KANSAS CITY, MO. — Felix Anudike-Uzomah traveled to this year’s venue in his hometown of Kansas City on the first day of the event to watch. When he got there, he wandered around incognito.
“Nobody knows who I am,” Anudike-Uzomah said.
He returned the next night after Kansas City Chiefs drafted him with the last pick of the first round, No. 31 in total, and suddenly he became a star. Everyone wants to take a picture with him. He walked out on stage at Kansas City’s Union Station during the second half of the game to a big cheer from the many Chiefs fans in attendance.
This has been the path of Anudike-Uzomah’s work. Few people argue when they first arrive, but everyone knows their name by the time they finish.
That was the case for Anudike-Uzomah when she showed up to play football as a blind freshman at Lee’s Summit High School outside Kansas City. It was like that when he appeared in college at Kansas State, which promised him a future scholarship because his part of that year had gone when the Wildcats were interested in him.
He exceeded expectations at every position, and left Kansas State as a defensive star. The difference now is that when he walks in their door for the first time, the Chiefs’ expectations for him are high.
“He had a lot of production at Kansas State,” General Manager Brett Veach said. “He just turned 21, so a lot of that stuff is coming in the big league at 19 and 20, and I think every year he’s been there you can see the growth and development.
“I still think there’s a big window for him to continue to grow and develop, and we’re happy to get him at this point in his career at such a young age. We have a lot of years to continue to grow and develop. develop him.”
WHEN AARON RODGERS and 13-0 Green Bay Packers arrived at Arrowhead Stadium for a Week 15 matchup with the 5-8 Chiefs, three wins in an undefeated game. It was December 18, 2011, and the Chiefs were led by rookie point guard Kyle Orton and longtime coach Romeo Crennel.
Nine-year-old Anudike-Uzomah looked on as her hometown team ended the Packers’ best season.
The Kansas City native grew up a Chiefs fan in the lean years before the team hired Andy Reid as its coach or drafted. Patrick Mahomes like his quarterback.
“From there, I just fell in love with it,” Anudike-Uzomah said. “It’s a full circle, which is crazy. I’m thankful for that Kansas City Chiefs fans because I was one of the Kansas City Chiefs fans, so I know how strong we are. This is all I ever dreamed of.”
Such dreams seemed impossible for Anudike-Uzomah when she arrived in high school weighing about 200 pounds. She was a multi-sport athlete, also playing basketball and triple jumping on her school’s track team. At that time, he might be better at other sports than he was at football.
“He was a well-rounded kid,” said his high school coach, Eric Thomas. “He was like so young. He hadn’t grown up to be what he was going to be. I still remember watching film of some of our varsity bullies just roughing him up.
“You didn’t see it happening to him when he came in as a teenager Drew Lock again. With Drew, you can tell right away that he’s going to be something special. The ball just came out of his hands differently. Felix wasn’t like that at first.
Anudike-Uzomah kept possession of the ball and gradually converted. He used a fast-paced style that a few years later caught the attention of the Chiefs. He became very fast, beating the blockers who once dominated him, despite being a little heavier.
However, he completed his high school career without the promise of a major college education.
“A lot of it had to do with his weight,” Thomas said. “Training was concerned that he couldn’t gain weight. He was 210, 215 pounds. He wasn’t a very big guy. He could play football and run and climb the basketball court all winter and then he was a great jumper and he didn’t want to gain too much weight because of it.”
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ANUDIKE-UZOMAH WAS He was frustrated with his writing and talked about quitting football and going to Missouri to study journalism. He was kept that way only after a late offer from Kansas State. The Wildcats didn’t have a scholarship that year, but they promised to give him one when he got to school in the fall.
He started to go down again, but he didn’t stay there any longer. His freshman year at Kansas State was affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, and Anudike-Uzomah used his time alone to put on the weight that would help him become the player he is today.
Anudike-Uzomah said he went from 215 pounds when he graduated high school to 250 when he arrived at Kansas State.
“I messed up the whole time being alone,” he said. “I didn’t play any video games or watch any movies. The only thing I did was watch [pass-rushing] highlights every day and then I work in my basement and eat a lot to work on my body.
“All the hard work paid off. I’m glad I did what I did during the lockdown instead of watching TV.”
His defensive backs coach at Kansas State, Buddy Wyatt, said the Wildcats had initial concerns about Anudike-Uzomah’s ability to gain weight and keep it off.
“When he came to our camp as a high school kid, he was a 209-pound kid and we didn’t know how big he was going to get,” Wyatt said. “When he got here as a freshman, he was around 230 and he could do other things with his skills, not even knowing the right way, not even knowing the game.”
Anudike-Uzomah went from one sack in five games as a freshman to 11 the following season and 8.5 last year. He finished his career tied for sixth in school history with 20.5 sacks and tied for fourth in forced fumbles (8).
“He wanted to be the best,” Wyatt said. “He wasn’t satisfied with being in good shape. When I coached him and coached him, he kept it in his heart. When I told him he needed to be strong in his body, he would go to the gym. When I told him he needed to play better against the run. He would go watch tape on guys running. He would ask me to put together a tape of NFL guys running.”
After playing just three seasons, Anudike-Uzomah could return to Kansas State. But he said he believes he did his best in college and is ready to play in the NFL.
This does not mean that they believe it is the final product. He turned 21 in January and said he wants to be as successful in his first year with the Chiefs as he was in high school and college.
“I want to work on my upper body, put my hand on it,” said Anudike-Uzomah. “I want to do a lot of work. Me being a young athlete, there’s a lot of things I can get from the big players about how to do it at the next level, tips and so on.
“In a few years, I could be a veteran when I’m maybe 23 or 22 or 24 and have a long career. I’m glad I got out early, being young.”