When Chiefs cornerback Marcus Cooper yanked receiver Jeremy Maclin by the collar defending a pass in training camp, Maclin’s furious flurry of shoves and swings said something about the fire inside him.
Maclin’s response when he spoke about it two days later after returning from a coinciding neck injury said something more — especially considering Cooper provoked the incident.
“That’s not what I represent; that’s not what I stand for …” said Maclin, who had talked it through with Cooper after the practice. “I let my emotion get the best of me.”
(This story is part of The Kansas City Star's Football 2015 special section that publishes Sunday, Aug. 30. Pick one up and check out more here.)
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By owning the issue the way he did, Maclin made a substantial statement about the persona he brings to the Chiefs after spending his first six NFL seasons in Philadelphia.
Yes, the Chiefs wanted and needed Maclin as a catalyst and playmaker for an offense marred by a stupefying void last season: failing to create one touchdown pass to a wide receiver.
And Maclin possesses the dynamic tools to radically alter that element of their game, particularly because of his familiarity with coach Andy Reid’s system after playing for him in Philadelphia.
“He can change the complexion” of the attack, offensive coordinator Doug Pederson said recently, adding, “We give them all these rules in the meetings, and we say, ‘Hey, versus this coverage, do this.’
“But the bottom line is go play. Take the handcuffs off, and go play. And that’s what you’re seeing out of Jeremy.”
When the Chiefs signed Maclin, they also signed a charismatic veteran who is poised and wise beyond his 27 years.
“I’ve had to learn to be more vocal, but as far as handling myself, this is how I am,” he said. “I’ve always kind of been that way. You know right from wrong, you know what you’re not supposed to do.
“I had to mature at a very young age because what I’ve gone through in my life.”
What Maclin has gone through likely remains familiar to University of Missouri fans.
Yet it’s all the more meaningful today as he has blossomed not just into a potentially critical presence for the Chiefs but also a man and a leader.
Even though they called Maclin “Smiley” for his ever-present grin as a child, Jeff Parres saw something tucked behind that disposition when he would drive Maclin home from youth football to a thorny section of Kirkwood, Mo.
Often, the lights were out and the house empty.
One cool October night, Parres saw Maclin climb in through a window and thought, “This is just not right.”
That became one of many pivotal points for Maclin, whose mother, Cleo, became neglectful amid grappling to make ends meet for two older boys and Jeremy by working two jobs.
Enter Jeff and Cindy Parres, whose oldest son, Tyler, was on the team with Maclin.
Maclin began staying at their house on Friday nights before games, then full weeks at a time before he was all but legally adopted by the Parreses during his sophomore year at Kirkwood High.
Over the years, Jeff Parres recently said, Cindy and Maclin’s mother have become close; indeed, she was at the Parres’ house in 2009 when Maclin was drafted 19th overall by the Eagles.
As he reflected on those early days with Maclin, Jeff Parres, a St. Louis-area urologist, was typically modest about accepting credit for what they did.
But he also shook his head and said, “I still coach little-league football, still coach kids who come from the same environment. We just had the third kid who played for us (in the Kirkwood Junior Football league) get killed — gunshot wound. It’s just heartbreaking.
“When you see enough of those things, and you see enough kids who won’t make it to college, I think it makes a difference just being around an alternative way of life.”
Maclin has long since come to view the Parreses as his family.
“My birth family is still my family as well, but I’ve kind of learned from everything,” said Maclin, who has bought his mother a house. “I’ve learned from people saying (things like), ‘I’ll regret this.’
“I don’t regret anything. I think that everything I’ve gone through in my life, everything I’ve done in my life, has shaped me into the man I am today.
“So I thank everybody, the good and the bad. I thank everybody for everything they taught me.”
True to that thinking, Maclin expresses nothing but good vibes toward the Eagles, for whom he had 343 catches (including 85 last year) for 4,771 yards and 36 touchdowns in six seasons. (He sat out 2013 because of a knee injury).
He’s also thrilled to be back in Missouri, albeit on the other side of the state from where he grew up.
“You couldn’t have written a better script,” he said.
Just the same, leaving Philadelphia was painful for Maclin and, Parres believes, part of another entire tier of his maturation.
“It was tough, man; I had established a lot of relationships there and had become very comfortable up there,” Maclin said. “I kind of wanted to be remembered as being the greatest receiver ever to play there.”
Maclin hadn’t just become at home with the Eagles. He also had become dug in to his suburban house in West Deptford, N.J.
He was so invested in the neighborhood that kids would leave him trinkets or treats after games.
On occasions such as Halloween, Maclin would give out candy and dress up his miniature bull terrier as a “little orange pumpkin.”
“I’m still a person just like everybody else; I never wanted to be looked at as better than anybody else or anything like that,” said Maclin, who intends to be the same way at his new home in Lee’s Summit. “So I made my house approachable at Halloween. I interacted with kids in my neighborhood …
“They’re our kids; they’re our future. The more we can get them to understand, ‘This is how we do things, this is not how you do things, this is what I experienced,’ the more you can help them learn.”
That broader perspective, ironically, might have been a factor in Maclin leaving the Eagles.
“The bottom line is I think they tried to take advantage of his good nature,” Parres said. “They knew he wanted to stay and there was really no reason they didn’t want him to stay, and they tried to take advantage of him.”
So when free-agency Saturday arrived in March, Maclin was intrigued by the prospect of an offer from the Chiefs and Reid but was inclined to stay with the Eagles as he went on a golf trip with Parres and family in Palm Springs.
Even when the Chiefs came at Maclin with a five-year offer worth an average of $11 million a year, Parres said, Maclin primarily wanted to know what the Eagles were thinking.
As Reid, quarterbacks Alex Smith and Chase Daniel and receivers coach David Culley were calling Maclin that day, “making him feel like he’s the greatest thing on Earth,” Parres said, Maclin could “barely get (Eagles coach and de facto general manager) Chip Kelly to answer the phone.”
“He called Chip Kelly five times Saturday: ‘Chip, can you just show me anything?’ ” Parres recalled.
(At a news conference after Maclin left, Kelly said he had had a number of discussions with Maclin and said that “we couldn’t go as high as Kansas City.”).
That Sunday, while Maclin was on the golf course, the Eagles called and countered by shifting money from year three of their offer to year two — which contrary to Kelly and published reports made it close enough to the same deal Maclin was offered with the Chiefs that Maclin was ready to stay.
As they stood on the 16th tee, Maclin’s initial thought was just that.
Then Reid called again.
And 10 minutes later Maclin was Kansas City-bound.
“It wasn’t the money; it was that 10 minutes,” Parres said. “Jeremy said, ‘(The Chiefs) just wanted me more, and I think that’s where I should be.’ ”
As Parres recounted the story, he remembered his own intense level of frustration both with the Eagles and how Maclin was widely portrayed as “leaving for the big money in Kansas City.”
If he’d had the microphone at the time, Parres said, laughing, he likely would have spouted about Kelly in defense of Maclin.
“I don’t know if I could have kept my mouth shut,” Parres said, smiling. “I tell you what, you talk about Jeremy’s maturity ...”
Maclin, in fact, showed Parres the way by keeping it friendly with the Eagles, to whom he remains grateful overall, and tactful in how he spoke of the situation publicly.
That was all another reflection of how Maclin has grown from a complicated start in life through circumstances such as season-ending injuries at MU and in Philadelphia and a lymphoma scare that proved unfounded to what he is now.
Not just a gifted football player, but someone granted perspective, too.
“I just learn not to take anything for granted, you know?” he said. “You never know what’s going to be your last day on this Earth, what’s going to be your last day being able to play football, so you just can’t take anything for granted.”
Including being a good teammate, another important dimension Maclin brings to the Chiefs.