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Chiefs fans owe Rams’ Jalen Ramsey a thank you

In early October 2018, the Rams cornerback provided Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill with the ultimate motivation — that he still carries today.

Jacksonville Jaguars v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by Peter Aiken/Getty Images

On October 4, 2018, the Jacksonville Jaguars were 3-1, coming off a surprise AFC title game trip — and for lack of better terms, feeling themselves. In Week 5, they were scheduled to host the Kansas City Chiefs.

Over the summer, then-Jags cornerback Jalen Ramsey was caught on NFL Network saying that he was ready to press Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill. Hill responded during game week.

“Obviously, [Ramsey] thinks highly of himself,” Hill said on Wednesday, October 3. “He’s all right, I guess. I can’t wait to line up against him. I hope he presses me.”

That led to October 4 — and Ramsey’s now somewhat-infamous return-specialist rant.

“Yeah, I just wish he would have picked a side,” Ramsey said. “Either I’m just all right, or I’m the top dog. Pick a side. If I’m the top dog, but I’m just all right, that means that he doesn’t think any corner in the league is good, and that’s not true.

“I’m looking forward to playing the game. I’m looking forward to playing their offense, seeing our defense against their offense. I don’t like how whoever has made it a matchup—me against Tyreek. He’s good for what he does for their team. He made All-Pro, as a return specialist—let’s get that right—as a return specialist his rookie year. He went to two Pro Bowls as a return specialist. Return specialist. Two years. I made All-Pro in my position as a corner. Went to the Pro Bowl as a corner, so it’s not a wide receiver vs. corner matchup. So we can get out of the way off the bat. I feel like it was a strategic, smart move by him. He’s going to get some clout. He’s going to get the buzz going.”

On game day, Ramsey and Hill went at it for four targets, with Hill besting Ramsey for two catches and 46 yards, including a 36-yard reception. The Chiefs won 30-14 — and the Jaguars were never really the same, finishing 5-11 in 2018, 6-10 in 2019 and 1-15 in 2020. Ramsey forced his way out of Jacksonville during the 2019 season and now plays for the Los Angeles Rams.

That year, Hill finished fourth in the league with 1,479 receiving yards, was named a first-team All-Pro at the FLEX position — and yes, was named a second-team All-Pro at wide receiver. In 2019, he missed four games due to injury. But in 2020, Hill was named a first-team All-Pro as a wide receiver, finishing second in the league at the position with 15 receiving touchdowns.

Ramsey, by the way, might have had his best pro season, also notching a first-team All-Pro honor for the first time since 2017.

Why bring this up during AFC title week? Because Hill still can’t help himself from referencing Ramsey’s comments. The Chiefs turned to him last week on fourth-and-1 with the season on the line. As we know, quarterback Chad Henne converted the pass to seal the Divisional round win.

“It means a lot,” Hill said, seeing his opportunity. “That means I’ve come a long way from the return specialist days. That makes me feel like a great. Growing up, I’ve always dreamed about being in the NFL and making those splash plays, when you’re on ESPN and they roll the play back. I’ve always dreamed of moments like that and for me, that’s a dream come true. Coach Reid, thank you for that moment. Thanks to you coach Reid, thank you.”

Hill has often referenced being a student of the game, studying other top receivers to see if he can implement what they do in his own repertoire. In the AFC championship this week, Buffalo Bills wide receiver Stefon Diggs — who finished first in the league in receiving yardage — will be on the other side as Josh Allen’s primary target.

I just love his RAC-ability (run after catch),” Hill said. “When I think of Stefon Diggs, I think of RAC-ability and I also think about being able to get in and out of breaks in his routes. He’s a great receiver. He’s one of the top receivers of the game and I really respect him.

“We’ll just have to see who has the better game, him or (Travis) Kelce because I’m still the return specialist.

And there it was again. Asked if that was the best gift he could have ever been given in terms of motivation, Hill confirmed.

“Oh yeah,” he smiled, “up there, high on the charts. I mean — I guess I fit well in this scheme, that’s all I got to say. I just fit well in the scheme. Got a great quarterback, great coach, great weapons all around me, great offensive line, so I just fit well in the scheme.

As it sounds, Hill must have recently caught a football analyst crediting his wild success to Reid’s West Coast scheme.

One thing is for sure: he won’t forget.