E.J. Gaines graduated from Fort Osage and has spent most of his life in Kansas City.
Nonetheless, he’s a Raiders fan, “which is kind of funny being from Kansas City,” he said.
He’ll have to forgive diehard Chiefs fans if they don’t laugh.
Of course, Missouri fans probably will be quick to forgive Gaines, considering he was a captain for a 12-2 squad that won the SEC East division championship and the 2014 Cotton Bowl last season.
He certainly has been receiving a lot of love from the Tigers’ nation.
“It’s been crazy,” Gaines said. “I walk around and people recognize me. They say they’ve watched me since high school and now they stop me walking around my hometown. It’s exciting. It’s kind of surreal, walking around and people ask me for my autograph.”
Gaines once signed a young fan’s sneaker as he walked around Independence Center.
“He was walking through the mall and didn’t have anything else for me to sign, so he was like, ‘Please sign my shoes,’” Gaines said. “He took one shoe off and let me sign it.”
If the Chiefs were to draft Gaines, he’d suck it up and throw on the red and gold — boyhood allegiances be damned.
No matter where Gaines lands during the NFL Draft, he’s apt to create another pocket of out-of-town fans within the Chiefs’ kingdom.
Gaines was kind enough to chat with The Star for a few minutes as he prepares for the upcoming NFL Draft:
Q: Has it hit you yet that, within the next few days, you’re going to get drafted?
Gaines: “Honestly, it has not and I don’t think it will until I get that phone call.”
Q: How long have you been dreaming of this week?
Gaines: “I would say since my freshman or sophomore year of high school. You’ve always got that dream of playing in the NFL and getting drafted and all that. It’s kind of surreal right now that it’s actually going to happen.”
Q: You’re coming into the league when the trend is toward big cornerbacks. What would you say to somebody who says you have to be at least 6 feet tall to play corner?
Gaines: “I would just say, ‘Go back and watch my film.’ People talk about these big receivers, and even some of the top receivers coming out, but I’ve played against these guys and played well against them game in and game out. My question would be to them, ‘What makes the difference between me playing them in college and me playing them in the NFL?’ I don’t think there really is a difference. If you can make plays, you can make plays — 6-5 or 5-6, I don’t think it really matters.”
Q: Texas A wide receiver Mike Evans is projected as a top-10 pick, so have you been reminding people about the four catches for eight yards he had against you?
Gaines: [laughs] “I haven’t reminded them, but I think everybody knows. That was a really big game for Mizzou and I knew I had to play well that game. Anytime somebody talks about me, they bring up that Mike Evans game. Honestly, I wouldn’t expect me to do anything else but shut down a big-time receiver. That’s really my job, and I’ve been doing it throughout my whole career.”
Q: You had eight interceptions, 34 passes defended, three forced fumbles and a fumble recovery at Missouri, but where does that knack for making plays come from?
Gaines: “It’s a little bit of luck. A lot of people say I’ve got a knack for the football. Sometimes the ball just bounces my way. But as far as creating turnovers, I think I’ve got to give that to my defensive coach. Coach Stec (Tigers defensive coordinator Dave Steckel) preaches that day in and day out, so when it comes to the games it is easy.”
Q: Have you worked out for any teams?
Gaines: “I haven’t had any workouts, but I’ve talked to several teams. I had private meetings with the Chargers and the Lions.”
Q: Where are hearing you might be selected in the draft?
Gaines: “I’m hearing second to fourth round, which is a little frustrating. The fourth round comes on (Saturday) since it’s not all on the same day. I’m hoping I can stay in that second or third round. It could be a long three days and, in past years, the draft would have already happened by now. The coaches I talk to are a little frustrated by it too, because this is a couple weeks they could have for a rookie camp or OTAs.”
Q: How confident are you that you’ll be on an NFL roster in the fall?
Gaines: “Man, I’m so excited. It’s honestly a dream come true. Being on any team, no matter if I go second round or sixth round, just being out there playing on an NFL team will be exciting.”