The Kansas City Chiefs’ new rookie safety Chamarri Conner wasn’t anticipating the Chiefs would select him.
While Kansas City had shown moderate interest in the former Virginia Tech player, the team had given Conner no inclination that they were planning on taking him in the 2023 NFL Draft — much less that it would trade up 15 spots to take him with the 119th pick.
“They showed some interest — [but] not really, you know,” he told reporters before Kansas City’s first rookie minicamp session on Saturday. “I didn’t really know that they was that interested in me, so it was kind of surprising when it happened.”
Conner hadn’t even realized that the Chiefs had traded with the Minnesota Vikings and were on the clock. He had been watching the draft on television — waiting for his moment to arrive — but had stepped away for a moment.
“I actually just went outside,” he recalled, “because my friend had just came to where I was at. So I had just went outside to show him where to park.”
And then his phone rang. It was Kansas City.
Welcome to #ChiefsKingdom, @ChamarriConner!@ericstonestreet | @Chiefs— NFL (@NFL) April 29, 2023
: 2023 #NFLDraft on NFLN/ESPN/ABC
: Stream on NFL+ https://t.co/D3EqkrKLy4 pic.twitter.com/r4ZEcUUxv7
For many draft prospects, the line between being taken in the fourth and seventh rounds — or not being drafted at all — is pretty thin. So to Conner, it meant a lot that the Chiefs had moved up for him.
“When they told me that they traded up,” he said, “you know that just put extra bonus on it — because you know they didn’t have to do that. They didn’t have to trade up to get me.”
Not every rookie will stick with the team that selected them. Some will end up on the team’s practice squad. Others will be looking for a new job with one of the NFL’s other teams. But however it plays out for Conner, he has a support system. Eight players from his high school — Trinity Christian Academy in Jacksonville, Florida — have been on NFL rosters. He said he can count on them to pick up the phone.
“It’s helped me a lot,” he said. “I can always go back and talk to those guys, asking them questions about their time in the league — and things that they would have changed.”
In particular, Conner said that he speaks with New England Patriots cornerback Shaun Wade.
“He went to Ohio State a couple of years ago,” Conner said of Wade. “[He’s] one of my close friends. We was just talking a couple of days ago, and I was asking him about how his rookie minicamp went.”
Former Tennessee Titans linebacker Andre Smith and former Indianapolis Colts wideout Isaiah Ford — who also went to Virginia Tech — are also among Conner’s friends.
Final player speaking today ... Chamarri Conner (#27) -- here's some reps from the #Chiefs 4th Round pick. pic.twitter.com/2IIhq8k8vF— Harold R. Kuntz (@HaroldRKuntz3) May 6, 2023
Conner said that in Kansas City, he expects to be playing deep — and also playing closer to the line of scrimmage as a box safety.
“I think it’s really interchangeable,” he observed. “I’m just going to be kind of moving around.”
Conner also knows that to make the team as a mid-round rookie, he’s going to have to contribute on special teams — which happens to be in his wheelhouse. He logged 802 special teams snaps during his time with the Hokies.
take a look at the tape, @Chiefs— Virginia Tech Football (@HokiesFB) April 29, 2023
Gettin' a good one in @chamarriconner9❗️ #NFLDraft | #ThisIsHome pic.twitter.com/wRdDEvZUxC
“I’ve always been big on special teams,” he noted. “Coming from Virginia Tech, it’s something that we emphasize every day — day-in, day-out. We know it’s a big part of the game. I’ve always been locked in on special teams.“
However he ends up being used by the Chiefs, he knows that this is simply Day 1 at his new job,
“I’m just taking it all in,” he said. “Just putting my best foot forward every time I step on the field — and every time I step in the meeting room.”