After the Kansas City Chiefs broke practice on Friday, July 29, certain players remained on the field for some extra work.
On the defensive line, two rookie pass rushers joined veteran Frank Clark, who has been thrust into a leadership role in 2022. They were first-round draft pick George Karlaftis — no surprise here — who is always looking to learn and improve, and Nigerian-born international prospect Kehinde Oginni Hassan.
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Fans Applaud ‘Veteran Leadership’
The video of Clark and the pair of youngsters was shared by KC Sports Network on Twitter, and showed the vet putting Karlaftis and Oginni through a technical drill.
Although their draft status couldn’t be more different, Karlaftis and Oginni share something in common — both first learned the game of football later than most prospects. Hailing from Greece and Nigeria, neither really grew up playing the sport like most NFL athletes and both are considered raw talents.
Sure, Karlaftis has sky-high expectations compared to Oginni, but they are each still learning the nuances of the game and it’s nice to see a seven-year pro taking the time to help a couple of prospects who have loads of potential.
Fans of Chiefs Kingdom praised the move from Clark — who has not always seen the most support on social media.
“This is why the Chiefs were willing to keep Frank Clark around,” Zack Eisen of Arrowhead Report voiced. “He has been fighting through injuries and other problem[s] throughout his entire time in KC. He could be using his time to work on himself, but he is instead trying to help his young teammates. Kudos to Frank.”
Of course, some were not as kind and Kent Swanson of KC Sports Network let them hear it with a bold response. “Frank Clark (who has had a good NFL career despite some lingering issues) is spending every day with rookies helping them develop and y’all got jokes. Not here for it at all. It’s dumb. He knows how to be successful, and these young guys are lucky. It’s disrespectful,” the writer replied.
Out of all the retweets, Swanson’s message seemed to resonate most with over 500 likes already. Rest assured, Clark isn’t doing this for the fanfare either way — he’s just paying it forward.
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Willie Gay, Juan Thornhill Stepping up at Camp
On the defensive side, linebacker Willie Gay Jr. has been gaining the attention of reporters day-in and day-out here in week one.
“In 7-on-7, LB Willie Gay darted for a ball and made a nice [pass break-up] on a Patrick Mahomes ball intended for JuJu Smith-Schuster,” informed Pete Sweeney of Arrowhead Pride on July 28. “Seeing more and more of that athleticism from Gay. This tandem of Gay and Nick Bolton is going to be fun.”
The Athletic’s Nate Taylor added that Gay has been “showcasing his speed and instincts” during practice. He followed that up by intercepting Mahomes today (July 29), with video evidence from KSHB41 and Aaron Ladd.
Elijah Lee has also made his presence known at linebacker, switching in and out of the third starting role with rookie Leo Chenal. Sweeney referred to him as the “current” leader for the job after he forced a fumble free from WR Justin Watson.
Although Bolton appears to own the all-important green dot on defense, safety Juan Thornhill has been coming into his own as a vocal leader of the backend.
Sweeney relayed: “All seriousness, [defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo] was asked about [Justin] Reid’s leadership, and he brought up Thornhill himself: ‘The guy who has stepped up is Juan Thornhill. I’m talking about out here from a communication standpoint and running the show. He’s kind of taken that upon himself.'”
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