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Tamba Hali Cements Legacy in Kansas City

Posted Mar 10, 2016

After 10 years with the Chiefs, Hali signed a new multi-year contract

He walked down the aisles slowly, carrying a genuine smile and a gracious semblance.

Just a few hours earlier, Kansas City Chiefs veteran linebacker Tamba Hali was busy attacking quarterbacks, setting the edge in the run game and helping the Chiefs pick up another road victory.

Now, he was giving the flight attendants on the team charter a break from delivering cookies.

He’d just go ahead and do it himself.

Yes, Hali, who ranks in the top 50 in NFL history in career sacks, was delivering warm chocolate chip cookies to his teammates, coaches and the rest of the staff on the flight back to Kansas City after a road game.

“They’re always so nice to us,” Hali said of the attendants. “I just wanted to help them out and give them a little break.”

The veteran football player who had just put his body on the line for the past several hours wanted to give these women a break because of how gracious they always were to him and his teammates.

This is Tamba Hali defined.

One by one, he’d ask everyone on the plane if they wanted a cookie—smiling and having a good time in the process—although startling some people who weren’t expecting one of the best defensive players in franchise history to be serving up dessert on the plane.

It wasn’t the first time Hali did this either, and it’s a side of him that many people don’t get to see.

So much of what he’s done on the field, from the 86 career sacks, which rank second in franchise history, to the number of games played throughout his 10-year career, are widely known.

That’s the “TAMBATIME” that fans get to see on television or at Arrowhead Stadium on Sundays in the fall, but the man underneath those pads is the one who has created a legacy that goes way beyond the field.

This Hali, the one delivering cookies because he feels he owes it to the kind people taking care of them, is the one known by those who spend time around him and get to see him every day, and it’s the one who doesn’t get talked about enough.

Now, 10 years after being the club’s No. 1 draft pick out of Penn State back in 2006, he signed a new multi-year agreement that will keep him in the red and gold for the rest of his career.

It’s fitting.

“I wanted to end my career here,” Hali explained on Thursday. “It’s a family atmosphere and everything [John] Dorsey, coach [Andy] Reid and the Hunt family stand for, everything they say, it’s been right on point.

“It doesn’t happen in our league anymore for a player to be in this position, to finish out their career where they got drafted. I’m just thankful.”

Since 2007, only DeMarcus Ware (566) and Jared Allen (561) have more quarterback pressures than Hali (558).

When asked how much thought he gave to playing somewhere else as an unrestricted free agent, Hali definitively said, “None.”

He’ll now be one of only 11 players in NFL history with at least 86 career sacks to spend their entire career with one organization. His legacy was already defined regardless of whether or not he kept playing, but he’s now among the best to ever do it for an organization with a proud history of pass rushers.

Hali has carried the “Sack City” torch since he first arrived in Kansas City as a 4-3 defensive end back in 2006, all the way through the transition to an outside linebacker in 2009.

Derrick Thomas, Neil Smith, Art Still and Jared Allen—that’s the elite pass-rushing company in franchise history to which Hali finds himself.

RELATED: Tamba Hali Recalls His First Career Sack, Which Was on Alex Smith

“It means a lot that people think that highly of me,” he said, “but for now, I’m just living in the moment and enjoying the time I’m here and trying to get something done.”

For the fans who have interacted with him for a few minutes at training camp, or those who have crossed paths with him out in the community, there’s no doubt as to why Hali is beloved by Chiefs Kingdom.

It’s a love that’s reciprocated.

“They’ve seen me grow from a young adult to a grown man,” Hali explained of his relationship with fans over the past decade in Kansas City. “It feels good to know we have this backing. You don’t know the fans but you know they’re there, and you know they love you, and I love them back.”

Last season, his 10th with the Chiefs, Hali finished with 6.5 sacks and tied for the team lead with 11 tackles for loss.

At 32 years old, he finished the season with the fifth-most snaps by a defensive player on the team.

He’s still playing at a high level, but he knows that moving forward, there will be some changes for him to remain as effective as he has been.

“I’ve gotten paid enough money to live the rest of my life without working,” Hali explained, “so it wasn’t based on money. I love being here and I still want to contribute. I think my mindset as a football player, you know, I’m always trying to play every play. I want to be in the game on every play.

“At this stage in my career, I need to rethink that to where I can be the most effective—play less snaps but be more effective on the snaps I am playing, instead of trying to be a young Tamba in the game the entire time.”

Hali mentioned Baltimore Ravens pass rusher Elvis Dumervil, who finished the 2014 season with 17 sacks after only playing 605 snaps, compared to Hali, who played 837 last year.

“With all the new technology and how you can monitor guys, I could probably be more effective with less snaps,” he said. “That’s not coming from me, that’s coming from [the personnel staff] upstairs, and I agree with them.”

No matter how much he’s on the field in 2016, Hali is confident about where things stand with this team heading into next season.

“We’re the team that the league needs to worry about,” Hali stated. “It’s going to be hard for teams to come here and feel like they can do what they choose.”

Led by Hali and company, there’s plenty of reason to feel good about where the Chiefs are headed.

There might never be another one like him, and not just as a football player, but as a person.

The legacy Hali’s writing with these last few chapters of his book should serve as a guide for young players on how to be beloved for more than just talent and production, but for reasons that transcend what happens between the lines.

With every sack he picks up or cookie he delivers, Hali continues to be that example.

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