KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Teams often utilize the later rounds of the NFL draft to take flyers on players and the Chiefs are no different.
But the Chiefs’ second of two picks in the fifth round caused heads to turn.
A day after Chiefs chairman and CEO Clark Hunt said character matters, the team sent mixed signals with the selection West Alabama wide receiver Tyreek Hill.
Hill was kicked off the Oklahoma State football team and track team in January 2015 after being arrested in December 2014 for domestic abuse on accusations he punched and choked his pregnant girlfriend. He eventually pleaded guilty to the charge in August 2015 and received three years of probation.
Hill understood interested teams would put him under the spotlight and he attempted to alleviate any concerns a prospective employer may have harbored leading to the draft.
“I really just told them straight up I’m trying to move on from that,” Hill said in a conference call. “I’m trying to be a better young man. I’m trying to show everybody who I truly am and stuff like that.”
The NFL is attempting to improve its image when it comes to domestic violence following high-profile separate incidents involving Ray Rice and Greg Hardy in recent years.
Hill, however, apparently did enough to convince the Chiefs he was worth the risk despite his checkered background.
The Chiefs were not scheduled to make general manager John Dorsey or coach Andy Reid available to the media following the draft, but changed direction in an unusual move to address the Hill selection, among the other draft picks.
“I want you all to understand one thing, as an organization there are certain things we value within this organization and I just want everybody to understand we have done our due diligence with regards to fully vetting each one of our draft class members,” Dorsey said. “And with this case, we’ve done that.”
“And I think everybody at the end of the day within this community would understand one thing – we would never put anybody in this community in harm’s way.”
Dorsey said he met with Hunt before making the decision to go with Hill, and a discussion occurred with head coach Andy Reid.
“I’m a coach, Dorse(y) does the personnel stuff,” Reid said. “He’s done his homework here and there has to be a certain trust here.
“There’s just things that we can’t get into and go through. We want people to understand that, like Dorse said, we’re not going to do anything to put this community or this organization in a bind. We’ve uncovered every possible stone that we possibly could and we feel very comfortable with that part of it.”
The backlash on the social media website, Twitter, surrounding the selection of Hill was quick and mostly negative.
But Reid appeared to recognize that and offered reinforcement to Dorsey’s earlier statement that the Chiefs did their homework on Hill before choosing to select him.
“We do understand where people, the sensitivity of it with people in the community and so forth, and Clark (Hunt) feels that same feeling,” Reid said. “We just ask that you know that every situation is different, that we explored every situation, and that we make sure that we try to detail and find every detail we possibly can on the situation before we ever make a move like we made the move here with Tyreek.”
Reid said Hill has been receiving counseling and that process will continue while Hill is a member of the Chiefs.
“The bottom line here is you got to be heading in the right direction,” Reid said. “So, I think we all understand that before you’re given the opportunity for a second chance, you better be doing the right things.
“And so he’s been in counseling, he’ll continue to be in counseling. We got a great support system here for that with quality people. We feel good that’s trying to right a wrong, a big wrong.”
Should Hill stay focused, the Chiefs have a player who amassed 1,811 all-purpose yards in 2014 at Oklahoma State. He rushed for 534 yards and a touchdown, caught 31 passes for 281 yards and totaled 740 yards as a kickoff returner and 256 punt return yards.
Regardless of Hill’s production in college and potential in the NFL, the biggest question surrounds is the risk worth the reward.
The Chiefs firmly believe so.
“My wife and I have been hugely involved in domestic violence,” Reid said. “It’s been an awesome, awesome venture for the last 14 years.
“The unique part of this and I think the part that we have to understand is very seldom does the other side try to right the wrong, however you want to divide it, try to right the wrong. So much effort from the whole house, these different programs in the city that are involved with this, strive to get that other half to better themselves. I mean, that’s where we see this kid trying to do that, he’s trying to make this effort to right the wrong and I think that can be a great example to so many people that are probably in this situation.”
“As you sat there and listened to Andy talk in those words, you can see that this really is for this organization this is one of those things, we don’t take this lightly,” Dorsey said. “And I just want you to understand we will do everything we can to ensure this community does not have these types of situations that will come. We’re not going to bring that in this community. We will not do that.”