Derrick Thomas, Dad and becoming a Kansas City Chiefs fan

Kansas City Chiefs Derrick Thomas in action during the 2002 NFL season. (Photo by Allen Kee/Getty Images) *** Local Caption ***
Kansas City Chiefs Derrick Thomas in action during the 2002 NFL season. (Photo by Allen Kee/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** /

This week’s edition of Chiefs Chatter looks at the story of how I became of a Chiefs fan, and is complete with reader input, trivia and great facts!

It seems so appropriate to write this so close to Father’s Day. I’ve just spent my 10th Father’s Day without my dad (who passed away in 2010) and my 8th as a father myself. I’m proud to be passing down my dad’s fandom to my daughter, and I know that she understands why the team means so much to me.

See, I was a Chiefs fan before I knew what it meant to be a Kansas City Chiefs fan. For as long as I can remember, all I ever wanted in my life was to be just like my dad. He was my hero, and everything I ever did in my young life was done with the goal of making him proud and being like him. My dad was a Chiefs fan so, not surprisingly, I was a Chiefs fan, too. I could not have told you what that meant, probably, until 1995 or so. But my first vivid memories of Kansas City and of our fandom came long before that.

I am fortunate that I do not remember the 1980s. My apologies and kudos to those of you in the Kingdom who do. I do not remember the hiring of Marty Schottenheimer or the drafting of Neil Smith or Derrick Thomas. Instead, my first memory came on November 11, 1990. I was four years old when Derrick Thomas set the record for the most number of sacks in a single NFL game. It was, for all intents and purposes, the first exciting moment of Chiefs football in my lifetime. I also joke (but not really) that that game is a microcosm of what being a Chiefs fan has meant for the vast majority of the last 30 years – the Chiefs get you so pumped up and excited for something (like the sack record), only to break your heart at the end when the would-be 8th sack costs your team the win—the first of many “heartbreaking” losses of my life as a Chiefs fan. From that day forward, Derrick Thomas was my favorite football player.

And then there is a bit of a lull in my memory. The next really vivid memory I have is the excitement and buzz surrounding the Chiefs acquisition of the legendary quarterback Joe Montana. Of course I had no idea who that was at the time, but I knew that my dad thought that it meant we had a legitimate chance to win a Super Bowl. I quickly became a huge Joe Montana fan and procured a jersey, t-shirts, sports memorabilia and every trading card my grandpa could find to buy me. Of course, Montana Magic had me hooked from jump street, and the rest is history.

Thomas and Montana never led K.C. to the promised land, but they created more than enough excitement in the 1990s to ensure that I was hooked for life.

The death of Derrick Thomas was that first moment in my life when I realized how fragile life was; it was the most emotional I ever remember being about loss.

The Chiefs sparked back to life with Dick Vermeil and the second coming of the greatest show on turf. And then we were bad. So, so bad. For so, so long. But I could never shake the itch. From watching every game, to collecting as many jerseys as I could, to building a memorabilia collection that dons the walls of my family’s home, so much of what I do and who I am is about Chiefs football.

Now, of course, I’m blessed to write about Kansas City Chiefs football as a hobby and a distraction from the stressors and rigors of everyday life. Through it all, there is still one thing that pushes me forward and helps guide me through: I hope my dad is proud of the man, and the Chiefs fan, that I am.

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Reader Question

Each week, we’ll answer a question or two from readers about our team. These can be about any topic related to the Chiefs, send me a question via DM (@kthomps58). This week’s question comes from Kendall Wheeler of Manhattan, Kansas.

Kendall asks: What position battles are most interesting to you ahead of training camp? 

Great question, Kendall! Thank you! I think there are two position battles that I am most interested in watching as we get ready to (theoretically) enter training camp are the center and the cornerback positions.

The center position is interesting not because the Chiefs have a better option than incumbent starter Austin Reiter, but rather because the of the money the team can save by cutting him, and the potential they may see in the youthfulness of second year man Nick Allegretti or in much heralded undrafted rookie free agent, Daryl Williams.

The other position that has me captivated is cornerback. We know that the Chiefs are going to have returning starters Charvarius Ward and Bashaud Breeland on the outsides, and we think that Rashad Fenton will be in line for significant playing time. Beyond that, we really have no idea. The team signed Antonio Hamilton in free agency, drafted L’Jarius Sneed in the fourth round of the draft, and drafted BoPete Keyes in the seventh, before heavily investing in the undrafted free agent market. The team will probably keep six cornerbacks, so there is an interesting battle awaiting us here.

There are others, of course: who starts at guard opposite Laurent Duvernay-Tardif? Who locks downs spots amongst the linebacker corps? Which defensive end(s) do not make the final roster? But, for me, its about center and cornerback.

Chiefs Trivia

Each week’s column will feature a trivia question related to the Kansas City Chiefs. Challenge yourself by coming up with the correct response without looking it up! Enter for a chance to win a Chiefs prize via either Facebook or Twitter Direct/Private Messaging. Must retweet or share the column on your personal page, and provide the correct answer via PM/DM, to be eligible. Winner will be chosen at random on Saturday.

Last week’s winner was Dalton Schuetz of Wichita, Kansas who correctly identified Gary Barbaro as the 1976 3rd round pick who started 101 consecutive games for the Chiefs to start his career. Congratulations Dalton!

This week’s question trivia is: Former Chiefs running back Larry Johnson became well known as number 27 for Kansas City, but what number did he initially where upon joining the team? 

NFL Story of the Week

The NFL seemed on tract to start training camp on time and already had many teams practicing in a voluntary, ad hoc capacity in light of the Coronavirus pandemic. Perhaps more than any other sports league, it felt like the NFL had it all under control; that they had a firm plan in place.

Not anymore. After a rash of outbreaks for multiple different teams across the league, the NFL has told players to end their group workouts and activities, and return home and wait for further instruction.

One would still think that the league has too much to lose to not find a way to make this work, but a complete NFL season seems, once again, in doubt. A lot can change between now and then, but expect the NFL to begin setting up multiple backup plans in the next month or so.

Chiefs Fact of the Week

The first playoff game in franchise history went to double-overtime, and saw the (then) Dallas Texans defeat (ironically) the Houston Oilers 20-17 for the first ever AFL Championship.

Chiefs Record of the Week

Nick Lowery is the all-time leading scorer in franchise history after scoring 1,466 points as a Chief.

Random Fact of the Week

The odds of getting a royal flush are exactly 1 in 649,740.

Sports Quote of the Week

“A lot of people do impulsive things. They just go with their moves. I used to do that. Once I was able to control my mind, I was able to control my actions.” ~Tyrann Mathieu

Oddball Sport of the Week

Chess boxing is exactly what it sounds like: a hybrid of knocking out and checkmating opponents. The battle consists of 11 rounds in which competitors alternate between playing traditional chess and boxing.