Arguably the best NFL player to call Kansas City his hometown stood on the Arrowhead Stadium visitor’s sideline Sunday afternoon, with more than 74,000 people relishing his mistake.
For nearly a decade, Darren Sproles was a cause for celebration in this area — a star at Olathe North High School and Kansas State who totaled more than 100 touchdowns between the two stops.
On Sunday, for one final time, he was the enemy, dressed in a white Philadelphia Eagles uniform, his patented No. 43 on both sides of the jersey.
At 34 years old, Sproles played what’s likely his final game in front of his former hometown crowd, and he was a constant presence in a game that concluded with a 27-20 Chiefs victory.
Both good and bad.
The moment that had Sproles muttering to himself on the sideline occurred late in the first half. He fumbled on a punt return, and the Chiefs capitalized with a field goal to take a 6-3 lead into halftime.
But he also contributed to the offense, leading the team with 10 carries for 48 yards. He caught two passes for 30 yards. He showed moments of his acceleration, easily moving past Chiefs linebacker Ramik Wilson on a swing pass.
In late December, Sproles announced his intention to make 2017 his final NFL season, though he has since somewhat pulled back those comments to a certain degree, telling the Philadelphia Inquirer this summer, “We’re going to see. Right after we make the playoffs, come back and ask me.”
If it is the final season, what a ride it’s been.
The numbers on Sproles are quite absurd, if not underrated. He ranks eighth in NFL history in all-purpose yardage. While primarily featured as the proverbial third-down back, he has averaged nearly 5 yards per carry. He’s caught more than 500 passes.
The 13-year career — which includes three Pro Bowls — is arguably the most complete for a Kansas City area high school graduate. And while his size — he’s just 5-6 — makes that a surprise, his high school and college careers should’ve provided a dead giveaway.
He was twice selected The Star’s player of the year while helping Olathe North capturing the Kansas Class 6A state championship. He ran for 5,230 yards and 79 touchdowns in his high school career, including 49 touchdowns as a senior, when Olathe North finished 12-0.
The college competition didn’t slow him down. He landed at Kansas State, where he totaled 4,979 rushing yards and 45 touchdowns in four seasons.