Date: October 20, 2004
People have underestimated me my entire life, and it all started with the game of chess.
I remember when I was in the seventh grade and I went to my first chess club event. My parents had just moved to the other side of town and it was at the end of the football season, so I wasn’t able to play football, I was only able to run track. They had this chess tournament going on and I decided to try it out. I remember walking in the classroom and everyone was just staring at me like I didn’t belong. They were looking at me like I should be outside running track, like that was the only thing I’d be good at. But I just sat down and entered the tournament, and after we finish five rounds, I ended up beating everybody. And everybody who was in there, just because of what I looked like on the outside and how I appeared walking in the door, automatically assumed I didn’t know what I was doing. They thought I was just going to sit down and learn a fun game. What they didn’t know is that I actually grew up watching my uncles and my father play chess all of the time. I’ve never read a book on chess, I’ve never had a tutor or a mentor or had the moves explained to me, it’s just a game that I picked up naturally. And once I won that tournament, I realized that I had a gift to play chess. I had a gift to be able to think ahead three or four steps while playing both offense and defense at the same time.
I love chess, and it’s definitely one of my favorite things to do away from the football field. These days, I even started a chess club in Kansas City, and it gives kids the opportunity to try something outside of the usual football, lifting weights, and playing basketball. It allows them to think a little differently, and at the same time, it allows them to be very aggressive. In chess, you can dominate your opponent just by looking at him and making a move. You don’t even touch the other person and that’s what I love about. Finally, something where I’m playing and I don’t get hit. I get hit every Sunday, so I’m not trying to play something else where I’m going to get hit. That’s what I really love about chess. When you’re at the Police Athletic League and you have weights going on, and football going on, and computer classes going on, it’s very difficult to get kids to give chess a try. They feel a little intimidated by it because some kids will laugh at the guys playing chess while they’re playing basketball. What makes it fun is when I show up. All of a sudden all of the kids from the program are in there, even the ones who don’t like chess, and they all want to play. I just hope I can be an encouragement to some of these kids to try something different.
It’s funny, when I look at the chess board, I see myself as the Bishop. You can hide the Bishop on the edge of the board and you can hide it between the pawns and the Knight, and since it moves diagonally, it can attack in ways where it blends in and almost looks like a pawn. It’s hiding back there, just like I do on Sunday. I’m hiding behind by linemen, then I attack when they don’t expect it. Any moment, I’m going to hit that hole, and just like the Bishop, I slash my way to the score.
Just like I said, though, people have always underestimated me, and I think right now, they’re underestimating my team. The way I see it, with our record being 1-4, there are people on two sides of the fence. You have people who are die-hard fans where it doesn’t matter what our record is, they’re going to support us no matter what. They’re not going to look at us and say “We’re through with the Chiefs”, they are going to want us to just step up and do better. At the same time, you have a lot of naysayers who think our season is over. But if you look at our team, we have the same group of guys, we have the core guys who went to the Pro Bowl last year. It’s just a matter of us not make those mental errors. In terms of people underestimating us, how lovely would it be at the end of the 16 games for us to come out with a record like 10-6 or even 12-4. It would be awesome, and it would really change the aura around here with our fans and the outlook people have about our team and what we are going to do each and every Sunday. People just don’t realize what we have in our backfield and on our defense and it definitely can happen where we put it all together again and go on a run, go on a winning streak. We’ve kind of stomped ourselves on the foot a couple of times with penalties. I think last year at this time we only had about 120 yards of penalties, and right now we’re close to 400 yards. That’s where a lot of our yards have the other direction. Once we get that squared away, start playing like I know we can play, I think people are going to be surprised with our record come the end of the season.
Now, a lot of people have been asking me lately who I think are the best running backs in the NFL, so here we go. This is a special section of my column I like to call Priest’s Picks, and for my debut here on IGN Sports, I’m going to give you my list of the Top 5 Running Backs in the NFL.
- Jamal Lewis: I would love to be his size. At 240-250-pounds, he’s the same size as the linebackers, and it makes it that much easier for him to break tackles once he makes it to that second level.
- LaDainian Tomlinson: He caught 100 passes last year out of the backfield. That’s remarkable for a back. Receivers are supposed to catch 100 balls, not backs. He’s a running back doing two jobs at once, and he’s amazing at both.
- Me: I have to put myself right in the middle. I’m not going to put myself at the top, but I think my versatility and my ability to catch the ball out of the backfield adds a lot. I think I’m pretty efficient with my runs and I try to protect the ball, so I think I’m a good fit at #3.
- Ahman Green: He has all of the physical attributes to be an unbelievable back, he just fumbles too often right now. He’ll have a great game, and then the next game he’ll fumble. I think once he gets that taken care of, he has the potential to move a lot higher on this list.
- Everybody else who fumbles: If you’re a fumbler, you’re fifth, I don’t care what you say.