St. Joseph, Mo. – If things went as planned,
That’s where he was at this time last year, eyeing a spot on Washington’s 53-man roster.
But things weren’t meant to be in Washington. Draughn received limited opportunities – just 11 preseason carries – and his 1.7-yard rushing average didn’t do the undrafted rookie any favors.
Shaun Draughn was just another name looking for work by the time September rolled around.
“I came up the rough side of the mountain,” Draughn said. “I was cut last year and had to come to a new team as a member of the practice squad.”
Draughn remained unemployed until early October when Kansas City took a midseason flier on the former North Carolina Tarheel. Rookie offensive lineman Butch Lewis was traded out for Draughn on the Chiefs eight-man practice squad.
It was on Kansas City’s practice squad that Draughn’s NFL career began to turn in a new direction.
“Actually, it was probably a blessing in disguise to go the practice squad route,” Draughn said. “I feel like I got so much better just practicing against our defense and learning form guys like
He listened and kept working, running opponents’ offensive plays for the Chiefs scout team. It wasn’t long before Draughn started to get noticed.
Draughn’s practices became impressive enough that defensive line coach Anthony Pleasant sought out assistant head coach Maurice Carthon to make sure the former NFL running back wasn’t overlooking Draughn’s scout team production.
“Our defensive coaches were really impressed with his work on the scout team,” Carthon recalled. “Every other day Anthony Pleasant was saying, ‘hey, did you just see the move that kid made?’ So I started to take a closer look at him. He’s flashed throughout OTAs and here in training camp. Now I hope that he continues to grow.”
The Chiefs promoted Draughn to the active roster prior to last year’s regular season finale when Jackie Battle landed on injured reserve. Draughn would only play special teams against the Broncos, but it ensured him a spot on the Chiefs roster for at least the 2012 offseason program.
“It’s was a blessing,” Draughn said of the promotion. “I’m thankful for the organization giving me a chance. My approach has been to just keep doing what I’ve been doing. I’m focused on improving every day and trying to make this team.”
With Jamaal Charles,
Draughn began stringing big plays together one after the other and scored a touchdown in last week’s preseason opener against Arizona.
“It was crazy when I scored,” Draughn said. “Even when I was in college I never heard the crowd. You kind of zone out when you score, but that time I kind of took it all in and took my time getting to the sideline. I wanted to stay out there as long as I could and celebrate with my teammates.”
Camp is closing and it’s been a successful three-week run for Draughn. He’s put himself in position to make a solid run at a roster spot over the final three preseason games. The Chiefs have given him looks running with the first-team offense and he’s already logged more carries than he did all of last preseason with the Redskins.
Saturday night represents another big test in St. Louis. Gray is sidelined with a hamstring injury, leaving Draughn with more opportunities to show his progression. He’ll also be running on multiple special teams units in addition to an expanded offensive role.
“I just feel like I’m doing what I’m coached to do and when I get my chance I try to shine as best I can,” Draughn said. “What people don’t notice is that I probably go harder in special teams than anything else. That’s how I’ll make this football team. It’s going to be a big role that I’ll have to play.”
Kansas City’s backfield now appears more crowded than it did entering training camp. Carthon says it’s the deepest group of backs he’s coached since joining the Chiefs four seasons ago.
“I wish I could keep them all, not just four,” Carthon said. “They are all great guys, good people and are working hard. That’s exactly what they are and it’s good as a coach. It’s like being a kid in a candy store. You go in the morning and those guys are there mentally, you don’t hear too much talk-back from any of them and they are always ready to focus on the task at hand.”