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Willie Gay Jr. predicts a ‘great year’ for Chiefs’ linebackers

On Friday, Kansas City’s fourth-year linebacker shared a familiar goal.

NFL: Kansas City Chiefs Training Camp Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Friday marked the first padded practice for the Kansas City Chiefs’ training camp at Missouri Western State University in St. Joseph. At the post-practice media conference, one of their key defenders confirmed that head coach Andy Reid’s infamous summer sessions are as brutal as ever.

“It was one of those days,” linebacker Willie Gay Jr. offered in his remarks to the press. “We got better today. It was a ‘Coach Reid training camp practice’ today — I’ll tell you that. Tomorrow won’t be easier — but like I told the guys: [as] long as we continue to get better, it’s going to make the games and preseason even easier. And we’ll start winning.”

Gay has known nothing but winning during his short career. After closing his third season with a championship, he is ready to see the Chiefs continue their recent dominance.

NFL: Super Bowl LVII-Kansas City Chiefs vs Philadelphia Eagles Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

“It’s exciting to say I want to win a Super Bowl,” Gay explained. “When you’ve already got one, then you really want to win another one. It’s like an extra motivation. I’m definitely fighting for that. It’s a great feeling.”

Should the Chiefs repeat, the fourth-year player is confident the linebacking corps will be a big reason why. A year ago in St. Joseph, Gay declared that he wanted to lead NFL linebackers in interceptions. He is not backing off from that goal.

“I want to be a playmaker,” he reiterated. “That’s still my goal. You can’t give up on them; I’m sticking to them. I’m definitely going to reach for the stars.”

Gay believes the team’s offseason acquisition of former Los Angeles Chargers standout Drue Tranquill can increase the overall knowledge in the linebacker room (Tranquill left Friday’s practice in the front of a cart with what the team described as a “neck strain.”)

“[Tranquill’s] a year-five guy,” Gay explained, “so [he’s] another veteran in the room. He knows so much; [he’s] so smart. He played a big role in L.A. with the Chargers. To bring him here? I’m learning from him; we’re learning from each other. That’s what you do. It’s been great having him.”

Gay also bragged on the improvement of a returning player: third-year Chiefs linebacker Nick Bolton, who returned to practice Friday after missing Wednesday’s session with an illness.

AFC Divisional Playoffs - Jacksonville Jaguars v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by David Eulitt/Getty Images

“That boy’s been growing since his rookie year,” Gay said of his teammate. “To be where he is now? It’s like he’s a Year-10 vet in Year-3. To see that [is] amazing. It’s like I’m witnessing greatness right beside me. Him and me both — we’re shooting for the stars this year. It’s definitely going to be a great season for the linebackers.”

With only three accrued NFL seasons, Gay suddenly finds himself as one of the Chiefs’ longest-tenured defenders. He knows his share of defensive leadership will increase.

“I’m young, but it’s Year 4,” he noted of his situation. “It’s like it flew by. With that in my mind, I know I’ve got to lead in a different way this year.”

Entering his final season under contract in Kansas City, Gay is more focused on what he can control than what may happen in the future.

“I just want to ball out,” he stated, “just like last year. I missed four games, unfortunately. But this year, I’m trying to be injury-free [and] stay out there with my team. [I’ll] give all I’ve got — and let everything else handle itself on the back end.

“I just want to win another Super Bowl [and] add it to my resume.”

Since joining the Chiefs as a second-round selection in 2020, Gay’s struggles with mental health have been well known. He is grateful for the continued opportunity to write his own narrative.

“I’m blessed to even be here,” he acknowledged. “So much could have happened — but I’m in Year 4 now. I’m thankful — and ready to have some fun.”

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