Tamba Hali brings warrior's heart to Kansas City Chiefs Ring of Honor

Tamba Hali, who will be inducted as the 53rd individual and 49th player into the Chiefs Ring of Honor in 2024, represents more than a span of greatness on the field. He represents the dawn of a renaissance that brought Chiefs Kingdom back to football nirvana.
Los Angeles Chargers v Kansas City Chiefs
Los Angeles Chargers v Kansas City Chiefs / Peter G. Aiken/GettyImages

Let's go back to 2006. Think about where you were—if you even existed—during the spring of that year. I was an 18-year-old, soon-to-be high school graduate who was bound for greatness in Division II football—someone with the world figured out. The Kansas City Chiefs, meanwhile, were coming off of a 10-6 season the year before, armed with the 20th pick in the NFL Draft, They were a team looking to build on what Dick Vermeil had started in Kansas City with new head coach Herm Edwards.

With that 20th pick, the Chiefs took a stud defensive lineman from Penn State, a unanimous All-American and Big Ten Defensive Lineman of the Year: Tamba Hali. The pick generated a lot of buzz in Kansas City, but I don't think even then Chiefs fans knew what was heading our way with the team as a whole or with Hali as a player.

Hali immediately panned out for the Chiefs with 8 sacks in his rookie season, the third most for a rookie in franchise history. That was just the beginning of what would be a remarkable individual career for Hali. His 89.5 career sacks are second all-time in Chiefs history to a guy by the name of Derrick Thomas, as are his 33 career forced fumbles.

Tamba Hali, who will be inducted as the 53rd individual and 49th player into the Chiefs Ring of Honor in 2024, represents more than a span of greatness on the field.

On the field, Hali was to be feared. But what he did, and continues to do, off the field is what truly defines his legacy as a Chief and as an all-time great guy in the NFL.

Hali had a fearsome presence on the field, compounded by the fact that he perpetually appeared to be in a state of near tranquility. The poise with which he carried himself at all times during his career was impressive, a near stoic playing a position that requires calculated output of pent-up rage 45-60 times in a 3-hour window. This is an overplayed narrative, but Hali's dedication to practicing the martial art of Brazilian jiu-jitsu certainly played a hand in that.

Think about this scenario: you're an NFL offensive tackle, one of the largest, most forceful human beings on the planet. Lined up across from you on a given Sunday between 2006 and 2017 was a 6'3", 275 lb. brown belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu who is more equipped to harm you with his hands and body leverage than 99.9% of people on the planet. Throw in the fact that Hali wore a historically unanimated expression for the majority of his time on the field, and you have the fuel from which nightmares are constructed.

Tamba's success shouldn't come as a surprise to those who know where he came from. Hali was born in Liberia. When he was 10 years old, he was sent away to the United States to escape the war-torn country that was in the middle of a 7+ year-long civil war. Hali has cited that that's the reason he wanted to become a great football player to reach the NFL and be reunited with his mother, who remained behind in Liberia.

Escaping and rising above the monstrosities that come along with a civil war in any country proved to be an effective method to create an absolute monster on the football field. But the pain that he witnessed and the destruction that was a byproduct of his home country's internal conflict also created a heart of giving for a man who is an absolute legend in that arena of life.

Among his many accolades on the field—including 5 consecutive Pro Bowl selections from 2011 to 2015—he was also the Chiefs 2014 Walter Payton Man of the Year nominee. That year, he donated $50,000 to build a 70-bed ebola treatment facility in West Africa. He's spearheaded and been involved in numerous charities aiding Africa as well as organizations here in Kansas City as well as where he spent most of his formative years in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. He built his high school's athletics Hall of Fame (which he is in); serves on the board of directors of Literacy KC; and is a member of the Kansas City Ambassadors, a local philanthropic organization.

There's a theme here when it comes to Tamba Hali's life and his career with the Chiefs. He has always risen to the occasion and exceeded expectations, even in the midst of chaos. The first half of his career in Kansas City was riddled with dysfunction and downright tragedy. He was one of the lone bright spots on some of the worst Chiefs teams in the modern era. His surroundings threatened to toil away a promising career, yet he survived the days of Herm Edwards, Todd Haley, and Romeo Crennel before finally seeing the light that we are all basking in now in 2013 when Andy Reid came to town.

Hali didn't have to stay, and wouldn't have been wrong to leave. But he didn't. He remained loyal to the Chiefs, and the team and the player have seen that mutual commitment pay off in spades. Hali was paramount in the development of young players like Justin Houston, Dontari Poe, and Chris Jones, and is still helping out young players to this day working with guys like George Karlaftis and Felix Anudike-Uzomah in the offseason.

Watching Tamba Hali play was like seeing the notes of your favorite song come at you in the most vivid colors imaginable. He operated with the prowess of a lion and moved with the grace of gazelle. The way he bent his body around the edge and created leverage with his hands that technically should probably be registered as weapons was something that I'll never forget watching. For those of our younger readers who didn't get to watch him, just head on over to YouTube and look up Tamba Hali highlights. Here, I'll make it easy for you.

More talented players will walk through the doors of the Chiefs facility than Hali in the years to come, but very few will possess the heart of a warrior. His enshrinement in the Ring of Honor is well deserved, and his name should be as synonymous with Chiefs football as anyone's moving forward.