A major offseason focus for the last two years for the K.C. Chiefs has come at linebacker where the team has invested very heavily in getting younger, faster, and better overall in the second level of the defense. For incumbent linebacker Anthony Hitchens, it’s not only welcome company but a chance to mentor some bright young talents for the sake of the franchise.
Last season, the team decided to utilize its second round pick on an über-athletic linebacker in Willie Gay, Jr. Then this spring, they decided to turn in another second round card for a hard-hitting instinctual linebacker in Nick Bolton. What was once one of the most concerning positions on the team has suddenly turned a corner into a unit with serious potential, that is if the newer faces can reach their potential.
Some of the acquisitions have placed a target on Hitchens’ back as a potential candidate to be moved or released down the road given the new investments. Instead of feeling challenged and frustrated, however, Hitchens’ team-first attitude has remained his public-facing stance no matter what has happened. And he carried that mindset into his most recent press conference with Chiefs reporters on Thursday, saying it “comes natural” for him to want to mentor newer faces.
“When I was younger, I had guys I looked up to who taught me the ropes,” said Hitchens. “Ever since then, I’ve been doing my part giving back to the game and young players and things like that. Honestly, I’m just being me, studying. If they need help, they can ask. I can give advice sometimes. Just trying to teach them the pros and cons of being a linebacker and being in the NFL. I’m just like an older brother to all of them. We’re all family here. Just trying to get everybody to improve so we can be as good as we can in our linebacker room as a defense and as a team.”
Anthony Hitchens is embracing his role as linebacking mentor.
Specifically, Hitchens stated that it’s mostly organic opportunities that come along that allow him to mentor the guys as he sees areas of potential growth and points out those spots.
“It’s just extra work, just pulling to the side either through text or in between periods, just phone calls or hanging out on off days just talking ball. Everyone learns different. I know me and Nick right now are working on… he’s not big on taking notes, so he’s trying to put it all together with the notes and on the field in the walkthroughs and practices. Just trying to give him different ways that I’ve learned. Maybe it can help him grow.”
Bolton is the man slated to potentially take over for Hitchens down the road given his skill set, so it’s very encouraging to see Hitchens not only acknowledge his presence but take him in under his wing in the process. Given how much work Hitchens puts into his own game, and how much he’s tasked with in the heart of the defense, the Chiefs are going to need his help preparing these guys if any torch is passed.
“I’m just here to play the best ball I can and help everyone around me be the best player so we can win the ultimate goal and that’s the Super Bowl.”