Sometimes, an NFL player becomes popular simply because he’s good. He bulls through the line to pick up tough yards, or dances through the secondary for long gains. He passes for touchdowns, sacks the quarterback, or makes the big special teams play to turn the tide of a game.
But sometimes... a player becomes popular almost solely on his potential — especially when he enters the league as an undrafted free agent. After all... people love a rags-to-riches story. Could there be a better one than an unheralded player who becomes a star?
For Kansas City Chiefs fans, such a player is Charcandrick West, who was released Wednesday after four seasons with the team.
Is it just me, or does it seem like Chark has been with us a lot longer than that?
Born in Shreveport, Louisiana, West played running back for his high school team in Spring Hill, Louisiana. An All-State player with 1,350 yards and 16 touchdowns his senior year, he was recruited by a number of college programs and originally signed with Louisiana Tech as a cornerback. But before the school year began, he transferred to Abilene Christian University and switched back to offense.
During four seasons at ACU, West had a solid — if not altogether spectacular — career, rushing for 2,073 yards on 347 carries (6.0 yards per carry) with 22 touchdowns. He scored eight more as a receiver, gaining 1,007 yards on 71 receptions.
Nonetheless, he attracted the attention of John Dorsey and the Chiefs, signing as an undrafted free agent in May 2014. Cut after training camp, he cleared waivers and was added to the Chiefs practice squad. In November, he was promoted to the active roster but saw no significant action.
But the 2015 season would be a different story.
After Chiefs starter Jamaal Charles was lost for the season after a knee injury in Week 5, West got his opportunity. He would be the Chiefs leading rusher for the season, gaining 634 yards on 160 carries, and another 214 yards on 20 receptions.
It didn’t start well — West fumbled on a fourth-quarter drive when the Chiefs lost to the Vikings 16-10 in Week 6 — but the Chiefs would win 10 straight to finish the season on the way to their first playoff victory since 1993.
One of that season’s highlights for West must have been the road victory against Denver. Most of us will remember that game as the one where Peyton Manning was benched after setting the NFL record for passing yards. But West scored two touchdowns in the game — one of them a short pass from Alex Smith that became an 80-yard touchdown play — the longest of his career.
After that season, it was easy to believe that we had a real rags-to-riches story on our hands. But Spencer Ware would take the leading role in 2016, and Kareem Hunt led the rushing offense in 2017.
A concussion suffered in training camp, a higher cap hit than Ware and a bunch of guys named Williams led to West’s release on Wednesday. And who knows? If he doesn’t catch on somewhere, maybe one day he’ll be back.
But if not... we will remember a fine season, a ready smile, and a lot of dreams.
Charcandrck West Statistics for the Chiefs, 2014-2017