Kelechi Osemele had been attending a birthday party in San Francisco when he got the call from his agent. About 24 hours after Laurent Duvernay-Tardif opted out of the season, the suddenly guard-needy Kansas City Chiefs had signed him to a one-year contract.
“I was pretty excited,” said Osemele. “I was fired up. Obviously, the first thing I thought of was playing with (Patrick) Mahomes, and then I accidentally leaked his phone number because I [was using] Instagram. I did a video, and it had his number out there, and I had to take it down real quick. But I was so excited, I didn’t even think about it. I was pretty hyped.
“My agent called me and instantly, the first thing I thought about was this is a really good team, we’ve got a chance to win a championship. I haven’t won one — I think it’s been eight seasons since my rookie year.”
“I thought immediately, this should be a beautiful way to cap off a long NFL career.”
Before the Chiefs lost Duvernay-Tardif for the season, they were already in need of a left guard, where Osemele has played for the majority of his career. Osemele made the Pro Bowl twice as a left guard — the 2016 and 2017 seasons.
Head coach Andy Reid and his Chiefs staff coached Osemele during the 2016 Pro Bowl.
“I sure like him,” said Reid. “We had him in the Pro Bowl one year, and I liked him there as a guy and I’m glad he’s with us. It builds a depth for us and competition... that generates good offensive line play. Any position play when you have that type of competition. (Offensive line coach) Andy Heck works all those guys in, so he keeps a rotation going and they’re all kind of interchangeable there — the way Andy does it.”
Osemele said he is open to playing wherever the Chiefs need him.
“When I came into this game, I was a tackle,” he explained. “I never played guard in my life. I’m pretty open. They’ve kind of just said I’m going to be in a rotation. I’m learning the playbook right now, obviously. There’s a lot of wrinkles to learn, but in any way, shape or form I’m able to help, I’m excited to just do my part, help a franchise that knows how to win continue to do so.”
Successful offensive lines work in unison, so building chemistry will be key — a task that might prove more difficult than usual with no preseason games. But whether he winds up next to left tackle Eric Fisher or right tackle Mitch Schwartz, Osemele described how the chemistry part of it is already coming along.
“We’re here 7-8 a.m. until 6 p.m., so we’re around each other all the time, cracking jokes, sharing music, just hanging out — lifting weights and stuff like that, so that’s kind of how we’re building our chemistry here right now,” he said. “In terms of what I’ve seen with those guys (Fisher and Schwartz), [they’re] technically sound. Two of the most technically sound tackles I’ve seen play the game. I’ve been around the game for awhile, and I’d say they’re really high up there in terms of technique.
“They’re very consistent. That’s something that I definitely need to work on to get on that type of level, so that’s something that I can learn from them. But what I think I bring to it is the physicality — the finish, the aggression. That’s definitely what I bring to the table, so hopefully, I can learn from them and they can learn from me in terms of that type of intensity, especially on Sundays.”
Chiefs running back DeAndre Washington, who played with the 6-foot-5 Osemele as a member of the Oakland Raiders, can attest to that.
“He’s a dog,” Washington said. “He’s one of a kind. As a running back, he’s one of those guys that you know running behind, he’s going to impose his will on whoever’s in front of him, he’s going to finish guys. Kelechi’s one of my favorite O-linemen I’ve ever played with.”
Last season, Osemele was responsible for protecting Sam Darnold after three seasons protecting Derek Carr. While nobody exactly profiles like the reigning Super Bowl MVP in Mahomes, he noted Darnold and Carr moved around enough that he should be able to mesh well in protection for his new quarterback.
That is — as long as he is not distracted by watching his throws.
“It’s been crazy seeing him at practice just casually throwing the ball 70 yards,” said Osemele, “just like flicking it. That’s been crazy to see — he’s got a lot of talent, and his speed as well, just like on option plays and stuff like that. Also, his intelligence, all the different cadences that he rattles through. And checking the audibles and stuff like that. For a guy that young to have command like that, his confidence is pretty impressive for how young he is. That’s been pretty cool to see firsthand up close.”
Osemele filed a grievance against the Jets, who then released him. He underwent surgery to repair a torn labrum, and now he says he is feeling strong. He described how he recently put up 375 pounds on the bench press five times.
“I’m just kind of glad that I can put that behind me right now and just focus on being here and being part of an organization like this — I’m definitely looking forward to moving on to that next chapter here and winning some football games.”