Shortly after he arrived in Kansas City as a priority free agent, Chiefs rookie outside linebacker Sage Harold found himself in the middle of a practice field, working on his pass-rush hand fighting with Tamba Hali.
And as Hali, a 31-year-old veteran, worked up a sweat, it made for an captivating experience, watching a man who had accomplished so much work so diligently at his craft.
“That was a very, very humbling experience,” Harold said. “I was like, ‘Wow, this is what it takes to be great.’ I definitely look at him as a legend of the game, especially coming from my era. Definitely, I just wanted to pick up some of the tools that he had.”
Hali, a 10-year pro, is third in franchise history with 79 1/2 career sacks, so if Harold does want to have a long career, Hali is probably a good person to emulate.
But Harold, who is listed at 6 feet 4 and 245 pounds, first has to make the team at one of the Chiefs’ most loaded positions. Hali and Justin Houston, who racked up 22 sacks last season, both made the Pro Bowl in 2014, and the Chiefs would like last year’s first-round pick, speedy pass rusher Dee Ford, to have a bigger role this season.
Behind those three, there’s also third-year pro Josh Martin, whom the team has spent the last two years developing, and specia- teamer Frank Zombo, whose ability to play inside linebacker in a pinch helps his case.
But this is the time of year where teams, who always looking to get younger and cheaper, take a hard look at super-productive college players like Harold, a captain at James Madison who dominated at the FBS level, racking up 73 tackles (23 1/2 for losses), 13 1/2 sacks and nine quarterback hits in 2014.
“He’s got good quickness and a good first step,” said Chiefs coach Andy Reid. “So you look at that and that becomes important. He uses his hands well, which is important.”
Even with all that, however, Harold received less attention during the draft season than his uncle Eli Harold, who was taken by the San Francisco 49ers in the third round of this year’s draft.
“We’re like brothers,” Harold said. “When my grandmother passed (in January 2011), my dad took the custody over him and he moved in with us. But we’ve always been together ... throughout my whole life. We spent like every weekend together growing up.”
Eli, who is 21 years old, is actually two years younger than Sage, 23, despite the nature of their relation. Eli’s mother died when
“It’s so different, a lot of people go like ’That’s your cousin, your brother, your uncle, how does that work?’” Sage said. “I’m just like ‘Man, he’s my brother, but he’s really my uncle.’ So I just roll with it.”
Eli really caught the attention of scouts in 2014 by posting 54 tackles (14 1/2 for loss)es and seven sacks as a junior at the University of Virginia, but Sage said he was happy for him.
“Man, he did get a lot more television time and a lot more people were able to see him, as opposed to my situation,” Sage said. “During the season, we would just push each other. We’d put a bet up, like, who is gonna have the best stats after each game. I won most of the time.”
Sage said this with a laugh, but he admitted his uncle can play, too.
“I’d say Eli is the better athlete,” Sage said. “I’m just hungry. I feel like my motor (is good).”
And with a little added weight — Harold thinks he has the frame to get a little bigger, up to 253 pounds or so — and more technique work, Harold hopes to prove he’s worthy of sticking with the Chiefs.
“I thought he was a good player, definitely worthy of coming in and having an opportunity,” Reid said. “We’ll see how he does.”