One of the unquestioned leaders of the Kansas City Chiefs' No. 2 ranked scoring defense (17.6 points per game) this season was veteran linebacker Tamba Hali.
After season-ending injuries to fellow defensive veterans Derrick Johnson and Mike DeVito back in Week 1, Hali put more onto his plate to help compensate, both from a production and leadership standpoint, which leads to something Chiefs general manager John Dorsey recently praised about Hali.
"He's got professional pride," Dorsey said. "I love everything that he's done this year, he's stayed true. What he told me way back last spring, what he was going to do, he did.
"I like the person; I like how he plays the game of football. You could see against the Chargers, he still has a little spring left in his leg, which was very impressive to see."
Hali has already established himself as one of the best pass rushers in franchise history, ranking third in career sacks with 79.5.
He was limited at practices for much of the year as he battled through knee issues in his ninth NFL season, but helped lead a surprise Chiefs defense that finished among the best in the NFL.
"I love playing the game," Hali said. "I put my body in a position to be able to play and compete every year. As long as my body is able to function to where I like for it to and I can play at a high level, then I'll be around wherever."
For the fourth time in his nine-year career, all with the Chiefs, Hali was named to the Pro Bowl this season. And despite finishing with just six sacks, which was the second lowest total in his career, he finished fifth on the team in tackles and played 974 defensive snaps, the sixth most of any defensive player.
"There are a lot of guys that played well that didn't make it," Hali said of the Pro Bowl nomination. "I kind of feel for those guys and my stats don't really show Pro Bowl numbers, but I guess the coaches, the players and whoever watches film feel I deserve it.
"I was able to accomplish goals that I set."
Hali said he likes the way the Pro Bowl is set up now with the drafting of the two teams.
"I actually like it," Hali said. "Last year, the guys competed more. Other years I was there, we weren't as into it. Some guys were on different teams that are on the same team during the season and went out there and competed against one another."
Before the four Pro Bowls, Hali was the Chiefs' first-round pick (No. 20 overall) out of Penn State back in 2006.
Initially drafted as a 4-3 defensive end, Hali was asked to make the switch to a 3-4 outside linebacker back in 2009.
"Having (linebackers) coach Gary Gibbs – he is probably my favorite coach because he turned me from a defensive lineman to a linebacker," Hali recalled.
That decision has paid off for Hali, who will go down as one of the best pass rushers in franchise history. But the individual accomplishments aren't what he's about.
"I'm all about winning games and trying to get to the final game," Hali said. "That's been my mentality since I've been here."
|Tamba Hali's career in Kansas City|
|Sacks (career)||79.5||3rd(Derrick Thomas, Neil Smith)|
|Sack Yards||513.5||2nd (Derrick Thomas)|
|Forced Fumbles||31||2nd (Derrick Thomas)|
|Seasons w/ double-digit sacks||3||T-3rd (Derrick Thomas, Neil Smith, Justin Houston)|
|Multi-sack games||18||3rd(Derrick Thomas, Neil Smith)|
For the long list of accomplishments on the field, what Hali has done away from it is equally as impressive.
Earlier this year, Hali was announced as the Chiefs nominee for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year award.
Hali's homeland of Liberia trudged through a bloody civil war for most of his adolescence. So, at the age of 10 he left Africa to live with his father, Henry, who had earlier fled to America. Yet, the shy Hali never forgot his roots.
Photos of Tamba Hali from the 2014 Season
"I am a Liberian; I spent about ten years in Liberia," Hali noted. "I've been blessed to live in this country, to have an education and play this wonderful sport."
This October, he joined with Heart to Heart International, a global humanitarian aid organization, to announce the construction of a 70-bed Ebola treatment unit in Africa for those stricken by the disease. Hali personally donated $50,000, which financed more than half of the project. He's also using his star status to spread the word about this dire need.
After the season, Dorsey spoke about Hali's character off the field.
"He's very special and very caring person," Dorsey said. "Not only does he care for his teammates and the Chiefs, but he truly cares about his fellow man. You can see that when you interact with him on a daily basis.
"I think it speaks volumes for him to reach out to the people back in his country. There are things that are taking place there that neither you or I know but he's trying to attack it and help and do all he can do. I think it shows you the community spirit that he has within him."