KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Titans running back and punt returner Dexter McCluster settled in at 15-yard line to field a punt from Chiefs punter Dustin Colquitt.
The act wasn’t new to McCluster, as he has played at Arrowhead Stadium numerous times the previous four seasons.
But the cascade of boos from the end zone immediately put the current Titan on notice he was now in enemy territory.
“It was different today being on the other side,” McCluster said after the game in the visiting locker room. “I was excited this whole week, ready to see the folks, see some of those guys I really grew close to over the years. But I knew it would be a hostile environment, a fun environment to play, and I’m just glad we got the win.”
The Titans did more than win; the team destroyed the hometown Chiefs 26-10 with the help of not just McCluster but another former Chief, now Titans kicker Ryan Succop.
McCluster chipped in with 29 yards rushing on nine carries, adding one catch for 17 yards. Succop went 4-for-4 on field goals, including efforts from 46 yards and 47 yards.
Both players were fixtures in a Chiefs uniform in recent years before the team chose to go different directions.
The Chiefs let McCluster, who was drafted as a second-round pick in 2010, leave via free agency in March and released Succop, a 2009 seventh-round pick, during final roster cuts on Aug. 30 after choosing to go with rookie kicker Cairo Santos.
For his part, Succop had an opportunity during a postgame media session to thank the Chiefs and Kansas City.
“I had an unbelievable experience,” Succop said. “The fans here are fantastic. The organization is great. The coaches, the players, I had an awesome time. There’s not one bit of bitterness from my end. All I am is thankful for those five years. I feel very blessed to have been here for those five years.”
Succop said general manager John Dorsey personally notified him the team would go with Santos. Succop said he was called to Dorsey office, but said the way the Chiefs general manager handled it was “unbelievable.”
“He told me it was one of the hardest decisions he had to make as a general manager,” Succop said. “There was nothing but respect on both sides, and that’s how that went.”
McCluster also had to quickly adapt when informed the Chiefs wouldn’t bring him back.
“It was different,” he said. “All I knew was KC. My family was here. We were very comfortable. In this game you have to adjust on the fly. When adversity strikes you have to be ready for change.”
While Kansas City was home for years, the former Chiefs players have a new team and walked off the field as conquering heroes.
But they’ll never forget their roots.
“This was a special game today,” Succop said. “There’s no question about it. It’s something that I don’t think I’ll ever forget this game. You never know how things are going to go on opening day and to get off to a start like this in Arrowhead, it was special.”
As for McCluster, he offered a smile when reflecting on the jeers during the game from the same fans that once showered him with affection.
“I know deep under all those boos they were really cheering for me,” McCluster said. “I got some great relationships, but when you’re in competition, you got to go for the home team and that’s what they did.”
NOTES: Chiefs defensive tackle Dontari Poe joked Thursday he wouldn’t mind “putting a hat” on his former teammate, and the moment arrived early in the first quarter when Poe tackled Dexter McCluster after a 2-yard gain. “I was just smiling and laughing,” McCluster said of the hit. “It’s football. He’s a big guy and all I wanted to do was hold onto the ball. He got a good lick on me, but life goes on” … NBA superstar LeBron James was spotted on ESPN’s SportsCenter late last year wearing what appeared to be Ryan Succop’s No. 6 Chiefs jersey. Succop now wears No. 8 for the Titans and indicated he’ll take care of James if required. “If he would wear it,” Succop said with a laugh, “maybe I’ll send him another one.”