As training camp has continued at Missouri Western State College in St. Joseph, both Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid and defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo have talked about how they love the instincts they’re seeing from rookie linebacker Nick Bolton, whom the Chiefs selected in the second round of the NFL Draft last spring.
But speaking to the media after Sunday’s practice, the former Missouri linebacker said that the more he can grasp the playbook, the better he will depend on those instincts.
“Yeah, it’s starting to come along a little bit more,” he told reporters. “I feel more comfortable in the playbook. Like I said, Anthony Hitchens, Ben Niemann — all the older guys [and] Willie Gay — are all helping me learn the playbook. That kind of instills confidence that you know what you’re doing — and you can go out there and execute the game plan with a clear mind.”
Bolton said that so far, his training camp experience has been a good one.
“The first couple weeks have been a great learning experience — being out there competing with these guys<“ he noted. “[It’s] a chance to still learn stuff — learn with the vets and stuff like that. [I’m] trying to get the speed of the game down, but I feel like I’ve had a pretty positive first couple [of] weeks.”
Bolton also said he’s gaining lots of knowledge from Spagnuolo and his assistants — not only when they speak to him but also when they speak to others.
“If I can get anything — one or two nuggets — from him every single day,” he said of the coordinator, ”I know it’s helping me be a better football player. I just sometimes sit there while they’re talking and try and learn stuff from them — stuff like that. I’m just trying to gain knowledge every single time I can while I’m on the field.”
Since both Gay and Hitchens have missed time with injuries, Bolton has had some opportunities to call the defensive plays — something that he did at Mizzou and that we expect will eventually be one of his roles on the Chiefs. Bolton called it “a learning experience.”
I feel like it kind of helped me be more confident in everything that I’m doing,” he said. “Hearing the calls, hearing the checks — and also getting the mental part of that. Running [on and] off the field, seeing everybody else executing, the people going before me and after me — and stuff like that — kind of helped process the game differently. I found it very beneficial.”
Still... he’s living out a dream. And on Saturday, it’ll be under the lights in an NFL stadium against the San Francisco 49ers.
“[I’m a ] small-town kid,” he admitted. “I never thought this would happen, so I’m excited — as if it’s my first game ever. I’ve kind of got the Pee-Wee butterflies — so I’m ready to get it going.”