In the Chiefs’ second full-squad training-camp practice, an undrafted free agent linebacker from Akron made a play that drew “woooos” from the crowd.
Justin March saw the play — a short pass — unfold in front of him, and trusted his instincts. He dived in front of the route, securing the pass as he fell to the ground.
“I was just being confident, just trusting that I knew what was going on, that I’ve been watching enough film and studying those type of plays,” March said. “It was more of a reaction type thing, just trusting myself.”
Now, March hopes plays like that — in addition to the handful he’s made since he the padded practices began a day later — are enough to help him stick around for a while.
March, who is listed at 6 feet and 230 pounds, racked up 72 tackles (six for loss) and two sacks as a senior at Akron. He did not get drafted, but was signed as a priority free agent after the draft.
Since then, March, who says he is now up to 240 pounds, has flashed some ability, particularly in the passing game. He’s consistently rotated in with 2015 fifth-round pick D.J. Alexander at second-team inside linebacker, next to fourth-round pick Ramik Wilson.
The three have consistently played behind starters Derrick Johnson and Josh Mauga, but March has made an impression of defensive coordinator Bob Sutton.
“He’s got very good instincts — he’s had his hands on a lot of footballs for the limited plays he’s been in there,” Sutton said. “Done a really good job.”
March, who finished second on Akron’s team in 2014 with eight pass breakups, takes pride in his cover skills.
“I did a lot of cover stuff in college, and after a while I just got comfortable with it,” March said. “The MAC (Mid-American Conference) is a big pass conference, so I’ve been comfortable with it for a little while.”
Star inside linebacker Johnson, 32, had several nice things to say about March.
“Justin March, we call him ‘March Madness,’” Johnson said with a laugh. “He’s a guy that’s not big in size but (plays) big on the field. He stands tall out there on the field. Very explosive, fast. He’s a guy that can make some plays for us.”
Johnson also likes Wilson and Alexander.
“Ramik is kind of a veteran out there a little bit,” Johnson said. “When he gets out there in the middle of the field, he takes control. Even D.J. Alexander, those young guys can run, man. Reminds me of myself when I first got in the league.
“So they’re in the room with all us, Justin (Houston) and Tamba (Hali), and they’re asking questions. They’re very smart to be their age.”
March, it would appear, has every intention of taking advantage of the moment.
“I definitely feel like I have a really good opportunity playing behind some really good guys, and we’re all in the same meeting room,” March said. “They all help me out as knowing my coverage stuff (goes). I feel like I’m getting a lot of opportunities to show what I can do.”