(ST. JOSEPH) The preseason is a time for late round picks and hidden gems to show their worth, and the Chiefs have their share of guys who fit that billing.
Eight Division II players are listed on the Chiefs training camp roster: Eric Kush (California-Pennsylvania), Rishaw Johnson (California-Pennsylvania), Ron Parker (Newberry), Fred Williams (St. Cloud State), Jermelle Cudjo (Central Oklahoma) J'Marcus Webb (West Texas A&M), Jordan Campbell (New Mexico-Highlands), and Adam Schiltz (Emporia State).
Schiltz's opportunity came when another Division II talent, Sean McGrath, suddenly retired after reporting to Missouri Western for camp. An MIAA veteran, he is very familiar with his new surroundings.
"I lost here every time so I'm not a fan of it, but to be here as a Chief, yeah I'm really happy," he said. "I played at Emporia, it's an hour away, so to have so many friends and family that live around here, it's great."
Already a year into the National Football League with the Titans, the former Hornet is just one guy in camp who can see the growing presence of small-school players.
"So many guys are good now and with social media and YouTube, guys are getting more exposure. Scouts are able to see D-II guys without even going to their games."
Johnson and Kush, both offensive linemen, are the only Division II holdovers from last year's team. They were also teammates for a year at California (Pa.) after Johnson transfered from Ole Miss. His four seasons in the SEC helped get him used to a large football setting, but it hass still been a transition.
"It was a culture shock, but through the grace of God, I made it," he said. "I'm happy these small school guys are getting a chance. Me playing at a small school, I played against some guys that i know can play on this level."
Kush is one of them, and the Chiefs' 2013 sixth-round pick said he used the success of fellow alumni for motivation to raise his draft stock.
"I thought: 'Hey, these guys did it, so I'm going to work my butt off and see if I can't make it happen," he said. "I hope the next batch of D-II guys sees me and says: 'I want to be just like him. I want to work hard and try to make it too."
In the Chiefs' preseason opener against the Bengals, Williams caught one pass for seven yards, while Parker, Cudjo, and Campbell combined for four solo tackles. It is not likely every man will be on the team's opening day roster, but Johnson feels the chance to slip on an NFL helmet even once should motivate every less-touted talent.
"When I see a small school guy, I try to help them out and tell them that's where I came from and that it's not impossible," he said.