A third-round selection made by the Kansas City Chiefs in the 2018 NFL Draft, Derrick Nnadi has stood as one of the most underrated players in the defense over the past four years. At 6-foot-1 and 317 pounds, the defensive tackle earns his paycheck every Sunday as a reliable run-stopper. Nnadi’s efforts in 2019 and 2020 helped Kansas City reach two straight Super Bowls, including their Super Bowl LIV victory.
The play of the 25 year old on the field could be enough, but it isn’t for Nnadi, who considers his work off the field just as important. That attitude has been ingrained in him dating back to his days growing up in Virginia Beach, where he has given back to organizations such as the Boys and Girls Clubs through the Derrick Nnadi Foundation.
But Nnadi’s generosity has not stopped with his first home.
“With me being in Kansas City, going back to what I’ve learned is always take care of home first,” he recently. “Being that I’m living in Kansas City right now, I treat it as my home, so I always try to do anything I can involving the community.”
Nnadi’s involvement in the Kansas City community began in 2019, his second year with the Chiefs out of Florida State. Nnadi decided to partner with the KC Pet Project, the local nonprofit that provides sheltering and animal services in Kansas City, Missouri.
“With KC Pet Project, again, it just goes back to why I want to do it,” Nnadi said. “It went back to my first dog, Rocky. When I first got him, he was real timid, had a lot of issues with the breeder, and I always just felt bad for him, so helping out at KC Pet Project, giving the animals a second chance to find a true home. It’s always just had a special place in my heart.”
Nnadi adopted the pit bull prior to his senior year (2017) at Florida State, and the personality of the dog would serve as his inspiration for his primary initiative — helping pets find their forever homes.
Nnadi recently recalled the moment he brought Rocky home.
“When I first got him from the breeder ... for a while, he was a very timid dog,” he said. “The breeder didn’t want his dogs around people because he was worried about people stealing them. So when he was younger, everything scared him — cars, noises, anything.”
The dog’s nervous temperament reminded Nnadi of a rather famous movie character.
“The reason why I called him Rocky? If you tried to pet him when he was a puppy, he would bob and weave just like him. With him, I kind of treated him like a project, because I always try to slowly get him more social with other people.”
Nnadi worked with Rocky, and over time, he noticed a stark change from a scared puppy to a grown dog full of life.
“These days now? You would never suspect [any timidness],” Nnadi said. “Happy go-lucky dog. Dude’s weird. I come home, he’s jumping to my face. I open the door? Boom. Ba! I’m like, ‘Bro. Calm down. How you doing?’ [He] runs up and down the stairs, grabs a toy, he’s like, ‘I got it! I got it! All right, cool.’ Happy as can be.”
Rocky’s personality change for the better prompted Nnadi to commit to paying for the adoption fees of a featured dog of the KC Pet Project after every Chiefs’ win in 2019. The Chiefs won 14 games en route to the franchise’s first AFC championship and first Super Bowl berth in 50 years.
Nnadi thought big.
“It was a last-minute idea that hit me out of nowhere,” Nnadi told Chiefs.com’s Matt McMullen last February. “The way I saw it, we had the biggest game in the world coming up, and if I was sponsoring one dog for a regular game, then this had to be the biggest gesture imaginable. It seemed like the perfect thing to do.”
Nnadi alerted KC Pet Project that he would cover the adoption fees for every dog in the shelter (more than 100 dogs). It is fair to say that the story made national waves.
The Chiefs clinched the Super Bowl title by defeating the San Francisco 49ers 31-20 — and Nnadi finished with four tackles, including one for loss. The story only continued from there, with Nnadi pledging to cover a dog’s cost per win in 2020 and 2021.
Nnadi’s renewed efforts for the current season were announced by KC Pet Project in September.
When the Chiefs win, Kansas City’s pets win. During the upcoming 2021 Kansas City Chiefs season, KC Pet Project will be once again partnering with Defensive Tackle, Derrick Nnadi, to help some deserving dogs find homes. When the Chiefs win a game, Nnadi will sponsor the adoption fee for one dog in the shelter, which will be posted to KC Pet Project’s social media pages. Ziwi Pets will also be providing a giveaway with every adoption complete with food, treats, and more.
In 2021, that is six dogs and counting, a number that only stands to grow as the season continues — and who knows what is to come if the Chiefs find their way to Los Angeles in February for Super Bowl LVI?
A former NFL Community MVP
Nnadi’s philanthropy does stop in his involvement with the KC Pet Project.
Chiefs’ DT Derrick Nnadi named NFLPA Community MVP for providing a shopping spree for a victim’s family following the Virginia Beach mass shooting and hosting two back-to-school events for kids in Kansas City and Southeast Virginia.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) September 6, 2019
Prior to the Chiefs’ championship season of 2019 beginning, Nnadi surprised the family of Kate Nixon, a mother of three who was tragically killed in a mass shooting at Virginia Beach Municipal Center, with a shopping spree. His efforts earned him the NFL season’s initial community MVP award.
“I couldn’t go back home, but being so far away, this is the closest I could do,” Nnadi told Chiefs.com at the time. “I haven’t gotten a chance to meet Mr. Nixon yet, but when I do, I just want to show him how much it means to me that his kids are safe.”
Kansas City Chiefs defensive tackle Derrick Nnadi — a player quite underrated, on the field and off.