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Linebacker has been a place for undrafted rookies to make the Chiefs roster

Posted Jul 13, 2012

Dexter Heyman is trying to add his name to a long list of undrafted rookie linebackers who’ve gone on to make the Chiefs roster

#53 Dexter Heyman — Linebacker — Louisville

Pre-KC:

The leader of the Cardinals’ defense at middle linebacker, Heyman compiled 156 career tackles including 23.5 for loss. In addition, he added 6.0 sacks and was billed in some draft previews as also being able to play outside linebacker. He’s worked inside thus far in Kansas City.

Must-See Statistic:

Heyman won last season’s Howard Schnellenberger Award, which is presented annually to the most outstanding player in the Louisville-Kentucky rivalry game. He had eight tackles and forced a fumble in Louisville’s 24-17 victory.

Before accepting the award, Heyman spoke about selflessness and the importance of applying life lessons learned on the football field and in the classroom. His acceptance speech resonated with Pro Football Hall of Famer Mike Ditka.

“Young man, if you don’t carry on in professional football, get your ass into politics,” Ditka told Heyman. “We need people like you in public office.”

Heyman plans to try his hand as an NFL linebacker first.

Chiefs Nation Should Know:

Jovan Belcher arrived at Chiefs OTAs in 2009 as an unheralded rookie free agent from an NCAA subdivision football program. Three years later, Belcher is a starter at inside linebacker and is fresh off his first 100-tackle season.

Cory Greenwood joined the Chiefs in a similar fashion one year later. He was unheralded, undrafted and almost completely unknown. Greenwood didn’t even play college football in the United States.

Two years later, Greenwood has appeared in 32 consecutive games for the Chiefs and developed the reputation as one of the team’s top special teams players.

Belcher and Greenwood both proved their worth during training camp. Both could run. Both could hit. They were natural candidates to play on special teams and they didn’t let their opportunities pass.

Rookie linebacker Dexter Heyman, undrafted out of Louisville, can’t help but notice the players surrounding him at Chiefs practices.

Derrick Johnson is a former first-round draft pick and made his first Pro Bowl in 2011. Belcher and Greenwood followed the path that Heyman will need to take in order to make the Chiefs roster.

“Whether you are drafted or not, you have to come into this league with a chip on your shoulder and you have to make a name for yourself,” Heyman said. “As for me and my personal situation, I’m just really happy to be here and I’m blessed that somebody gave me a chance to come out and compete at a level I’ve always dreamed of competing at.”

History favors linebackers when it comes to making the Chiefs roster as an undrafted rookie.

Belcher and Greenwood accomplished the feat in successive seasons. Weston Dacus, who was originally a tryout player, did the same in 2008 after spending three weeks on the practice squad.

The 2007 team saw fellow Louisville LB Nate Harris make the team as an undrafted rookie. Kris Griffin accomplished the feat in 2005 coming out of NCAA Division II Indiana (Pa.). Rich Scanlon made the squad undrafted in 2004.

The list goes on and on and the undrafted linebackers almost always make the roster based with the same skill set. They run. They hit. They excel on special teams.

“What I want to do is get around the veterans and learn from those guys as much as possible,” Heyman said. “Being a rookie is about getting on special teams and just being a sponge (for knowledge).

“Guys on this roster have really good wisdom and really good insight about this league that they pour out. I want to be the sponge that soaks it all up.”

Heyman is the currently only rookie competing for a roster spot at linebacker, but the position is constructed in a manner that leaves opportunity to make the team.

Johnson and Belcher will enter training camp as starters at inside linebacker, but there is room to make the roster behind them - especially after the Chiefs released Demorrio Williams, their most experienced reserve.

Most expect Brandon Siler to earn the third inside linebacker job, but he is also attempting to rebound from season-ending Achilles surgery. Veteran Leon Williams is trying to make the roster after a spending last year out of football and Greenwood is looking to make his case for more defensive snaps. Former safety Caleb Campbell could factor into the mix as well.

Will Heyman be the next undrafted linebacker to make the Chiefs roster? It’s certainly a storyline worth following this preseason.

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