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In the Chiefs’ defense, Willie Gay Jr. is ‘The Juice Man’

The Kansas City linebacker says he is hardwired to pump up his teammates.

Kansas City Chiefs v Denver Broncos Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

Last week, we covered the friendship between Kansas City Chiefs linebackers Nick Bolton and Willie Gay Jr. from Bolton’s perspective. On Wednesday afternoon, Gay confirmed that the feelings for their bromance are mutual.

“We have that chemistry, man,” he told reporters after the team’s minicamp practice. “We feel like we’re brothers sometimes, and that’s how we treat each other. That’s how we interact with each other out on the field. We just keep the energy flowing. If he does something good, then I’m happy for him. If I do something good, then he’s happy for me. We teach each other.”

This is welcome news to all Chiefs fans — some of whom (like me) have already begun workshopping clever nicknames for the dynamic duo.

Gay also said that he has seen Bolton grow as a leader. Given that he was asked to fill Anthony Hitchens’ shoes, this wasn’t easy.

“My rookie year we had Hitch,” noted Gay. “I had never seen a leader like that at middle linebacker. When Nick came in, I thought he picked up right where Hitch left off. You know, each and every day, each and every week, he is growing as a MIKE linebacker and as a leader.”

But make no mistake: Gay also leads in his own way. Bolton may be making the calls and ensuring everyone is lined up correctly, but Gay is the spirit and lighting rod of the Chiefs defense. Whether he’s flying around the field at breakneck speeds — or on the sideline cheering on his teammates — you will be hard-pressed to find another player who is the emotional spark plug that Gay has become.

Gay said that he’s always been hardwired to get other people pumped up.

“I love making plays myself,” he explained, “but when I see other guys making plays, I try to act like it’s me making the play. I call myself ‘The Juice Man’ for a reason.”

Gay believes his juice helps give the defense an identity to hang its hat on. He said that everyone on the Chiefs defense has supreme faith in their abilities — and that they put in the work to back it up.

“We play with a lot of swagger,” he noted. “We’re hard-nosed guys who are working hard every day trying to dominate this league in each and every way.”

Part of playing with swagger is showing resistance and bouncing back when you get beat — which is bound to happen from time to time — but few linebackers are forced to play against a quarterback like Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes on a daily basis.

Gay said that he likes the difficulty of playing against Mahomes because he’s able to take what he learns in practice and use it on game day.

“I treat all quarterbacks the same,” noted Gay. “But the good thing for me is that my quarterback is better than all of them. So when I take pieces from practice and I use it in a game, it makes it easier.

“I know Patrick can throw a no-look [pass]. While this other guy is going to stare [his receiver] down and throw it to him — or fake me inside and throw it out.”

Speaking of no-look passes, Juju Smith-Schuster let the cat out of the bag on Tuesday: Gay himself had already been victimized by one of the quarterback’s no-look passes.

“Today, he did the no-look pass,” Smith-Schuster had said after the Day 1 practice. “He got me — and I was on the sideline. I guess everyone saw it — because I thought I was the only one who saw it. It got the linebacker [Willie] Gay and threw him off. Everyone thinking he’s going outside, but he went inside. I was just like, ‘Wow!’”

Gay took it all in stride. “You saw that?” he joked. Then he smiled.

“I’m going to go with what my coach said,” he told reporters. “He said I was eye-banging the quarterback and looking at him [for] too long.”

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