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New Chiefs offensive lineman Zack Golditch was part of a story you may already know

Golditch was injured during the 2012 Aurora, Colorado shooting.

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NFL: Los Angeles Chargers at Arizona Cardinals Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

It’s that time of year.

We’re sifting through the names of the prospects the Kansas City Chiefs have put on their 90-man roster, and we find many unfamiliar ones. Many of these unheralded players will be off the roster before the season begins, and we’ll never hear their names again.

But that might not be the case with Zack Golditch, a 24-year-old offensive lineman whom the Chiefs signed off waivers from the Arizona Cardinals on Friday.

An undrafted free agent first signed by the Los Angeles Chargers a year ago, Golditch was released by the Chargers just before the season began. Then he landed on the practice squad of the San Francisco 49ers. Released by the 49ers in October, Golditch spent three weeks on the practice squad of the Indianapolis Colts before being signed to the Cardinals in early November — and while there, was on the active roster for the last eight weeks of the season, playing in their Week 11 and Week 12 games.

It’s not the kind of résumé that would tend to get a Chiefs fan terribly excited that he’s on the team — even though Golditch, 6 feet 5 and 295 pounds, was a 2017 first-team All-Conference selection at left tackle as a Colorado State redshirt senior, starting 38 games over his four-year career with the Rams.

That said, we should also remember that his résumé is quite similar to the one offered by Chiefs lineman Andrew Wylie when he joined the team last season. All Wylie did was win the Chiefs’ Mack Lee Hill award that is given annually to the best rookie on the team.

But whether or not Golditch ever plays another snap in the NFL, he already has a place in history. It’s just not the kind anyone would want.

On July 20, 2012, Golditch — then a 17-year-old high school student enjoying the summer between his junior and senior years at Gateway High School in Aurora, Colorado — was attending a screening of The Dark Knight Rises at the Aurora Mall when a gunman opened fire in an adjacent theater. 12 people died and 58 others were injured — including Golditch, who was struck in the neck by a bullet that came through the wall.

In an article in the Rocky Mountain Collegian published a week later, Golditch told the story.

Twenty-five minutes in, Gary Oldman’s character Commissioner Gordon is knocked out and dragged down to Bane’s bad-guy sewer-lair, where Gordon is searched by the kidnappers. While the men are distracted, Gordon rolls into a waterway to escape. He is swept away by the fast flowing current and the men open fire on him.

Golditch didn’t realize it then, but that’s when ammunition from a semiautomatic rifle, a 12-gauge shotgun and one .40 semiautomatic pistol started punching through the wall from Theater 9.

“It sounded like some guy took Black Cats or little dynamite sticks and was tossing them up, and I think there was three pops,” says Golditch. “Everyone looked up and was like ‘What are you doing, lighting fireworks in the theater? I get you’re trying to get into it but don’t do that, you know?’”

“Next thing I know I hear a BANG! right beside my ear,” Golditch told the Collegian. “My ears are ringing, I just kind of like fall into my friend’s lap and let out like a yell or something cause it was hurting a lot.”

The bullet that struck Golditch broke into two pieces and made two holes in the back of his neck. He was bleeding profusely, but didn’t understand what had happened to him; only the theatergoers on the other side of the wall had fully understood what was happening as it took place.

But after being rushed to the hospital and seeing dozens of others who had been wounded in the shooting — many in far worse condition than himself — he realized not only what had happened, but how lucky he’d been.

“The surgeon told us that had (the bullet) been a sixteenth of an inch in another location, he could have become paralyzed because it would have hit his spine,” Golditch’s father Stewart told The Denver Post the following June. “If it was a sixteenth of an inch in another direction, it would have hit his carotid artery and he could have bled to death in a couple of minutes.”

Fortunately for Golditch, his wound was not that serious. While it needed a heavy bandage, no surgery was needed before his release from the hospital just hours later.

But even before his release, Golditch had started turning his attention to the thing that mattered most to him: playing football again. He started worrying about missing summer weightlifting practice with his fellow Gateway High Olympians, and whether he’d miss preseason practices.

But in an open letter he wrote for The Post the following year, Golditch said he made up his mind to move forward.

I went straight to practice the next day. That’s where I wanted to be and needed to be the most. With my senior year coming to a start and a highly anticipated football season at hand, I had to move on.

It was tough; with the flashbacks, constant publicity and newly changed identity, I was put into a position where most would crumble and give up.

I was a leader and a fighter; the Gateway Olympians program made me into that. It’s all mental, and getting back to football and school as well as great support from the community really eased the stress.

“You can’t even explain how strong Zack has become,” Gateway football coach Justin Hoffman told The Post. “It takes a really strong person to do what he has done. I get goosebumps just thinking about how he has handled himself.”

“Zack did not miss a practice, and that included after being shot in the neck,” Hoffman told USA Today before the 2018 NFL Draft. “He showed up the next day, and he wanted to work. He told me, ‘Coach I want this to be a lesson you can use for the rest of your life. If there’s an excuse any other kid can give that’s worse than mine, I’d like to hear it.’ Of course, we cried about it. But that’s what he did, and that’s going to be his life. He’s going to show up, and he’s going to work.”

“I hope when teams watch my film they see a guy who’s a competitor, someone who is not afraid and won’t back down from a challenge,” Golditch told USA Today. “Doesn’t matter if you’re bigger than me or better than me, I’m going to come back every single play and give my best effort and try to be better the next play.”

Golditch also recalled a meeting with an NFL scout before the draft — one who had apparently failed to Google his name before the interview — who asked him to tell a story about a time he had dealt with adversity.

“I was a 17-year-old kid going to see a movie, next thing you know I might not have come home that night,” Golditch recalled saying. “For me to still be able to play football, to be able to be a normal person and an able-bodied person is great. I take nothing for granted. This opportunity to continue to live my life today is amazing.”

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