In early 2013, Kansas City Chiefs punter Dustin Colquitt had been selected to the Pro Bowl for the first time. Then a free agent, he watched as players and coaches departed after the disastrous 2012 season — one the Chiefs had ended with a stinging 38-3 defeat at the hands of the Denver Broncos, leaving them with the NFL’s worst record.
New head coach Andy Reid had just arrived, taking over a team that had posted a losing record in five of Colquitt’s eight seasons.
“As a punter, you’re thinking, ‘We’re actually going to get Andy Reid to a small market?’” said Colquitt on Thursday. “But Clark Hunt really went out there and went for it all.”
Colquitt remembers that Reid approached him as he was doing some kicking, getting ready for his upcoming Pro Bowl appearance. But when Reid realized Colquitt was busy, he said their talk could wait.
“He doesn’t want any distractions,” said Colquitt. “That means if I’m punting, it’s ‘Let’s not get distracted here. Do that first — and then we’ll talk.’”
So once Colquitt finished his workout, he and Reid did just that. He remembers that Reid just wanted to know how he felt.
“Are you tired of the city? Are you tired of the organization? Where are you at?” Reid asked.
“And I was like, ‘I love football and I love this city,’” Colquitt recalled. “‘All my kids have been born here. I want to stay.’ And so he goes, ‘Well, we want you here.’
”He said, ‘Look, we’re going to try to win championships here. That’s why we all play this game: the trophy.’”
That resonated with Colquitt, who had heard a similar message from a successful coach.
“It’s what Dick Vermeil said when we first got here in my rookie class. Like I’m sure he did with all the guys in the four or five years he was here, he gave you a card with a Lombardi trophy on it and said, ‘This is why we’re here.’”
That was enough for Colquitt, who decided to stay in Kansas City to play for Reid — someone who is usually described as a player’s coach. But from Colquitt’s point of view — that of someone who has played for five different head coaches in a 15-year career — that might not mean what you think it does.
”I think a player’s coach means that you treat everybody the same — which is differently,” he explained. “Because everybody’s different. He knows what pulls your strings, what motivates you and all that stuff. I think that’s what makes him different — not from a lot of [coaches] that I’ve had, but [from] what people [call] player’s coaches. He just knows the terrain — knows what motivates guys that are in his locker room.”
Colquitt said that for players, it’s simple: Reid knows you.
“He spends that time off the field getting to know you better. That breeds success — because he knows, ‘I’m not going to ask anything from that player that the player doesn’t already know is coming.’ That’s just the kind of ability he holds with us.”
Colquitt said it’s all part of Reid’s normal procedure.
”He’s thorough. He doesn’t leave any stones unturned,” he said. “He wants to know what you’ve got going on in your life — your family life, your work ethic, everything that’s going to benefit the team. He does his homework. That’s apparent with where we’re sitting right now — and the opportunity that we have in front of us with the new guys he’s brought in through free agency and the draft.”
He said that right off the bat, it made the players excited to be part of it.
“And so in 2013, you start saying, ‘I can’t wait to get to work. What are these guys building?’ All of a sudden we’re like, ‘Goll, this is crazy what kind of a turnaround we’ve had!’”
Colquitt said he believes the team’s success comes not only from the way Reid develops relationships with players, but also from the way he takes care of the team’s business — the process he (and his players) talk about every week.
”Everything’s the same,” he said. “No helmets on Wednesday. We have a hard practice — sometimes throw the pads on — on Thursday. Fast Friday — the special teams at the beginning. We keep everything the same.
“They want to make sure that when we wake up, it doesn’t feel like we’re in a different game; our preseason schedule is the same as our regular season.”
After that, the players don’t have to worry about anything else. All that is left is the game they’re about to play.
“As soon as you’re out of the dorms [in training camp], they have created everything logistically. Sometimes you get on a bus — ‘What hotel are we staying in again?’ — and they’ve just taken care of everything. That goes to all the people who are working under Andy, taking care of travel arrangements and all that stuff. They’re just wanting us to focus on the football side of things — just what we can control in between the lines.”
Colquitt clearly relishes playing for his head coach — and the rest of the front office the Chiefs have assembled.
“[General manager] Brett Veach has a great team,” he said. “They’re scrupulous with their work at the Combine. They ask all the right questions. When you’re able to start the ship off in the right direction starting in 2013 with a 9-0 start like that — when you’re 2-14 and haven’t really won even a preseason game for a couple of years — it’s a radical change. I think it’s just their thoroughness — seeking out players that want to win and want to contribute and want to play in front of our fans.”
Seven years later, Colquitt still marvels at Chiefs owner Clark Hunt’s decision to swing for the fence.
”That takes a lot of guts or whatever you guys want to call it — a second-generational owner and siblings to come together and say, ‘This is not a small market. This is a championship market. Let’s push it to the limits.’”