Chiefs LB Justin Houston Explains What's Special About Kansas City

Houston talks family, legacy and what he loves about playing for the Chiefs Kingdom

One of the top storylines of the Kansas City Chiefs offseason culminated this week with the announcement of a long-term extension with linebacker Justin Houston.

One reason Houston said it was important for him to stay with the Chiefs was the relationship he has with his teammates, something that isn't found everywhere.

"It's more of a family here," Houston explained. "I sit back and talk to other guys from different teams and they talk about how it's not a family there. But it is here. You don't hear anything bad being said about each other in the locker room.

"It doesn't matter if we're winning or losing, it's all always positive vibes going on. We're not putting one another down, we're always uplifting everybody. We move as one."

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From the end of last season up until the moment he signed his contract, Houston's goal all along was to stay in Kansas City.

"When the season ended, coach Reid pulled me into the office saying, 'It's going to get done, just be patient,'" Houston recalled. "So that's what I did."

Just because Houston filled his pockets a little bit and got the long-term deal NFL players work their entire careers to try and earn, don't expect him to sit back and rest on his past accolades.

That's just not the way he's built.

Less than an hour after putting pen to paper, Houston shared what he believes this team can achieve.

"I think we can go all the way this year," he said. "We're ready to go."

The belief of what this team can achieve together is one of the reasons Houston wanted to stay in Kansas City, and the commitment he made only reinforces that notion.

For as much credit is given to Houston for his pass-rushing prowess, the truth is of the 1,033 snaps he played for the Chiefs defense last season, which was second only to cornerback Sean Smith's 1,037, less than three percent of those snaps resulted in a sack.

That not only shows how truly difficult it is to earn a sack in the NFL, but in order to make the kind of impact that truly transforms a defense, players must be able to do everything well.

According to Pro Football Focus, Houston ranked in the top four among NFL outside linebackers in rushing the quarterback (No. 1), run defense (No. 4) and pass coverage (No. 4).

He's the only player who can claim to be ranked in the top five in each of those categories.

"I try to be the best at everything I do," Houston said. "I look at other athletes, like LeBron James is one of my favorite athletes. I see his size, his ability, but he doesn't just focus on scoring. He plays defense, he wants to do it all. That's what I've been wanting to do on the football field, I want to do it all.

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"If I've got to cover somebody, I want to be one of the best covering outside linebackers I can be, the best run stopper I can be, the best pass rusher I can be. I want to be the best in all things."

One of the reasons Houston believes he's at the point in his career where he can legitimately make those claims is because of his mentor, veteran Tamba Hali, and the leadership he showed through the first four years of Houston's career.

"He's meant a lot to my career," Houston said. "When Tamba first came into the league, he didn't have a guy to take him under his wing. When I came in, it was the total opposite. He was willing to teach me everything he knows.

"When I started picking it up, he was like, 'OK, I'm going to slow down. You're learning too fast!' But he's like a brother on the field and being in this situation, he was like a big brother that helped teach me things on and off the field—like how to handle myself."

Hali ranks third all-time in Chiefs franchise history with 79.5 career sacks, and while Houston's 48.5 sacks has him currently ranked No. 6, the season he had a year ago has already put him in esteemed company.

Houston broke one of the most revered records in franchise history, Derrick Thomas' mark of 20 sacks set during the 1990 season, last year. Houston's 22-sack performance was just a half a sack shy of the all-time record set by Michael Strahan (22.5) back in 2001.

Houston's long-term commitment will only lead to further cementing his legacy with the Chiefs, an organization with a rich history of pass rushers from the days of Art Still to Derrick Thomas and Neil Smith to most-recently, with Hali.

"It means a lot," Houston explained of the pass-rushing history in Kansas City. "When I'm done, I want to be mentioned as one of those guys, as one of the best that came through here. Any time you can be mentioned in the same category as Derrick Thomas—that says enough itself."

It's this history that has developed Arrowhead Stadium and Chiefs Kingdom as having one of the premier home-field advantages in the NFL.

Justin Houston during the 2014 season.

There's never a more exciting time at Arrowhead than an opponent's attempt on third down.

"It's a great feeling," Houston said of playing at Arrowhead. "On third-and-long when you hear the crowd and you see the opposing quarterback yelling, trying to change the play and struggling to communicate with the offensive linemen. That's a great feeling because you know your percentage of getting a sack just went up.

"I love playing in front of our fans."

While many people will count the dollars and cents of his contract as the focal point of what it means, the belief behind the money means something to Houston.

"It just made me feel like they really believed in me," Houston said. "For them to do this, just like your family back home, your mom, your parents, they believe in you. It gives you an extra edge on the field when you know you've got people really believing in you and what you can do."

After being away from his teammates, Houston can't wait to get up to training camp and get back to work. The Chiefs have high expectations.

"It's going to feel like your first time you went to college and came back home to your family," Houston said. "Everybody's around. The first day of camp is one of the most fun days—everybody's back together, you get to enjoy each other and it's full of energy.

"It's going to be a great time."

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