As rookies and quarterbacks reported to Missouri Western State University for training camp Sunday in St. Joseph, Missouri, among them was third-round draft pick Dorian O’Daniel.
O’Daniel, a hybrid safety/linebacker from Clemson University, is a player who the Chiefs view as a “chess piece,” one they expect to play in all four phases of special teams—kick returns, punt returns, kick coverage and punt coverage, according to general manager Brett Veach.
“We play in so much dime and sub‐packages,” Veach said after the draft. “This guy will be on the field and be able to cover tight ends, do a lot of different things in regards to matching in our sub‐personnel and then we had him graded as the highest-rated special teams player.”
However, his role as a special teams player wasn’t something that he embraced early on in his career. Rather, it was something he took on in college in order make his impact with the team, he said Sunday at training camp.
“I wasn’t playing early on at Clemson and I just saw [embracing special teams] as an opportunity for me to get on the field and a way to contribute to the team, whether it was offense or defense — I just kind of got in where I fit in. I think taking pride in that and buying into it definitely helped me going forward.”
Another thing that has helped him going forward, is his experience playing with — and learning from — top talent, which dates back to his high school days playing at Olney Good Counsel in Maryland alongside Kendall Fuller (Chiefs), Stefon Diggs (Vikings), Lou Young (Cardinals) and Blake Countess (Rams).
It’s an experience O’Daniel feels extremely fortunate to have had.
“Just being around those guys, I really know how to work,” O’Daniel added. “They paved the way so I know what it takes, I know what sacrifice looks like to be successful. So just being able to compete and learn from those guys for four years and going forward, still keeping in contact with those guys, and being able to link up, and work out, and just chop it up about sports and life and everything. I’m very thankful for that.”
His relationship with one of those players, Fuller, is undoubtedly about to get much stronger, as the two prepare to take the field as teammates once again after getting to share in O’Daniel’s draft celebration together.
“I was ecstatic and I didn’t really know where I was gonna go,” O’Daniel said. “In a process like this, you don’t have any idea, so to share that moment with Kendall, and have that relationship, and also the kind of the organization that the Chiefs is was definitely exciting.”
Now, as training camp gets going and O’Daniel’s rookie season grows closer, Fuller has shared both encouragement and advice with his old friend.
“I was actually talking to [Fuller] the other day,” O’Daniel said. “It’s crazy to think that it’s his third year, and I’m a rookie, but him being in my ear and telling me the biggest thing is just remember to have fun and that I’m going to mistakes, things are going to happen and I just have got to make the next play my best play.”
But even with his strong relationship with players like Fuller, O’Daniel knows that same feeling of respect will be something that is earned, not given, when it comes to the rest of his teammates.
“As a rookie, you don’t have any [respect]. It doesn’t matter if you were drafted or undrafted. At the end of the day, you have to compete and you have to prove and show your worth. That’s what it’s all about it’s the same thing in high school and same thing in college and I’m sure it’s going to be the same thing now.”
As for the expectations he has set for himself in his first training camp, he shared this sentiment:
“If I can look in the mirror at the end of camp and at the end of every day and know I didn’t have any regrets or I wouldn’t change anything, and I put my best foot forward, then that’s successful for me.”