The Kansas City Chiefs wrapped up Day 2 of the 2019 NFL Draft on Friday night by selecting defensive tackle Khalen Saunders.
Here’s more on the newest member of the Chiefs’ defensive line
1. Saunders was a force along the defensive line during his time at Western Illinois
He racked up 25 tackles-for-loss and 14 sacks over the last two seasons for the Leathernecks, earning AP FCS Second-Team All-American honors as a senior.
For an example of what Saunders can do, check out this play during the Senior Bowl.
It’s easy to see how Saunders earned the nickname “the Aaron Donald of the FCS” from fans.
2. His name is pronounced “Colin”
Saunders’ Twitter handle says it all: @khalenNOTkaylen.
It’s pronounced like “Colin,” Chiefs Kingdom.
3. He’s a Missouri native
Saunders grew up only four hours away from Arrowhead Stadium in suburban St. Louis, where he attended Parkway Central High School.
He lettered in football, wrestling and track & field while in high school, earning all-state honors in football as a tackle – but that doesn’t tell the full story. In fact, Saunders did a little bit of everything.
Here’s what Saunders’ coach had to say about his time in school, per an article by ESPN’s Adam Rittenberg.
"According to Goldenberg, Saunders had the best hands on the team. He played up-back on punt returns and executed special-teams fakes, both runs and passes. He'd even punt in a pinch. Offense became his reward if Saunders excelled on defense.”
Check out the rest of the article by clicking here. It’s definitely worth a read.
4. Saunders’ ability to backflip went viral earlier this year
Despite checking in at 324 pounds, Saunders is pretty good at turning a backflip. A few videos on his talents hit the web earlier this year, and once ESPN’s Adam Schefter got ahold of it, Saunders’ backflipping ways caught fire.
Here’s a look at the video. The guy is amazing.
And his unique abilities don’t end there. Here’s another excerpt from Rittenberg’s article, which details Saunders’ participation in the Western Illinois’ talent show every year.
“The WIU football team holds a talent show before each season, and players vote on the master of ceremonies. Saunders was picked every year. "The Khalen Saunders show," Elliott said, "like an hour of straight comedy." Saunders also entertained on the piano, another skill he taught himself, playing John Legend's "Ordinary People" and Alicia Keys songs.”
5. He became a dad while participating in the Senior Bowl
Saunders was the first alum of Western Illinois to ever receive an invite to the Senior Bowl, and while the defensive tackle certainly helped his draft stock with a strong showing in Mobile – he had the second-highest win rate of any defensive tackle at the event, according to Pro Football Focus - he’ll remember it for different reasons.
After practice one day, he was notified that his pregnant fiancé was going into labor.
And while he couldn't be there in person, he certainly was in spirit. His mom was on the case, relaying Saunders videos and photos throughout the night.
And, just before the birth of his child, Saunders did…another backflip!
Additionally, our very own BJ Kissel put together a video on Saunders during the Senior Bowl, capturing comments on both the birth of his child and his backflipping abilities. Check it out below.