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Chiefs LB Tamba Hali; There May Never Be Another Like Him

Hali’s leadership goes beyond what you see on the field on Sundays

He's one of the greatest defensive players in the history of the Kansas City Chiefs, but even that delineation of prominence doesn't do veteran linebacker Tamba Hali justice.

After 10 years in Kansas City, he's more than a stat sheet, more than forced fumble or sack numbers.


He's one of a kind.

To know him is to respect him, for not only the way he's carried himself when the camera is in his face as a leader of this team, but also for how he treats the hotel and flight staff when the team travels, how he's more of a father than football player when he's running around the practice field with his daughter on off days.

There's no secret that he's nearing the end of a storied career—full of memorable plays, ups and downs with the different Chiefs rosters he's been on over the past 10 years.

But after 150 career regular season games, 539 total tackles and 83 sacks—which put him just 4 shy of passing former great Neil Smith (86.5) for second on the franchise's all-time list—the passion and drive he has for winning is never more evident than when you watch him on the sideline on Sundays.

"If you turn on the tape, you see him running up and down when the offense is out there, screaming and yelling encouragement," Chiefs coach Andy Reid explained. "That's what he is. He and [Derrick Johnson] have been around here the longest, so for those guys to be in and handling themselves that way, that's a big thing."

During the few minutes he and his fellow defensive teammates get to rest between series, the 32-year-old Tamba, who routinely gets days off of practice during the week so he's 100 percent for the game on Sunday, emphatically believes in his responsibility to help the young playmakers for the Chiefs offense with his vocal leadership.

If someone makes a great play, he's a few yards out onto the field letting them know about it. If someone comes off the field, he's one of the first people to great them, all while he's supposed to be "resting."

It's a passion for winning manifesting through his leadership.

The support doesn't go unnoticed either.

"That actually means a lot, and I hope he knows that," rookie center Mitch Morse said. "I was thinking the other day that not everyone does that.

"He's just a total team player."

Hali said it's about giving energy to a young group of offensive players.

"Our offense is young and I know for me, a lot of times positive feedback works," he explained of his sideline demeanor. "Those guys (on the offense) rotate way more than we do, so guys go in and a play later they're out.

"To be on the sideline, just telling them to keep their head in the game – to keep working at it. I think they feed off of that energy."

His leadership spans much further than the sidelines on Sundays.


During the five-game losing streak earlier this season, Hali decided it was important to get the defensive guys back together for their own meetings.

"He started this whole meetings-after-the-walk-through thing," rookie linebacker D.J. Alexander said. "Just watching film and making sure we all understand what the teams trying to do. He just picks up the younger guys and makes sure that we're on the right track."

Alexander said he appreciates the time he's getting with Hali and some of the other defensive leaders.

"You're never going to get another chance like this," he said, "to learn from the best like Tamba and DJ—so when they say something, you always listen."

Hali has 26 tackles and 3.5 sacks this season, with 2.5 of those sacks coming during the team's current three-game winning streak.

It's not a coincidence.

Hali has made a difference on the field as the defense has led the Chiefs to an opportunity that with a win on Sunday against the San Diego Chargers (2-7), they will get back to a .500 record in a wide-open AFC playoff picture after starting the season 1-5.

But it's not just calling meetings that has brought this team closer to an even record. Hali said the team has spent more time together away from the field as well.

A look at some of the highlights of the career of Tamba Hali

"The guys came together and said, 'Let's do something. Let's go out and not even worry about football,'" he explained of how things have turned around. "I think that played a role—laughing with one another, sitting, eating sushi and making jokes. I feel like that has helped on Sunday when we're out there playing with each other. We feel like we're playing with this sense of pride because I know this guy's going to be there.

"We all just sell out and we just go and play, I think that's made a difference in our game."

Over the past five games, the Chiefs defense leads the NFL in points allowed per game by surrendering only 14.

Hali made a commitment to this organization over the offseason by staying for another year, and he did that because he believes in what they're doing.

"I think the players who are in place right now, we're set to do special things," he said. "For me, I'm only aging and to be a part of anything special, or to be a part of the organization where I've been on both winning and losing teams—trying to put it together in a championship form—that means a lot to me.

"You can go around and make money in this league, but championships, those are earned and I wanted to be a part of it." He isn't just a part of it. Tamba is leading the way.

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