Kansas City Chiefs rookie defensive end George Karlaftis has no doubt what the key will be to stopping the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday. The former Purdue Boilermaker has a healthy respect for the Colts’ run game — led by running back Jonathan Taylor, who topped the league in 2021 with 1811 yards on the ground. He also recognizes that pass-catching back Nyheim Hines presents an additional threat.
“Yeah, when you talk about the Colts, I think you have to bring up their running back [Taylor] first,” Karlaftis explained in a media appearance after Friday’s practice. “Really both of their backs — they have two talented backs. We’ve watched some tape, and that’s where it all starts with them.
“It starts with their run game, and for us, it’s all about stopping that and then getting to third down and stopping their passing attack. We’re really focused on stopping the run and then getting the quarterback. We have little packages and little things that we will be able to do when the time comes, but it all starts with stopping the run.”
During his freshman season at Purdue, Karlaftis played against Taylor, who was finishing his college career at Wisconsin. However, the play he most remembered likely leaves him wanting more from Sunday’s encounter.
“He tackled me,” Karlaftis recalled. “I never tackled him — he tackled me. We forced a fumble on the other side. He fumbled it, and I scooped it. And he tackled me from behind. I was just kind of trying to get the ball more than anything — I was a freshman. He was close enough. I didn’t tackle him, but he tackled me. Interesting.”
Now two games into his professional career, Karlaftis is focused on consistency as he continues to establish himself.
“It’s all about a routine and being consistent,” he declared. “Doing the same things each and every day and never getting worse — it’s always about getting better in one way, shape or form. That’s really what it’s all about. Being consistent in your technique, and what you bring to the table in your energy level each and every day. That’s hard — that’s easier said than done. It’s all about consistency at this level.”
His head coach continues to be pleased with what he sees from the 30th overall selection in April’s draft.
“Yeah, he works so hard,” Chiefs head coach Andy Reid confirmed in his own media appearance Friday. “He’s relentless on every play. He’ll need to be that this week against a real good offensive line. For a young guy, your hat goes off to him. He’s worked very hard, and he works hard every day, every snap and he’s learning as he goes.”
The Chiefs may need even more of his relentlessness this week, as defensive end Mike Danna will miss Sunday’s game with a calf injury. Karlaftis knows Danna’s absence will be felt but knows that such circumstances are part of the game.
“It’s a huge loss,” he acknowledged. “But our mentality is ‘next man up,’ — always. Mike brings a lot of things to the table. He’s very versatile, [and] he’s a great player and can do a lot of things for us and help us win — but just like I said, it’s next man up.”
Karlaftis is a native of Greece who then moved to West Lafayette, Indiana as a teenager before attending Purdue. While the Colts were the closest professional team in his teenage years, his football connections to his home state rest more with his alma mater.
“I would say that was more Purdue for me at least,” he recalled. “I just knew of the Colts — I wasn’t a huge fan or anything like that. Me, [I was] just a Purdue fan when I moved to Indiana. I started watching football so that’s about it.”
He expects to have a number of guests for Sunday’s game in his home state.
“My family alone — probably 25 or so,” Karlaftis predicted. “Then I’ll have my high school coach and my college coaches and my friends — [but] they’ll have practice you know. Definitely a lot of people. A lot of friends [and] family. They’ll be excited to see me. I haven’t gotten to see them in quite some time.”
He knows some of those guests generally support his next opponent, but Karlaftis expects them to be in his corner for this game.
“A lot of them are still Colts fans,” he admitted, “but they’ll support me. I think they’re more George fans than anything.”