The story thus far at Kansas City Chiefs training camp at Missouri Western State University in St. Joseph has undoubtedly been the return of running back Isiah Pacheco. The second-year player quickly went from uncertain to start the season after a pair of offseason surgeries to being on the field for all three days of the early portion of camp for rookies and injured players.
On Friday — following the final practice before the full squad reports this weekend — a running back hoping to follow Pacheco’s pathway from unheralded prospect to NFL regular spoke to the media.
Former Tulsa running back Deneric Prince joined the Chiefs as an undrafted free agent this spring. He appreciates the opportunity to work with coaches before the entire 90-man roster competes with their time.
“I feel like this coming here early just helps to get ahead,” he noted, “so when the veterans come here, we’re on top of everything.”
Once the veterans report, the undoubted leader of his position group will be Jerick McKinnon. Pacheco spoke about the veteran’s presence in Thursday’s media remarks. Prince has already taken note of what he can learn from McKinnon.
“Actually, I’ve been on a couple of zooms with him and the coaches,” the rookie revealed. “He’s just a leader, and he was just helping with the plays — helping me learn.”
The past few days have provided a chance to learn from Pacheco — the Chiefs’ leading rusher from last season.
“I’m just out there watching him and learning from him,” he said of this week’s opportunity. “That’s the only way you’re going to get better is to learn from who is in front of you.”
Prince realizes what he will be asked to do in Kansas City will be more intense than his responsibilities at Tulsa.
“I think the biggest jump,” he observed, “is probably the playbook [with] more technique. You’ve got to be smarter and just be a pro to the game [and] a pro to the playbook.”
Prince believes he has put in the work to understand his new offense heading into his first training camp.
“I just dive into it,” he claimed of his approach. “I’ve got to fall asleep going over the playbook. There’s a lot of things to learn [and] I’ve got to be ready.
“I feel like I’m learning it and catching along.”
Although he wasn’t drafted, Prince has lofty goals for his career.
“I feel like me, personally, I feel like I’m an every down back,” the former Golden Hurricane declared. “I feel like I can do it all: from routes to running hard — whatever they need.”
Although he was not a huge receiving threat in college, Prince realizes that will be crucial to his chances at NFL success.
“If I don’t get the ball in the game,” he stated, “I stay after practice to get extra catches to always be prepared.”
For Chiefs head coach Andy Reid — and on a team with the face of the league under center — pass protection is nonnegotiable for running backs. Prince has taken notice.
“Obviously, I want to get better at everything,” he explained, “so I feel like I can improve on my pass protection. Wherever coach (Reid) needs me to improve on, I’m looking to work for it.”
In June, Chiefs assistant head coach and special teams coordinator Dave Toub revealed the most likely role for Prince with the 2023 Chiefs: replacing Pacheco as his unit’s primary kickoff returner. The longtime Reid assistant compared his return game potential to former Chiefs’ running back Knile Davis.
Though he only returned four kickoffs in college, Prince believes he has the skill needed for the role.
“Just my ability to run in space,” he identified, “I feel like that’s going to show a lot.”