The K.C. Chiefs and
The Freak Aesthetic
A hundred years ago, you could go down to the traveling carnival side show and be entertained by The Tall Man, The Fire Eater or The Bearded Lady. Not that I’m old enough to remember those days but my father’s father could. Our culture was not attracted to those we would term, “freaks” because they were beautiful, but because they were uncommon or grotesque. Today, we like to call players “freaks” when we think they are uncommonly gifted.
The first player I heard of anyone being called, a freak, was Jevon Kearse of the Tennessee Titans. In fact, he was known as, “The Freak.” Kearse got that moniker from his competitors in the 1996 college season and it stuck with him throughout his career. Now, any time a player has the ability to perform above and beyond the norm of what we already know to be star-status, he is often referred to as a freak.
The latest in a short line of the ultra-outstanding athletes who are being tagged that way includes the Kansas City Chiefs rookie sensation, Tyreek Hill. Hill is so fast that he literally runs circles around the other team’s best players. Last Sunday the Denver Broncos All-Pro Linebacker — Von Miller — watched as the freak ran right around him as Miller chased his own tail, but Hill was 20 yards down field before Miller could get his bearings.
I’ve told this story before but it bears repeating: I was standing on the far side of the Chiefs Practice Field #2, behind the end zone, this past Summer at Chiefs Camp and as the WRs were taking turns fielding punts in the end zone I got the opportunity to witness Tyreek Hill’s speed and quickness. To make the situation more game-like, the WRs took turns planting themselves 3-4 yards in front of the punt returner to give them the feel of a defender breathing down their neck. As Tyreek Hill took his turn to receive (about 15 to 20 feet right in front of me)… as soon as he caught the ball, while looking at the defender, he took 4-or-5 jab steps in place (it could have been more) … then stuck his foot in the ground and darted to his left and did all that all so quickly I actually had to close my mouth because my jaw had dropped and was frozen in place for about 20 second. Then I turned to some other stranger-fans to say, “Did you see that?” and several people just nodded yes, with the same disbelief that I had one my face.
I’ve never witnessed that kind of athleticism in person before but it would be wrong for me to say I was impressed. I was more shocked than anything… because I’d never seen anything like it. I’ve seen Maury Wills steal second base, I’ve seen Joe Montana throw a fastball to a WR on the sideline. I’ve seen Bo Jackson catch line drives on the run. But I have never seen anything like Tyreek Hill’s speed and quickness before.
Television doesn’t do Tyreek Hill justice either. If you go back and watch a replay of Tyreek Hill, don’t watch him… watch the guys around him because so many of them look like they’re playing High School football… and these are cream of the crop athletes, some of the best in the world.
To be clear: calling a player a freak in 2016 is a high compliment. However, it means so much more than that to fans. When the Arrowhead crowd begins to chant a player’s name every time he drops back to receive a punt, that’s no just special… that’s why the word “especial” even exists.
I remember when Bullet Bob Hayes came into the league. His speed was special and you could have called him a freak back then (except people wouldn’t have understood what you were really trying to say). The difference here is that Bob Hayes speed was “straight-line” speed and Tyreek Hill’s speed is more than that. Hill has the ability to change directions and maintain his speed like few players in the history of the game. Gayle Sayers comes to mind but Sayers had the freakish ability to cut sideways leaving defenders grasping at air in his wake. While Hill can change directions, he doesn’t have a Barry Sanders jump cut ability (that we’ve seen yet). Tyreek Hill is just quicker and faster than the other players on the field and his one-on-one juke move can not be covered. The best way to defend Hill is to get to him before he gets the ball… and that ability to force defenses to do that is opening up the rest of the field for another freakishly talented player on the Chiefs offense named Travis Kelce.
When you break down the aspects of a player’s ability, such as in the previous paragraph, you can look over the Chiefs roster and see several players with “freakish” talent.
Travis Kelce’s moves– no, I’m not referring to his end zone antics — although I must admit I have been “freaked out” by those moves a time or two — I’m referring to his ability to get separation from almost anyone who is lined up to cover him. If it’s a linebackers, no contest. 99% of the LBs in the NFL can’t cover Kelce. If it’s a cornerback his height advantage creates a vertical separation 99% of the CBs in the league can’t deal with. He’s been called a beast. So, beast… or freak… call him what you will, he’s a special talent.
— BJ Kissel (@ChiefsReporter) December 28, 2016
From Dan O’Shea at 12UP.com, “Kelce has been a huge part of Kansas City’s success this season. He’s solidified himself as the best weapon on the field for the Chiefs, if not the best tight end in the league.” Kelce is special and now everyone knows it.
Marcus Peters’ mental processing– Peters has become one of the shutdown corners in this league. However, he’s not your typical “shutdown” corner. Even after making the Pro Bowl in his rookie season, Peters has been criticized for taking risks and allowing his man to beat him deep on occasion. As this year has proceeded, Peters has progressed into a more complete corner. When Marcus Peters was coming out of college, NFL evaluator Buck Brooks said he had, “outstanding instincts and awareness.” Add coaching, film study and the second go round against some of the best WR in the league, and you have what you have now: a gifted CB. Brooks also said Peters has superior technique, ball skills and X-factor. Now, Peters has developed his considerable gifts as a corner… and it’s translating to the field. Marcus Peters has taken his freaky-good skills and gifts… and made them even better this year.
Chris Jones’ ability to penetrate– at 6-foot-6, with 34.5 inch arms, Chris Jones has the uncanny ability to beat blockers with his arms and superior upper-body strength and quickness. Chris Collinsworth said Jones has quickly become a “Superstar” in the NFL. Superstar? Beast? I just think his ability to get upfield so quickly is freaky.
In an article written by Michael Renner for ProFootballFocus.com called “Why We Should All Pay More Attetion to DT Prospect Chris Jones” he states, “If I were to sum up Jones’ freakish potential in one play, it would be the one below from MSU’s game against Arkansas this year.”
Chris Jones blows right the Right Guard and makes his way to the QB before he knows what hits him.
Alex Smith’s legs– on Sunday Night Football announcer Chris Collinsworth said Alex Smith has 4.5 (40) speed. Fact Check- Smith once ran a 4.61 — 40, the best of his 3 combine times. To place that in perspective, Derrick Johnson, thought to be one of the fastest linebackers ever timed in the forty also ran three 40 times and his slowest was a 4.61. IOW… you could say Alex Speed is better than most linebackers in this league. Yes, I would classify that as a bit freaky.
While his legs may be the one-and-only aspect of Alex Smith’s game which may fall in that category, it does, nevertheless.
Chris Conley’s body– while the Chiefs have a number of players with “freakish” potential, they also have a WR who has untapped freak potential and that would be Chris Conley. There were no other wide receivers at the NFL Combine in 2015 who ran better than a 4.35 — 40-yard dash… who happened to be at least 6-foot-2. What really separates Conley from most other WRs.. or humans for that matter… is his ability to leap. His 139” in the standing broad jump (you’ll see in the video below that the arch of his feet land squarely on the 12’ marker) is better than outstanding, it was the best by any wide receiver… EVER. Don’t believe it? Click → here.
A big part of playing wide receiver is being able to go up and fight for the football. Basically, you must be able to out-jump the opposition. Chris Conley set the record at the combine in the vertical jump too at 45”. Here’s Conley Combine workout.
Obviously, Chris Conley’s incredible God-given abilities are off the charts but… they must be utilized or they mean nothing. Conley worked as hard as anyone last offseason and you can tell it has paid off when you see him getting open at will. The problem is… he’s not being seen when he’s open.
While you could make an argument that Eric Berry has a bit of “freak” in him, you’d probably want to include Dontari Poe in that group for sure. After all, how many 346 pound players do you have on your team who throws and runs for touchdowns? The point is, the Kansas City Chiefs could be on their way to being called, the Kansas City Freaks. A few more guys like this… and why not? Now that’s a beautiful thing.