With the 2020 NFL draft now in the books, the organization has turned its attention to the upcoming season. However, most fans are focused on learning about the new addition to the team, and what we can expect from them in 2020. The first step in the process of becoming a Kansas City Chief is making the decision on what jersey number to wear. For these young men, this decision will define their expectations, and someday their legacy, in KC. The number you wear in this game is your identity, and will determine the expectations you receive from a fan base. A player’s previously worn number is something most men want to wear at the next level. As a result, the big decision comes down to two options once you determine what numbers are not retired: does a player want to try and take a jersey number with no significance to the fans, or a number that has been worn by franchise icons of the past? When choosing a number that is not associated with a superstar of the past, there is no pressure to fill someone’s shoes. However, coming into Kansas City and wearing numbers 88, 25, 56 or 29 has real meaning and expectations from this fan base. With that being said, let’s explore which path each player chose to walk down. Did they want to venture down an unbeaten path, or walk in the footsteps of previous Chiefs royalty?
Clyde Edwards-Helaire, RB, (#25)- With the pressure that already comes with being a first round pick, let alone a first round running back, I was surprised to see Clyde Edwards-Helaire select the number 25 considering the expectations that will always be associated with the previous running backs legacy in Kansas City. The man who wore number 25 for more than a decade in Kansas City was Jamaal Charles; one of the most notable and iconic players in recent Chiefs history. Stepping into big shoes like Charles’, who is certain to be a member of the Chiefs Hall of Fame, will come with high expectations. This decision shows the fight and desire Clyde Edwards-Helaire has to be great, and it will be interesting to see if he can achieve a career like Charles’ in that number 25 jersey. These are big shoes to fill, but I think he is capable of doing the number justice.
Willie Gay Jr., LB, (#50)- The number 50 has been worn by multiple LBs in Chiefs history. However, when I think of the number 50 in red and gold, Justin Houston comes to mind. Houston was a great player for the Chiefs for multiple seasons, and had an iconic year in 2014 when he led the league in sacks. The challenge that Willie Gay Jr. may face will be transitioning the mindset of fans who feel that the number belongs to Houston. I was hoping to see him in 56, because of the similarities to Derrick Johnson, but taking Houston’s number will have quite a few expectations as well. He seemed to be a steal in the draft, and I expect him to steal the hearts of the fans along with the idea that there is a new number 50 in Kansas City.
Lucas Niang, OT, (#67)- Unlike Clyde Edwards-Helaire and Willie Gay Jr., Niang went with a number that was not filled with as many lofty expectations. The team has truly never had a superstar wearing the number 67 at any point in time. Some people may find this a little less courageous than taking a number with high expectations to fulfill. I would say that it is all about perspective. Niang seems like a person that does not want to be a Willie Roaf, or a Will Shields in Kansas City; he wants to be Lucas Niang and build his own legacy with the number 67 on his back. I respect this approach as well and look forward to him solidifying his legacy as the best number 67 in franchise history. The opportunity is there, now let’s see if he can build recognition on this unbeaten path.
L’Jarius Sneed, S, (#38)- This choice is a bit of an interesting dilemma for me because the number 38 has recent recognition but no true superstar association. We have seen Ron Parker wear the number recently, and he was a sufficient starter, but not a superstar by any means. However, Parker went to the same junior college as I did, and I have a personal tie and expectation for the number 38 as a result. I think Sneed is a superior talent when compared to Parker though. I expect him to take ownership of the number and open a new chapter for number 38 in Kansas City for years to come. I like the choice of number because it has recent notoriety but no real pressure associated with it. This will give Sneed a platform to build a legacy, and make the number his very own.
Michael Danna, DE, (#51)- For a player selected in the 5th round, and who has been given the label of someone that needs to work on development, expectations are relatively low. It is smart for a later round pick like Danna to take a number with little to no history, or a negative history, and build his own identity. When thinking about number 51, most Chiefs fans will have the recent memory of Frank Zombo. He was a player who was a sufficient starter, but frustrated myself and many of my fellow Chiefs fans on a weekly basis. 51 is a number with no good history, and has left a bad taste in Chiefs Kingdom’s mouths thanks to Zombo. He did his best and was a hard worker, but was lacking talent in areas that I expect Danna to thrive. Danna is a project player who has starter potential, and has an opportunity to change the recent view of number 51 to create a better correlation to the number than Zombo did.
Thakarius (BoPete) Keyes, CB, (#29)- This choice was the hardest for me to process because I like Keyes’ potential. Despite this, I feel this number should be taken by those with potential to be at the superstar level in the secondary. With Chiefs legends like Eric Berry and Albert Lewis wearing the number 29 in the past, and Kendall Fuller wearing it more recently, it is a number that I would be disappointed to see on players that I do not view as true building blocks on the back end; most of the fan base will feel the same way. Due to this, the choice for Keyes will come with high expectations. He projects as a second outside CB at best in my opinion, but it will be interesting to see if he is up to the challenge. He has high expectations to meet, but I am rooting for him to be able to do the number 29 the justice it deserves. Taking on such big expectations shows his determination and grit. This will give him the opportunity to try to carve out a lane of his own in number 29’s history.
With these choices, we have seen true determination and ambition from these young players. Some decided to try and fill the shoes of Chiefs royalty, and others took an opportunity to either build a new legacy or change a previously negative one. This is the time for them to prove themselves, and shoulder the pressure and challenges that come along with these jersey numbers. With that being said, I respect the choices made by these young men and hope they understand what it means to represent these numbers in Arrowhead. Each player took a different path, but they all will be fighting to become Kansas City Chiefs icons. However, the real question is who has what it truly takes? My bet is on all six of them; Brett Veach does not make very many mistakes. In conclusion, get excited, buy these new jerseys, and let’s watch as these newcomers help defend the Super Bowl title in their new attire.