[PUBLISHER’S NOTE, MARCH 1, 2015: Former contributing writer Desmond Bailey wrote this story in 2014.]
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Undrafted rookie free agents don’t have a guarantee of making an NFL roster or practice squad.
Considering the odds these players must overcome, it’s no surprise they often aim to make the absolute most of the opportunity.
May 25, 2014; Kansas City, MO; Quarterback Jonathan Jennings (4) hands off to running back Charcandrick West (35) on Day Two of the Chiefs rookie minicamp. Credit: KCChiefs.com.
Former Abilene Christian University halfback Charcandrick West, who signed with the Chiefs as an undrafted free agent, seeks to do exactly that.
“I’m going to come right out and give it my all,” West said during the team’s recent rookie minicamp. “I’m going to go play special teams and just play my role. Whatever they ask me to do I’ll do.”
West joins the Chiefs after a senior season where he amassed 1,349 all-purpose yards (906 rushing, 443 receiving) and 16 total touchdowns. [Publisher’s note: Last sentence is edited to fix an inaccurate statement of West’s 16 total touchdowns falling two shy of a single-season record. The current single-season record of 39 at Abilene Christian is held by Bernard Scott]
Additionally, West departed ACU as the only player in school history to compile more than 2,000 rushing yards, 1,000 receiving yards and 750 kick return yards in a career.
While his collegiate body of work hints at his capability, West will have to adjust to the NFL level of play. ACU head football coach Ken Collums feels West already has the skills and work ethic to aid the Chiefs.
“There are a lot of tools in his toolbox,” Collums shared in a phone interview. “The No. 1 thing is talent. The guy can run, he can pass block and he can be used as a receiver out of the backfield.
“The No. 2 thing is just his daily approach to game of football. In a weight workout, a practice or in a film session, he’s always honed in and it’s because it means a lot to him. That’s truly what made him productive here and it’s what gives him a chance to be part of what the Chiefs are doing.”
At 5-foot-9 and 205 pounds, West further propelled his momentum towards a potential NFL career by posting impressive numbers at his Pro Day on March 7.
With the presence of 20-25 mph winds, West was first asked by scouts to run his 40-yard dash into the wind which resulted in a time of 4.46, according to KTXS 12. Then with the wind at his back, West ran a time of 4.27, KTXS 12 reports.
Collums thinks that regardless of West’s 40-yard dash times, it’s his game speed that will surprise people the most.
“When he opens up,” Collums said, “he’s going to run by people. People don’t really understand how fast he is until they see him breaking one down the sideline. We’d get him matched up with a mike linebacker, throw him the ball and within two steps he’d have accelerated by the guy.”
It’s those traits that piqued the Chiefs’ interest, as West said he got a personal phone call from Chiefs running backs coach Eric Bienemy.
“He told me he liked my speed and catching,” West said. “He also said what really caught his eye was my footwork and my pass blocking.”
In addition to the strong points emphasized by Bienemy, West has a knack for breaking tackles to gain additional yards after contact. West attributes that to his unique mental approach when running the football.
“I basically see the football as a kid and the end zone as its home,” West humorously explained. “I’m trying to get that kid home safely and I don’t need anybody trying to get in the way of that.”
West is currently participating in the Chiefs first three-day segment of organized team activities (OTAs).
He will compete against Knile Davis, Cyrus Gray and Joe McKnight for a roster spot behind starter Jamaal Charles. It’s a challenge that West eagerly anticipates with a great level of admiration, and respect for Charles in particular.
“It’s an amazing feeling to be practicing with him and learning from him,” West said. “But I’ll be trying to beat him out at the same time. It just takes my level up higher and higher knowing how great he is because I want to be just as great.”