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Dustin Colquitt has seen it all, and loves what he’s seeing in Kansas City

Colquitt anchors one end of a bridge leading back to the last time the Chiefs played for the AFC championship

NFL: JAN 27 Super Bowl LIV - Chiefs Opening Night at Marlins Park Photo by Doug Murray/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Kansas City Chiefs punter Dustin Colquitt has been around for quite a while.

There were probably a few people who shook their heads in exasperation on April 24, 2005, when the Chiefs used a third round pick to draft Colquitt out of Tennessee. Drafting kickers is seldom popular among fans.

But looking back, it’s hard to be troubled by the decision. Almost no matter the position or draft capital expended, it’s difficult to criticize drafting a player who can stick around for 14 seasons — and he’s not done yet. Colquitt still has two years remaining on his contract.

But this week — as the Chiefs prepare the New England Patriots in the team’s first appearance in the AFC Championship game since 1993 — Colquitt provides one end of a bridge to the past.

Colquitt has seen a lot of highs and lows with the Chiefs. He was on the 2008 and 2012 teams that posted the worst records in franchise history, and is now on his seventh Chiefs squad to make the playoffs. So he’s been a party to a lot of playoff heartache, too. The 2006 loss to the Indianapolis Colts... the one to the Baltimore Ravens in 2010... the Colts again in 2013... the Patriots in 2015, the Pittsburgh Steelers the year after, and the Tennessee Titans just last season.

When Colquitt joined the Chiefs in 2005, right guard Will Shields was still starting. Shields had been there for the 2003 loss to the Colts, along with the 1997 defeat at the hands of the Denver Broncos, the 1995 loss to the Colts, and as a rookie starter, the 1993 loss to the Buffalo Bills — the last time the Chiefs played in the AFC Championship.

Shields anchors the other end of the bridge that stretches back to 25 years ago this week, when the Chiefs were last in the same position they are today: one game away from the Super Bowl.

It was all so long ago. I hadn’t really stopped to consider that it was be possible to draw a line through just two Chiefs players all the way back to that awful day in Buffalo when Chiefs quarterback Joe Montana grimaced in pain as his head hit the turf, and we suddenly knew the dream was over.

But as Colquitt spoke to the media on Tuesday, he didn’t talk as if anchoring one end of a bridge supported by so much pain was a burden to bear.

“It’s always great looking back at years past where we’ve made it to the divisional round or first round of playoffs,” he said, “and kind of how we’ve handled business or what we’ve worked on — and things that I can clean up in my game. That’s the biggest thing we’re focusing on: ‘How can we positively affect each game going forward?’”

Colquitt said that it is the presence of head coach Andy Reid and special teams coach Dave Toub that has made the biggest difference.

“A lot has changed in this building since 2013,” he said, “with Coach Reid [and] Coach Toub — guys that have become great friends, but also guys who have mentored you up and told you where you struggle, where you need to get better, and [they have] included family in that — which has been a great change to this environment.”

Colquitt said that this season has been fun for him to watch — especially recently.

“I think the coolest thing I get to see on a daily basis – especially from a coach or player standpoint – is Coach Reid living out what he wants to do on the field through Patrick Mahomes. You see Dave Toub working through his players with his schemes. Bob Sutton is the same way. When your defense plays like it [did] last week, Sutton’s over there and you can see him jumping around, moving and saying, ‘This is what it’s designed to look like!’”

Colquitt said that the Chiefs will have their “work cut out for them” against the Patriots on Sunday, noting that they have been “the team to beat since 2001.” But he said he has heard from many former Chiefs teammates — a list that is now getting pretty long — telling him they hope the Chiefs can finish the job they were unable to do together. Colquitt said that’s why so many of them have been in evidence around Arrowhead this season.

“I think that’s why they’ve showed up,” Colquitt said. “They wanted to see it. They have a different sense of this team — as I do. Like you said, I’ve been here for 14 seasons, I’ve gotten to see people come and go.”

Colquitt said that the environment Reid has fostered with the Chiefs has not only made a difference for the franchise on the field, but it’s also a perfect fit for the community of which it is a part.

“It’s more of a Midwest environment here now. It’s fun to see. It’s fun to see the success we’ve had, and getting into this next game. Can you think of a better town in this country that would love and crave an AFC Championship more than Chiefs Kingdom? I can’t.”

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