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Born in War-Torn Liberia, New WR Jehu Chesson Has Similar Path as Tamba Hali

Posted Apr 29, 2017

The former Michigan receiver moved to the United States when he was 5 years old

The newest Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver, Michigan’s Jehu Chesson, who was selected in the fourth round (No. 139 overall) after the Chiefs traded up again Saturday—has a story and path that’s similar to veteran outside linebacker Tamba Hali.

Chesson, like Hali, was born in the war-torn county of Liberia.

And also like Hali, Chesson’s father moved to the United States before the rest of his family with the hopes of creating a better life for them. He moved to St. Louis as part of a foreign exchange student program.

Chesson Sr. moved to the United States when his son was just 1 year old, and Chesson’s mother would later move to the United States before her son as well. At the time, Jehu was living with his grandmother on the Ivory Coast, where they had moved to escape the Civil War that took more than 200,000 lives in Liberia.

The long and tedious process of getting the rest of his family to the United States was completed in 1998—when the entire Chesson family settled down in St. Louis.

For years, Chesson Sr. had been living with a host family as part of the student exchange program, and to this day—Jehu calls them his “host grandparents,” and he credits them for helping him be in this position today.

“It takes a village to raise somebody, and they’re a key part in my success growing up,” Jehu explained. “I thank God for everything, and I thank my family because without my old man coming over and setting the base for my family and me to build upon – we really wouldn’t have had the opportunity.

“I’m very grateful for all of them, and the rest is history because a lot of people get provided opportunity, but you lead your horse to water, but it’s up to them to drink it.”

After a standout football and track career at Ladue Horton High School in St. Louis—the same school that had brought his father over to the United States originally, Jehu chose the University of Michigan over other offers from Iowa and Northwestern.

The 6-foot-2, 204-pound receiver redshirted his first year in Ann Arbor and wouldn’t really breakout until his junior year in 2015—finishing with 50 receptions for 764 yards and nine touchdowns.

Chesson also added he loves playing on special teams, which is key for any skill position player hoping to find a role on the team.

“I feel like I’m a competitor,” he added. “It’s part of what you have to do to win the game. It takes running down on kickoff and punt return and whatever else it may be. Whatever the team needs, I’m going to do that.”

Chiefs area scout Pat Sperduto spoke of Chesson shortly after the pick was made.

“He’s big. He’s fast. He’s tough and he’s a great kid—will be excellent in our room,” Sperduto explained. “Such high character, plays on (special) teams. He’s been a starter there for the last couple of years. He’s made a bunch of plays and he’s lined up everywhere for them.

“There’s not going to be any issues when it comes to the intelligence part of it and that probably helps the coaching staff know that this guy can play a bunch of spots.”

For any new receiver that comes to the Chiefs’ offense, the biggest transition is often the level of responsibility placed on the receivers—not to mention the sheer volume of the playbook. The receiver positions are interchangeable and the routes vary depending on coverage within a specific call. 

Sperduto likes the mental acuity of Chesson, whom he compared intellectually to current Chiefs receiver Chris Conley, who is as well spoken as anyone on the team.

“I talked to [Chesson] at his pro day,” Sperduto added. “There was never a doubt with him. He is a football guy, which is great. He could play all three spots for (Michigan), which you couldn't say for every other receiver in that group. You appreciate him. You appreciate his state of mind and how he approaches the game.

“This kid’s going to bring a lunch pail. He’s not a prima donna wide receiver.”

Chesson finished his college career with 114 receptions for 1,639 yards with 12 touchdowns, with his breakout game coming in 2015 against Indiana when he finished with 10 receptions for 207 yards and four touchdowns.  

“I’m eager to get there,” Chesson added. “I’m eager to learn, eager to get a playbook in my hands and meet my coaches and teammates. Like I said earlier, it’s going to be a great experience and I can’t wait to attack it with enthusiasm.”

Much like we’ve seen from Hali throughout his career, the enthusiasm Chesson will bring to the Chiefs unquestionably comes from a background and a journey that few can relate to—one of those being one of his newest teammates. 

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