KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Offensive tackle Tavon Rooks enjoyed a homecoming given his recent signing with the Chiefs.
Rooks, a native of Randallstown, Md., played collegiately at Kansas State University and is thrilled to return to the area.
“I call this my second home,” Rooks said with a smile. “It feels good to be back home. I just want to thank the Chiefs for giving me the opportunity to be here. I’m just happy to be here.”
Still, the NFL experience hasn’t been a smooth ride for Rooks, who joins his third team since entering the league in 2014 as a sixth-round pick of the New Orleans Saints.
He spent last season on the Saints practice squad, but wasn’t brought back after his practice squad contract expired. Rooks eventually signed a reserve/future deal with the Arizona Cardinals, even participating in organized team activities before the Cardinals waived him on June 5.
Rooks is hopeful the third time around proves the charm following the experiences in New Orleans and Arizona, and he has a plan to help him focus on sticking with the Chiefs.
“Just learn the playbook, get stronger and stay on my grind, man,” Rooks said. “This business is rough. But keep God first, and like I said, stay in my playbook and get stronger. That’s all I can do.”
The 6-foot-5 Rooks said he currently weighs 315 pounds, which is 15 pounds more than the Chiefs officially list.
While Rooks said he feels comfortable at that weight, the Chiefs want him to shed a few pounds before training camp kicks off in late July.
Rooks said losing weight won’t be a problem, and he won’t go through his current journey on a new team alone.
He has a familiar face to lean on in the locker room if needed because his arrival reunited him with a former Saints teammate in current Chiefs left guard Ben Grubbs.
“He’s like my mentor,” Rooks said. “I call him my big brother. I look up to him and he taught me some of the ropes when I was coming in and he’s still teaching me now to this day. I love being here with him.”
Grubbs, who was acquired via trade with New Orleans in exchange for a fifth-round pick on March 12, said the Chiefs asked him about Rooks before the signing.
The ninth-year pro was more than happy to provide input.
“They asked me what kind of guy he was and I told them the truth,” Grubbs said. “He is a good guy and he wouldn’t be a liability to this team.”
More importantly, Grubbs is pleased to see Rooks have another chance to make an NFL roster with the Chiefs.
“I was excited for him because he’s a great guy,” Grubbs said. “Last year when he was with the Saints, he made huge improvements and I was really shocked when they decided to let him go. But as far as the guys on the offensive line there, we were really pleased with him and just happy he was on the team.”
Rooks’ road to making the team won’t be easy, of course.
The Chiefs, who opened the 2014 season with 10 offensive linemen, currently have 16 linemen in minicamp and training camp competition should be fierce.
But Rooks has already walked the hard path before when considering the stops in New Orleans and Arizona since the former Wildcat entered the league.
He hopes what he absorbed with the previous teams will help in Kansas City.
And now that he is back in familiar territory, Rooks can also recall lessons learned from his former college head coach on facing adversity while accepting the challenge to make the Chiefs’ roster.
“Coach (Bill) Snyder, he actually builds men,” Rooks said. “Without having a father figure, I respect him a lot. He prepared me for this. Anything can happen, so whenever adversity hits, stay on it, keep grinding because your time will come. I learned a lot from that man and I appreciate it.”