The faces along the Kansas City Chiefs offensive line may change on a year-by-year basis, but a tradition that began with names such as Will Shields and Brian Waters and continued by others like Rodney Hudson and Jeff Allen lived on Thursday night.
That tradition is the line's involvement with First Down for Down Syndrome, an organization that raises funds and awareness in the Kansas City Down Syndrome region. Each year, members of the line attend the annual Wine Tasting Fundraiser.
While Chiefs greats in Shields and Waters have since retired, and Hudson and Allen have departed the team, younger linemen such as starting center Mitch Morse are making sure to carry on what their predecessors started.
"I think Jeff (Allen) was such a good leader on and off the field," Morse said of his former teammate and current Houston Texan. "I don't think people knew how good he was to us younger guys off the field just as much as he was on the field. He was a role model and he really felt strongly about this."
Though it's Allen who got Morse initially involved, the First Down for Down Syndrome cause is something that resonates with him personally as well due to his relationship with his younger brother, Robbie, who is disabled.
"I have a disabled brother, so I felt really strongly about helping out with the disabled community and this seemed like a really great deal," he explained. "I think what it does is it gives people who maybe aren't as comfortable with the disabled people and gets them interacting and understanding, 'Hey, you know what? They're just people like you and me. They are just maybe a little bit slower developed, but you can have a conversation.'"
Morse, who added that the Chiefs O-line fine money is donated to First Down for Down Syndrome, lightheartedly described an exchange he enjoyed at the event.
"I was just cracking up with a dude about pizza and Buffalo Wild Wings," Morse laughed. "I'm like, 'Dude, I smash Buffalo Wild Wings just like you do.'"
Other Chiefs in attendance were Daniel Munyer, Jarrod Pughsley, and the newly acquired Mitch Schwartz.
"It's something that I didn't know about until a couple days ago and I jumped at the opportunity to be able to come and support," Schwartz said. "Outreach programs within the community, I kind of get entrenched in that. There are a lot more people here than I really ever dreamed of, so it's just awesome."
Morse said he appreciated how quickly Schwartz was willing to get involved.
"I think it speaks volumes to the kind of guy Mitch is," he said. "He's been here a week. He could be taking a rest. He just got here, but he's taking the time to understand this is the offensive line's deal."
Former Chiefs lineman Ryan Lilja, who played for the Chiefs from 2010 to 2012 and is a board member for First Down for Down Syndrome, mimicked Morse's sentiment.
"Schwartz got in a couple days ago and the fact that he showed up here is a big thing," Lilja said. "This was an organization that was started in conjunction with the Chiefs offensive line 25 years ago.
"To see a guy that really doesn't have any ties into the down syndrome community or Kansas City just come here in town and show up at an event is a big deal."
Lilja, who continues his participation with the organization to this day, said he is delighted to see the custom move forward.
"There's something to be said for keeping things going and for that long in the NFL," he said. "This is in conjunction with a group of guys that really played offensive line better than anybody, and it's kept going by guys just getting involved like they are. It's big. You've got to keep it going."
*Quarterbacks Tyler Bray and Aaron Murray and former Chiefs tight end Walter White also attended the event.