Chiefs Draftees Get Settled in Kansas City

Seven lives changed forever over the course of three days last month, marking the culmination of a dream decades in the making.

Year upon year of practices, bus rides, sacrifices, triumphs and setbacks were all geared toward the realization of something so few ever achieve, all in the hope of reaching the mountaintop in some distant future.

Then, in the blink of an eye, “someday” was suddenly “today.”

“I was crying my eyes out,” one of them recalled. “I was just trying to keep it all together,” said another.

This is a group that includes seven names, each with a unique and distinct story.

There’s wide receiver Xavier Worthy, who led the Texas Longhorns in receiving yards last season before recording the fastest 40-yard dash time in the history the NFL Scouting Combine. There’s also Kingsley Suamataia, the latest in a long familial line of professional athletes that includes Detroit Lions’ All-Pro right tackle Penei Sewell.

Worthy received the call around 10:30 p.m. CT on April 25 as the Kansas City Chiefs made him the No. 28 overall pick in the 2024 NFL Draft. Suamataia was then a Chief less than 24 hours later at the end of the second round.

Tight end Jared Wiley and wide receiver Xavier Worthy
Tight end Jared Wiley and wide receiver Xavier Worthy

The next member of this group was Jared Wiley, a former high school quarterback turned pass-catcher who led all FBS tight ends in touchdown grabs last year, and then defensive back Jaden Hicks, a native of Las Vegas who many draft pundits ranked as the top safety in this year’s class.

Both Wiley and Hicks joined the Chiefs in the fourth round, kicking off Saturday morning with an addition on either side of the ball.

The class continued with Hunter Nourzad, a mechanical engineering major at Cornell and later a stalwart on Penn State’s offensive line over the last two seasons, and cornerback Kamal Hadden, who played at nearby Independence Community College before leading the Tennessee Volunteers in passes defensed last season. The final pick was a former FCS standout in offensive lineman C.J. Hanson, whose selection marked the first for a player from Holy Cross since 1989.

Seven different journeys, from competing in the College Football Playoff to taking the field at the junior college level, led to the same phone call last month. These paths began a collective 7,565 miles from Kansas City, but following that phone call, they each called the City of Fountains home.

“You really have no idea where you’re going to go, but once the bus rolled up the road and we saw the stadium and the facility, it was really breathtaking,” Nourzad said. “It has just been an incredible experience.”

“I first realized I loved football when I was playing peewee,” said Kamal Hadden, who grew up just outside of Detroit. He was exceptionally good at it, too, but Hadden’s journey wasn’t without adversity.

Initially set to enroll at Central Michigan out of high school, a setback landed Hadden at Independence Community College in southeastern Kansas instead. Still, despite an unexpected turn, Hadden embraced the path ahead of him.

“The JUCO experience kind of taught me that I always need to keep working. It was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had, but it was humbling,” Hadden said. “I loved the family that I made there.”

Defensive back Kamal Hadden
Defensive back Kamal Hadden

Hadden certainly made the most of it, and three years later, he led Tennessee in both passes defensed and interceptions.

Jaden Hicks – Hadden’s roommate during rookie minicamp – was four-years-old when he discovered his love for the game. Xavier Worthy, meanwhile, had just turned 10.

“That’s when I realized how it could change you and your family’s life,” Worthy said.

“That’s when I realized how it could change you and your family’s life”Xavier Worthy

Similarly, Kingsley Suamataia has been thinking about playing professional football as long as he can remember.

“I’ve had this dream since I was a little kid back in Hawaii,” Suamataia said. “Just having my mentors – my grandpa being a Hall of Famer – and the rest of my cousins who paved the way for all of us. Just being able to follow in their footsteps [is special].”

Offensive linemen Kingsley Suamataia
Offensive linemen Kingsley Suamataia

Hunter Nourzad recalled when he first recognized his dream of playing in the NFL as a realistic one.

“It was my junior year at Cornell when scouts started showing up to practice,” Nourzad said. “I wasn’t highly recruited out of high school, and nobody really said that this was a possibility for me, but that was the first moment where I thought if I put enough work into this, I could make this dream come true.”

Jaden Hicks was at home in Las Vegas when his phone rang early in the afternoon on April 27. It was Chiefs’ Defensive Coordinator Steve Spagnuolo on the other end of the line.

“Right when I heard, ‘This is Coach Spags with the Kansas City Chiefs,’ my heart was filled with so much joy,” said Hicks, who added that safety Justin Reid texted him soon after.

“There’s no better feeling,” Hicks said. “This is a winning organization with a winning culture and mentality, both on and off the field. It’s a pretty amazing thing.”

Defensive back Jaden Hicks
Defensive back Jaden Hicks

C.J. Hanson, whose call took place only a few hours later, was surrounded by friends and family in his local church. In fact, a Holy Cross alum even paid for a bus to transport dozens of Hanson’s teammates to the draft watch party.

“It’s so surreal. To have all my friends and family there, and to see the progress I’ve made over the 23 years of my life actually pay off [was so special],” Hanson said. “To be the first person from Holy Cross to be drafted since 1989 meant the world to me.”

Offensive lineman C.J. Hanson
Offensive lineman C.J. Hanson

As it turns out, the last player to be drafted from Holy Cross – linebacker Rob McGovern – was also selected by the Chiefs. McGovern was taken with the No. 255 overall pick, while Hanson was selected at pick No. 248.

Another offensive lineman, Hunter Nourzad, shared a similar experience.

“There were a lot of emotions,” said Nourzad, who admitted that his seemingly calm voice on the recording of the call was simply masking an overwhelming feeling of excitement. “I was just trying not to cry.”

Offensive lineman Hunter Nourzad
Offensive lineman Hunter Nourzad

Kamal Hadden was watching the draft with family and friends, including childhood friend and New England Patriots’ wide receiver K.J. Osborn, when his phone rang on Saturday.

“It was just a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I was just so thankful and happy,” Hadden said. “To share that with my family and friends was so emotional. I’m just so thankful for the opportunity to play for such a great organization.”

Hadden also recalled what the Chiefs’ coaching staff had told him early in the draft process, long before his name was called.

“They let it be known that no matter where you’re drafted, everybody has an opportunity,” Hadden said. “No matter who you are, just come in here and embrace the opportunity.”

For the Chiefs’ draftees, that opportunity is with the back-to-back Super Bowl champions.

“After I got drafted, it was like, “Alright, I’m going to Kansas City. I’m going to be a Chief,'” said tight end Jared Wiley. “But now I’m here and I’m really doing this. That’s when it hit.”

Xavier Worthy may have spoken his destination into existence.

“I went where I wanted to go,” Worthy said. “Since my sophomore year at Texas, I’ve been telling people that I was going to Kansas City.”

Worthy is also quick to point out that he didn’t just tell others that Kansas City was his preferred destination – it was his destination. He may very well be football’s Nostradamus, and in terms of what he brought with him to his long-predicted home, his answer was simple:

My feet and my heart,” Worthy said.

Wide receiver Xavier Worthy
Wide receiver Xavier Worthy

Hunter Nourzad, who described his first glimpse of the Chiefs’ facility as a surreal experience, also added an important quip about his new home.

“I do love my barbeque,” Nourzad said.

Kingsley Suamataia recalled the first time he woke up to a text from quarterback Patrick Mahomes.

“Waking up to a message from him still blows my mind,” Suamataia said. “I just remember waking up and thinking, ‘I need to go.’ I need to get to my workout an hour earlier. It’s Patrick Mahomes.”

As for Jared Wiley, he now has an opportunity to learn from one of his role models in All-Pro tight end Travis Kelce.

“I’ve been studying him for like three or four years,” Wiley said. “Just being in the same position room as him now, there’s a star-struck feeling. I’ve watched him play for a [long time] and tried to model my game after him in some areas that I can. Just being able to absorb information and learn from him and see his habits and be a fly on the wall to see what he does day-in and day-out is very exciting.”

Tight end Jared Wiley
Tight end Jared Wiley

The stories and anecdotes go on and on, but one common denominator is clearly shared between all seven of these young men: gratitude. Nothing has been given to any of these players. These opportunities were earned, and now with the chance of a lifetime in-hand, they’re collectively well aware that it’s their responsibility to embrace it.

“This was always my dream from birth. I’ve always wanted it. I’ve always known, but I never thought [about the reality of it] until agents started reaching out to me after the fourth game of the season last year,” Hanson said. “That was when I thought, ‘Wow, I have a chance.’ Now I’m here, and this is where I belong.”

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