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Palko takes center stage

Posted Nov 15, 2011

The football world will become much more familiar with Tyler Palko this week

Tyler Palko had a feeling his world was about to change as he exited Arrowhead Stadium late Sunday afternoon. He had watched Matt Cassel take hits for the better part of four quarters before being called upon to lead the Chiefs final offensive drive against the Broncos.

Palko also saw the extent of Cassel’s injured throwing hand inside the Chiefs locker room.

Afterwards, while Cassel was publicly mum regarding the status of his injury, Palko knew there was a possibility his role might expand in the coming weeks.

“I probably had a good understanding that he wouldn’t be able to play this week just from talking with him after the game, but you never like to speculate until it happens.” Palko said.

The speculation ended Monday afternoon when quarterbacks coach Jim Zorn met with Palko following film review with the position group.

“He just said to be ready to go and we talked about how we’re going to approach this week as far as the game plan,” Palko explained. “He said that they were up there getting stuff ready to go, so I’ll know more (Tuesday) morning about how we’re going to attack these guys.”  

Minutes later, Palko walked into the Chiefs locker room where a gathering of reporters and television cameras stood waiting next to his locker.

And in that instant, it all became a reality.

Palko was now part of the big show and it certainly won’t be slowing down anytime soon with back-to-back primetime games on the horizon.

“I’m really close with Matt and we’ve been through a lot in these past few years,” Palko told the group of reporters. “He’s meant a lot to me and helping out in my progress. You never like to see anybody go down like this, but its football and you have to be ready. Nothing is really going through my mind right now except trying to get ready for New England.”

Palko has been around the NFL since 2007, but didn’t attempt his first professional pass until last season. He’s never been called upon to start and Sunday’s final box score established new single-game highs across the board.

Palko played one series and completed five-of-six passes for 47 yards.

“I’m hoping that nothing changes,” said Palko. “I’m hoping that everybody comes to work, gets the game plan and executes it. Nothing is going to change on my end. I’m going to come in here and prepare as I did before. The only thing that’s going to be different is that Matt won’t be here when we’re breaking down film and going through stuff like we’ve done for the last 10 weeks.”

It goes without saying that Monday night’s game in New England will be something Palko never forgets. What a way to get thrown into the fire.

“I think probably when we get up there and the lights are on there will probably be a ‘wow this is really happening’ moment, but there’s so much for me to worry about right now that I don’t have time to think about that stuff,” Palko said.

Moments like these are the ones that stick with athletes forever.

Like anyone who played high school athletics, Palko remembers his first varsity start.

Playing for his father at West Allegheny High School in Imperial, Pennsylvania, Palko led the Indians to a 7-6 victory over the Montour Spartans as a freshman quarterback. He’d go on to finish his high school career with 5,553 passing yards and 1,681 rushing yards.

Eventually, Palko would play in a Pennsylvania high school all-star game alongside current Chiefs teammate Steve Breaston, who was a quarterback at Woodland Hills High School in North Braddock.

“He was the passing quarterback and I was the running quarterback,” Breaston remembered. “That game was actually my first time ever playing wide receiver. It was fun.”

Of course, sports memories can get fuzzy as well.

Palko struggled to recall the details of his first collegiate start at the University of Pittsburgh thanks to a hit to the head.

“I got a concussion in my first college start, so I don’t remember much about it,” Palko laughed when trying to recall details from Pitt’s 2004 season opener. “I think it was against Ohio University at Heinz Field.”

Pittsburgh won that game 24-3 as Palko beat out Ravens starting QB Joe Flacco for the Panthers’ starting job under center. Flacco threw four passes that season compared to Palko’s 409 attempts and eventually transferred to the University of Delaware.

As it turns out, the football world knows much more about Flacco than they do Palko some seven years later.

This week, the world will find out a lot more about Palko when he takes center stage in football’s national spotlight. Chiefs fans, players and coaches are set to learn a lot more about Palko as well.

“I think Tyler has a high, high football IQ,” Chiefs coach Todd Haley said. “He grew up in football, his father is a high school coach in western [Pennsylvania] and he is a very competitive person and that translates into his quarterback ability.

“That competitiveness is a very good trait to have. I believe that he is athletic and has the ability to use his feet to make plays which I think we witnessed [Sunday], is a great positive. I’m not comparing him and Tim Tebow in any way, but he is athletic and he can increase your margin of error at times when you have an extremely athletic quarterback.”

 

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