Monday night’s game between the Chiefs and Broncos is likely to be emotional for Denver running back Jamaal Charles.
It will be his first game at Arrowhead Stadium since Oct. 23, 2016 when the Chiefs played host to the Saints. After nine seasons with the Chiefs, Charles was cut in February and signed with the Broncos.
Ahead of the “Monday Night Football” contest, Charles was in a reflective mood. He penned an essay in The Players’ Tribune with the headline “Thank You, Kansas City.”
Charles opened by writing that he didn’t know Kansas City was in Missouri when the Chiefs drafted him in 2008, but he quickly put down roots. In the essay, Charles wrote:
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Denver is my home now. And I’m embracing my new city — my new family — the same way I did Kansas City. I know I don’t have anything left to prove in this league, but I still have plenty left to play for. And I’m as excited as I’ve been in a long time for the next part of this story.
But I’ll never forget where I came from.
So thank you for everything, Missouri. To everyone who got to know me and spend time with me over the years: You’ll always be a part of my family.
And hey, you know what — you’re my family too, state of Kansas. Keep doing you.
Charles is the Chiefs’ career rushing leader with 7,260 yards, and his career yards-per-carry average of 5.5 is the best in NFL history, ahead of players like Jim Brown (5.2), Barry Sanders (5.0) and Gale Sayers (5.0).
When he was drafted, Charles was happy but surprised. That’s because the Chiefs had Larry Johnson at running back, but Charles wrote that he learned a lot from him.
I didn’t really have any idea what to expect when I first came to the Chiefs, but it was especially surreal coming in behind Larry. We became friends early on, and it was amazing to see how he was embraced everywhere he went in Kansas City. I couldn’t have asked for a better guy to learn from.
It’s like, not only was he incredible at football — he was good at pretty much everything he put his mind to. At one point he had a recording deal with Roc-A-Fella! Seriously, it was crazy. I got to meet Jay-Z once in Vegas my rookie year.
On the field it was like I was learning the insider secrets to becoming an offensive weapon. Remember, Larry was only a year away from back-to-back seasons of 2000 total yards. He was a certified running back god. Just watching him in practice helped me to understand what I’d need to do if I wanted to perform at the next level.
Charles wrote about all the people who influenced him, from coaches to teammates. They taught him to be a complete player and helped him through the injuries. That included a knee injuries in 2011 and 2015.
Charles also made sure to mention people behind the scenes, the ones that fans don’t see.
There are so many players on the teams I’ve played with who never got the credit they deserved.
And then there’s Mike the Equipment Manager, Brian in the Mail Room, the cafeteria staff at the Chiefs’ training facility who helped me with my Spanish — there’s an entire community of people who are never seen on the TV cameras, but who dedicate so much of their time to our sport, and contribute so much to how we play and practice every day. These are the people I hung out with when I wasn’t practicing or in the weight room. We joked and shared meals. We spent a whole lot of time together.
They’re the Kansas City Chiefs, too.
Saying that football is a business doesn’t give enough credit to the friends we make along the way. There are so many people I met over nine years that I never got the chance to properly say goodbye to, or to thank for helping me.
You see the same people every day for so long and it really is like you’re a family after some time. I ran for a lot of yards because I had a big family in Kansas City — I had a lot of people I wanted to run for. And I want them to know right now that I don’t take a single one of them for granted.
One other thing Charles noted is something he’ll be part of tonight, albeit while in a different uniform:
Ask anyone in this league, and they’ll tell you: There’s playing football — and then there’s playing football in Kansas City. The city is special … the stadium is special … the atmosphere isn’t like anywhere else in the world. It was a privilege to be able to take part in so many of those Sundays at Arrowhead, and to be able to contribute to so many great Chiefs teams.
You can read the entire essay here.