On a fall Saturday in 2003, Dustin Colquitt punted a football that spiraled toward the right corner, same as he’d done hundreds of times before, same as he’d do more than a thousand times for the Chiefs.
A punter isn’t often in the middle of the action after the kick, instead sitting back as the last line of defense. But on this particular play during the Pi Kappa Alpha brother’s time at the University of Tennessee, the returner broke free down the sideline. Colquitt began sprinting, trying to chase him down.
A Fresno State linebacker blasted him from the side, a mammoth of hit that Colquitt never saw coming. His helmet popped off before he even fell to the ground. Bruised his ribs, too. The hit would be played during the ESPY Awards the following year, then rewound, slowed down and played again on the same reel.
As the crowd released an audible gasp in Knoxville, a group of Colquitt’s best friends from the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity on campus had a different reaction. They stewed over the play. One threw garbage onto the field. Another would eventually be escorted out by a police officer. The rest walked to the tunnel after the game, where the opposing players exit the field.
They found the Fresno State linebacker there — and, as planned, exchanged about two minutes of unprintable words with him.
They laugh about the story now. Dead serious then.
“We were not happy with it,” said Ray Dover, lifelong friends with Colquitt and a fraternity brother. “All of us are down in the tunnel just waiting for the guy to walk out.”
A bond between friends was built during those years at Tennessee, initially prompted by fraternity enlistment but bolstered by common interests. It just so happened that one of them was a college football player on the verge of becoming an NFL veteran.
As a 15-year tenure in Kansas City has progressed, Colquitt, the only player left from those Chiefs’ dark years, still connects with the same friends.
They’re still coming to games. They’ll be there Sunday in Miami, when the Chiefs face the 49ers in the Super Bowl.
“Punters don’t have entourages,” Colquitt said, before pausing to consider the best description. “Well, I guess they’re a bit of an entourage.”
‘WE’RE COMING TO THE GAMES’
A punter isn’t exactly the most exhilarating of positions to track in the NFL.
The fraternity brothers couldn’t care less.
They’ve attended games in which Colquitt hasn’t punted once. Still come the next time. “We might be the only people there to watch punts,” Dover quipped.
For years, they have traveled from Nashville, from Knoxville and from Chicago. Destinations in Indianapolis, New England and Kansas City. The crew has been represented at just about all of the Chiefs’ playoffs games during Colquitt’s time here.
Most of them born in Tennessee, they’re now intertwined with Chiefs history, an understanding of just how rare it is for the Chiefs to be here, in Miami, playing for the Vince Lombardi Trophy. Colquitt has been a part of some bad football teams. A pair of two-win seasons. A stretch of five losing seasons in six years.
And the playoff agony. Oh, the playoff agony. The blown lead in Indianapolis. The no-touchdown game against Pittsburgh. The forward-progress game against Tennessee. Seen it all.
“There have been a lot of tough games, a lot of times where you don’t know what to say other than, ‘We’re hurting for you,’” said Billy Haley, another Colquitt friend and fraternity brother. “That’s why — and I’m not an emotional guy — but to see them finally, finally, finally break through, after going through the highs and lows of life, I got emotional seeing his kids play in the confetti.
“For 15 years, we’ve been along for the ride. How can you not get emotional about that?”