Donald Stephenson, the Chiefs’ third-round pick from Oklahoma, is making huge strides in his first NFL training camp for his hometown team.
Stephenson, a graduate of Blue Springs High School, is backing up Branden Albert at the all-important offensive left tackle spot.
Question: How special is it playing for the team you grew up following?
“I’m enjoying it. It’s a dream come true. This team means a lot to me, so I try to practice that way.”
Q: What did that first preseason game against Arizona at Arrowhead Stadium mean to you?
“It meant the world. It’s something I always wanted to do. When I first ran out with the team, it was a good feeling. I’m used to seeing it from the stands, and I looked up in the stands this time and couldn’t believe it. My brothers were there. It was a special moment for them, too.”
Q: What are you learning from playing behind Albert?
“Everything I can. Everything he does I try to emulate it. He’s been doing it for a long time, he’s been doing a good job with it. I’m just a rookie trying to know what it takes to be as good as him. That’s an everyday struggle. “
Q: What did that first preseason game against Arizona show you, especially with the way the Chiefs moved the ball?
“It showed me, if you work hard enough in practice, the game will slow down for you. But if you go in there unprepared, it will be a bad day for you.”
Q: Did that special feeling of playing for your hometown team have to be put on the back burner once the game started?
“When I first got out there with the team, that’s all I thought about. Then, it just got back to playing football. It’s my first NFL game, whether it’s Arrowhead or anyplace, it’s going to be a big deal. You have to shut all that out and just play football.”
Q: Hadn’t you played in a Big 12 Championship Game at Arrowhead?
“I played there in 2008 when we played Missouri and went on to (play for) the national championship. I thought that was a special moment. So, having a Chiefs uniform on this time was big.”
Q: How did playing at Oklahoma prepare you for the NFL?
“They did a real good job. Coach (Bob) Stoops runs a real tight ship, and that’s exactly what Coach (Romeo) Crennel does, and it really prepared me.”
Q: Do you still remember the feeling on draft day when the Chiefs picked you?
A: “I was in shock for about 10 minutes. I never knew I would come back home and play. For them to pick me in the third round, it was huge for me and my family.”