to be taken near the top of a draft as a top five pick. How vividly do you remember that day?

Yeah it’s really exhilarating even still. When draft day comes around, I always reflect on it. When you’re picked that high, it just makes you feel this burst of confidence that they this highly of you. It’s human nature to feel that way. I remember my name getting called. I remember the phone call. It was something great.

When you’re on the phone talking to Lamar Hunt and you’re only 22-years-old… man, yeah that’s quite a deal.

I remember at the time, I’d never heard much from Kansas City. The fourth pick was Philadelphia and the sixth pick was San Diego and they both told me they were going to take me. I remember thinking, “I’ll either end up in my hometown of Philadelphia with the Eagles or I’ll be at the beach in San Diego. That’s not bad!” I’d never really heard from Kansas City, so when they called, I was just elated. I didn’t know that much about the team or the area, but I got here and was ready to go to work.

My mentality going into the draft at that time was that if you know you’re going high, you’re going to a team that needs help. If you go lower, you have a team with a lot of success. So in my mind, I remember saying, “Look, if you go high, you’re going to help be a cornerstone to turn an organization around. If you go low, you’ll go into something that carries on a tradition of winning.” So when we got to Kansas City, we just rolled up our sleeves and went to work. We had a heck of a draft class that year and it started paying off. Two years later, we made the playoffs for the first time in 15 years. It just kept getting better after that.

Who’s on the other end of the phone when they called?

I heard from the head coach, the general manager, Lamar Hunt. When you’re on the phone talking to Lamar Hunt and you’re only 22-years-old… man, yeah that’s quite a deal.

Would you say helping the team make the playoffs like that after such a drought is what you’re most proud of from your professional career?

I would say winning NFL Rookie of the Year. I was back in Pittsburgh and I got a telegram—we didn’t have Twitter back then—saying that I’d won the Associated Press Defensive Rookie of the Year and it really capped off that year. Everything in your rookie year is new. Every place you play is new. Every hotel is different. You’re playing these teams and players for the first time, so it’s all such a blur. You’re focused only on what you’re doing, so to get that award was quite an honor.

Everything was all spelled out. [Marty] taught us all in a manner we’d never seen before.

Two years later, I was a unanimous choice from my peers and coaches for the Pro Bowl. Back then, they didn’t have fans vote. It was only players and coaches who were allowed to vote. Then parlay that into going to the playoffs in ’86 and then we had that downspurt for a year.

Then Marty Schottenheimer came in and we had a whole team rejuvenated. He knew how to spell things out in a weekly manner of how we’re going to win this game. It was all in black and white for us. The whole team knew. He’d call us in on Wednesday after Tuesday practice and say, “This is how we’re going to win this game. The offense will do this. The defense will do that. Special teams needs this.” He had it broken down to what we percentage we needed on first downs and how many times we needed this or that. It was unbelievable. Then we found success.

It’s engraved in my mind. We knew how many seconds it took for the ball to get back to the placeholder on a field goal. We knew if a runner ran the ball against us on defense, that if he got over 3 yards per carry, we failed. We had to keep him under 3 yards per carry. We had to keep passing under 200 yards per game and rushing under 100 yards per game. If we did those things, we’d win. Everything was all spelled out. He taught us all in a manner we’d never seen before.

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