Mike Danna is enjoying a solid rookie season thanks to the intangibles that got him drafted.
When the Kansas City Chiefs first selected Mike Danna at the bottom of the fifth round in the 2021 NFL Draft, the talking points were all about the intangibles. As Danna’s rookie season is nearing the end—at least of the regular season portion—those very qualities that were being discussed are core reasons why he’s enjoyed the success that he has.
Danna was a rotational defensive lineman for the Michigan Wolverines when he was selected by the Chiefs in what was, at the time, a surprising pick. Some draft experts had Danna as a priority free agent, and it’s not as if Danna’s stat sheet blew anyone away. In fact, his numbers were much better back at Central Michigan where he was able to rush the passer than the following year when Michigan’s depth on defense swallowed much of Danna’s ability to stand out.
Fortunately, Chiefs scouts did their homework and, in doing so, it became clear that Danna was a favorite of the coaching staff. Despite only playing part-time in a single season in Michigan, the coaches raved about him, as Danna had gained considerable bulk and was taking on new assignments previously unasked of him at CMU. He was a model student, willing to do anything asked of him and able to absorb anything new.
With thirteen NFL games under his belt, Danna has been a revelation for the Chiefs all season long. The team has endured several injuries along the defensive front, but thanks to rookie finds like Danna and Tershawn Wharton, the defensive front has been able to remain effective in the face of losses to the likes of Alex Okafor and Taco Charlton.
Danna was recently asked about his expectations coming into the season, and the first-year end stressed the importance of accountability to him personally.
"“Going into this rookie season, I had big expectations. The biggest expectation I had was gaining my teammates’ trust and respect. That’s the biggest thing I wanted to do because once you do that, guys can trust you to be on the field, trust you to do your job.“I wanted to gain the trust and respect from the coaches because of the same thing. Those guys will understand that you can do your job. They don’t have to worry about if this guy’s going to be on time or if this guy’s going to be where he’s supposed to be at this certain time.“Holding myself accountable is a big thing for me and just understanding when I came here, I wanted to gain everybody’s respect, gain everybody’s trust so I can make this job easier for myself and easier for everybody else to have them trust me to be out there doing what I’m supposed to do.”"
After the first month, Danna was forced to miss a few weeks due to a hamstring injury. Yet even during that time, Danna says he was focused on learning and growing as a player.
"“As always, you gotta respect the game,” he said. “This game can take you out with the snap of a finger. Understanding that any play can be my last play. Any game can be my last game. Any practice can be my last practice. So it’s just coming in with the same energy, the same intensity, the same work ethic each week to keep getting better. I learned a lot over the injury. I learned a lot from the vets. I learned a lot from watching film. So all in all, I got a lot of positive out of that one negative situation.”"
So far this season, Danna has 22 tackles, 5 quarterback hits, and 2.5 sacks in rotational duty along the Chiefs defensive front. Moving forward, the team can rest easier knowing they have an already effective young lineman who is going to get better with such a strong work ethic and drive.