Blaylock runs with his chance

Associated Press / November 23, 2004

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The first thing Derrick Blaylock saw was the last thing he needed to see.

There in the doorway stood about 240 pounds of thickly layered muscle, a chiseled granite statue wearing shoulder pads and a tight-fitting jersey.

What's a scared rookie running back on his first day of minicamp to think?

"I was thinking, `Are all linebackers like this in the NFL?"' Blaylock recalls four years later. "I was in great awe."

A few minutes later, feeling decidedly undersized, Blaylock was introduced to his Kansas City teammate with the weightlifter's physique. A short time after that and to his great relief, he learned that, no, most NFL linebackers were not as imposing as one-time Pro Bowler Marvcus Patton.

"I was glad to see that none of them were that big. I was pretty small and I was like, `Oh, I hope not all of them look like that,"' he said.

But they were all bigger than the 5-foot-9-inch Blaylock. And so, quietly and with patience, the fifth-round draft pick out of Steven F. Austin began learning everything he could about the art and science of the NFL running back.

"Once I got going on the practice field and saw the speed of the game, I was like, `OK, I really can play this game at a higher level,' " Blaylock said.

He did not get discouraged when Priest Holmes burst into superstardom and shoved him farther and farther toward the end of the bench.

When the Chiefs used their first-round pick in 2003 on Penn State running back Larry Johnson, Blaylock was undaunted. He just kept plugging, spending his spare time working on his own music label called DMBG 1965.

Blaylock turned heads by scoring four touchdowns against Atlanta last month after Holmes went out with a sore ankle. Then last week at New Orleans, given his first chance to start, Blaylock erupted for 186 yards in the fifth-best day for a runner in Chiefs history. Could he have come just 14 yards short of 200 as a rookie, or even as a second-year player?

"I don't think so," Blaylock said. "It takes time to mature, to be able to read those blocks the offensive line and everybody is setting up. It takes time."

With Holmes sidelined a second straight week by a knee injury, Blaylock was set to make his second straight start on an even bigger stage -- against the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots on Monday night.

"I'm really looking forward to it," he said. "Hopefully I can get the job done. I'm very confident. If you go out and rush for 186 yards, you have to be feeling pretty good about yourself and the team."

Blaylock's emergence also comes as a justification to coach Dick Vermeil, who took a bit of criticism for keeping him on the roster even though he was almost never used.

"He's a good football player," Vermeil said. "We've said that all along. It seems like certain guys you have to keep justifying having them on your roster and playing them and not doing something else with your roster."

Having Holmes playing ahead of him might have been a good break for Blaylock.

"There wasn't a lot of pressure on him to play," Vermeil said. "But everything we gave him to do, he did well, whether it be the center of kickoff coverage, the spread punt, kickoff returns, third-down receiver, backup running back -- everything we've asked this young man to do, he's done well."

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