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A Close Encounter of the Best Kind



As a Chiefs fan, there are particular aspects of football that I have no choice but to love. I love to tailgate and the smell of BBQ-tinged air. I love a sea of red. Piercing crowd noise. The first tackle a defense makes, while the home crowd is screaming for blood and all the players leap into the air pumping their arms. A run up the gut for a hard first down. A tough quarterback. A smart linebacker. The blitz on a 3rd and long.

But of course, I also love players who refuse to ever get down. All attitude. All confidence. They know they're the best and they can't wait for you to eat your crow when they prove it.

I say this because I've just become an unsuspecting fan of a player few people know from a conference few people respect. And I honestly had no choice in the matter.

A couple weeks ago, I posted an extensive hypothetical as to what the Chiefs future might look like as rebuilding progresses for another year. I guessed about trades in the next offseason, our depth chart in the next offseason, and even who we might draft in the 2009 NFL Draft. It was met, of course, to mixed reviews from the ArrowheadPride readership.

But I got an unsuspecting piece of feedback from that post just today, and I received it via email.

In my hypothetical 2009 draft, I started us off with a bang, pulling in a top-notch wide receiver (Tex Tech's Michael Crabtree) and a potential franchise quarterback (Purdue's Curtis Painter) with our first two picks. I buffed up our offensive line with the powerful Paul Fanaika in the 5th and Curtis Crouch in the 7th. Derek Walker was my 3rd rounder, as I believe he could provide us 1st-round talent in rushing the passer.

But as we all know by now, the thinnest position on this team is linebacker, and not only did I try to grab a steal in the 6th with Penn State's Tyrell Sales, with our 4th I attempted to improved the MLB position with a promising prospect out of Eastern Michigan who's garnered some buzz with a track record of manning the position impressively every single game since he was a true freshman.

Now this was a hypothetical piece, and I know nothing about Eastern Michigan except Jason Jones and this Holtzclaw guy who has been generating some impressive buzz anchoring the E-Mich defense. I've seen a couple Eastern Michigan Eagles games over the last year to check out Jones because he was a highly-regarded draft prospect this year, and I did notice Holtzclaw make quite a few plays, though I didn't even know his name at the time.

Impressed by his talent but fearing that it might just be a product of weaker competition, I grade him out generally as a mid-rounder, although I liked how WalterFootball described him: "He probably ranks as the top under-the-radar linebacker in this class." Intrigued, I elected for the Chiefs to draft him in the 4th, play him immediately as our starter there, and to my regret, I said the following:

In Herm’s Cover 2, you need an elite MLB. Obviously, Holtzclaw does not seem to be that guy, although he might be a great backup. But again, we only have so many picks, and with gaping holes at DE, OG, OLB, and maybe OL and WR, I put getting an elite MLB on the backburner in my 2009 Draft.

No problems with that, right?

Wrong. And here's where it gets good.

Checking my email today, I have received an email from Daniel Holtzclaw himself, returning senior MLB for the Eastern Michigan Eagles. Holtzclaw likely read all that I had said of him in that post, but he only focused on the above part.

Holtzclaw chided me for not following him closely enough to make that judgment (which is a completely fair point). He accused me of overlooking him because he plays in a less prominent conference, but that he was going to be extremely motivated to working his ass off to embarrass my prediction. He told me to keep an eye on him as he blew up his big-conference counterparts in the Senior Bowl and at the Combine.

He then quoted back the exact part my post that irritated him: "you need an elite MLB. Obviously, Holtzclaw does not seem to be that guy, although he might be a great backup."

That's why I, as a Chiefs fan, have no choice but to loyally get behind this guy, starting what might be the first of many Daniel Holtzclaw bandwagons. It's not because Holtzclaw read my post and responded personally. It's because even though I suggested he was worth a draft pick, even though I picked him up with a 4th, even though I'd start him immediately, and even though I admitted he may be able to hold down the spot, I suggested that he wasn't destined to be elite.

And Daniel Holtzclaw would not have any of that.

So here's to you, Daniel, and your desire to be the best, no matter what the odds are or what the doubters say. I'll be watching a lot closer this coming season, and I believe you when you say you're going to prove a lot of people wrong. I encourage ArrowheadPride as a community to get behind Daniel as he busts wigs this season and finds a home in the NFL.

I'm actually hoping it'll be Kansas City.

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