All those games at Arrowhead, all those epic wins and excruciating losses in the blistering heat and toe-numbing cold, and Dexter McCluster found a way to experience something new at the old stadium on Sunday.
He got his first look inside the visiting team’s locker room.
“It’s a lot smaller in here,” the former Chiefs running back said.
Still looking slighter than his listed playing dimensions of 5 foot 8, 170 pounds, McCluster also remained a tough-to-corral jitterbug even as some fans booed his return to Kansas City in a Tennessee Titans uniform.
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“Deep under all those boos, I know they were cheering for me,” he said with a chuckle. “When you’re in competition, they gotta go for the home team, and that’s what they did.”
McCluster, 26, was a free-agent addition by the Titans in the offseason, leaving behind the team that drafted him in the second round in 2010 out of Ole Miss. Tennessee handed him a three-year deal worth up to $12 million, including $4.5 million in guaranteed money.
With the Titans still teaching top draft pick Bishop Sankey the ropes, McCluster was Tennessee’s second-leading rusher Sunday behind starter Shonn Greene. He gained 29 yards on nine carries and caught one pass for 17 yards, improbably outshining even former teammate Jamaal Charles.
“I played in here four years, and I was comfortable (today),” McCluster said. “And when you’re comfortable, you play good.”
That he did so against his old friends in Kansas City (“I keep in touch with all those guys — we have a relationship; it’s a brotherhood”) just made the day sweeter.
“Four years, my family was here, we were very comfortable,” McCluster said. “But in this game, you have to adjust on the fly.”
For four years, McCluster was one of the Chiefs’ most visible players. He never seemed to miss a big event in KC, turning up at the Big 12 men’s basketball tournament at Sprint Center or perhaps a key Royals game at Kauffman Stadium. And wherever he was, he always took time to visit with fans.
He’s doing the same thing in Nashville now, giving away Titans tickets via his Twitter account and never turning down an autograph request.
But Kansas City will always remain special to him, tiny visitors’ locker room and all.
“I knew it would be a hostile environment today,” he said, “a fun environment to play in. I’m just glad we got the win.”