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Old 08-08-2010, 02:28 AM  
Tribal Warfare Tribal Warfare is offline
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Mellinger: Chiefs' McCluster stepping into the spotlight

Chiefs' McCluster stepping into the spotlight
By SAM MELLINGER
The Kansas City Star

ST. JOSEPH | It begins with the shoes. At least for now, all talk about Dexter McCluster begins with the cleats. He is the undersized and dreadlocked talk of this Chiefs camp, and it never goes more than a sentence or two before someone brings up the shoes.

The story of how a 5-foot-8, 170-pound rookie becomes the star of an NFL training camp otherwise dominated by men much bigger and stronger is complicated and layered, so maybe the little man hasn’t stopped to think of the absurdity of busting through three pairs of Nikes before the first preseason game.

Counting another in college, that’s four pairs of previously fine cleats that’ve blown out on McCluster’s feet like some sort of firecracker.

“You’d think one of the other shoe companies would get a hold of that, make some jokes about it,” says Rick Rodriguez, McCluster’s coach at Largo High in Florida.

“He just stops and starts so quick that shoe needs to be wound tight with a real good arch,” says Houston Nutt, McCluster’s coach at Mississippi.

“They’ve got plenty of shoes here, so it shouldn’t be a problem,” McCluster says.

• • •

Dexter McCluster should be bigger. People tell him this all the time. His father, Marcus, goes about 6-1 and sturdy — around 210 pounds when he played running back in college. Dexter got his moves from pop, but his size from mom, which bothers most everyone but Dexter.

“I wouldn’t be the same player if I was bigger,” he says. “People always tell me, ‘Man, if you were just a little bigger,’ but I wouldn’t be me. I love the size I am. This is who I am. This is who I want to be.”

For a time, McCluster needed to make sure others knew that, too. Small guy? Sure, but watch him try to run over the biggest guy on defense. McCluster made it a point to never go down on his own, to never step out of bounds before taking a hit, all the way until college when his coaches asked over and over and over if he’d just please be smarter about things.

It’s OK to take a hit, they’d tell him, but make sure it’s worth the while. You don’t have to prove anything, they’d say. We know you’re tough. We just want you to be smart. Little Man’s Complex? Maybe. But it’s a productive one.

“I always wanted to prove I could do it,” McCluster says now. “I wanted people to know, I don’t care how big you are, I want to run through you. That’s still how I am. But sometimes you pick your spots.”

This is how McCluster is, playing with an almost visual cockiness. He is aggressive and sure and almost always the quickest man on the field. The dreadlocks, brown around the tips, have fallen out the back of his helmet since high school. He jokes that the look may be his secret weapon, his source “of swagger.”

He wears No. 22 with the Chiefs, same number since Little League, same number that’s tattooed on his right arm next to the word “FUTURE.” Dad wore No. 22, too, and as long as Dexter can remember he wanted his football career to go further than his father’s. That’s why he got the tat. It’s the one that means the most to him.

The beginning of his professional career means he’s gone further than his father.

• • •

The Chiefs have never seen anyone like this. Dante Hall is the closest thing — you remember that magical stretch in the early 2000s when he became a big enough star to sit on David Letterman’s couch.

Hall had seven return touchdowns in two seasons, highlighted by that ridiculous 93-yard punt return against the Broncos in 2003 (even if a clip or two went uncalled).

McCluster’s impact could be greater. He could be Hall on special teams but with a bigger role in the offense. The better comparison might be Chicago’s Devin Hester. For a team previously without any yard-after-the-catch guys, McCluster is like Gatorade on a 100-degree day.

The fans see it. They’re desperate for it. Eric Berry’s jersey sells more, but nobody brings the screams like McCluster. He catches the ball, the fans start buzzing. He jukes a defender, the fans start celebrating. And he’s been doing lots of juking.

“I got a little bit of rhythm,” he says, “so it comes natural.”

The versatility is obvious. He ran for 1,169 yards at Ole Miss last season, but the Chiefs list him at receiver. He’ll play mostly the slot, but is capable of going outside, too. Might even line up in the Wildcat.

Nobody in SEC history — from Herschel Walker to Bo Jackson to Percy Harvin — ever rushed for 1,000 yards and caught passes for 500 more in a season before McCluster. He also figures to be a regular highlight on special teams.

Until Jamaal Charles’ emergence, so much of the Chiefs’ struggles last year came because they had no playmakers. And that’s being kind. Too often, they didn’t even have anyone who could catch the ball, and it left $63 million quarterback Matt Cassel to second-guess and be second-guessed.

McCluster, as much as any other offseason move, represents a tangible effort by general manager Scott Pioli to build a more complete offense.

“I have to decide what is too much, what is not enough,” coach Todd Haley says.

“My game is quickness,” McCluster says. “My game is speed. The coaches are doing a great job.”

• • •

Training camp is about hope and optimism, but eventually the regular season will bring along reality. Non-contact drills are easy for McCluster to dominate. He’d be a flag-football Hall of Famer.

But there is also the very real possibility that the hype will not match the production, that the talk won’t match the impact. Maybe we saw the first bit of that when he dropped two punts in a row in front of 10,000 or so fans at the Chiefs’ scrimmage on Saturday. Dante Hall sold a lot of jerseys, too.

McCluster will not make or break the Chiefs this year. He’s a bit like a kickass stereo system in your car — fun to play with but not essential to the functionality — which is why he was a curious pick for a team that’s won 10 games in three years.

The Chiefs have players who can be good and need to be good — we’re looking at you, Dwayne Bowe. That group will be more critical to the offense’s success this year. McCluster is dessert, but the Chiefs need to finish dinner first.

McCluster does bring some symbolism, though, of a boring team morphing into something better. Sundays will be more fun this fall, and McCluster is a part of that.

The Chiefs have some of the best young talent in the NFL, including a few key playmakers, and maybe McCluster is the swaggering, dreadlocked face of that movement. Nobody is more likely to turn in the season’s best highlight.

“That’s great and all,” he says, “but I have to do it in a game for it to matter.”

You know what? There’s some symbolism in that, too.
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Old 08-08-2010, 04:32 AM   #2
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Old 08-08-2010, 04:33 AM   #3
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This is how McCluster is, playing with an almost visual cockiness. He is aggressive and sure and almost always the quickest man on the field. The dreadlocks, brown around the tips, have fallen out the back of his helmet since high school. He jokes that the look may be his secret weapon, his source “of swagger.”
Pocket Samson?
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Old 08-08-2010, 06:41 AM   #4
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Old 08-08-2010, 06:48 AM   #5
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There was a screen shot on MSN this morning of Dexter going against Raider #33 on Madden
now it's gone
Maybe the CHiefs will finally get a player that gets the Madden curse -progress
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Old 08-08-2010, 08:17 AM   #6
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Pocket Samson?
I thought that "Pocket Rocket" was a cool nickname, but it seems that another object that brings women pleasure via D or C batteries has that honor.
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Old 08-08-2010, 08:52 AM   #7
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But there is also the very real possibility that the hype will not match the production, that the talk won’t match the impact. Maybe we saw the first bit of that when he dropped two punts in a row in front of 10,000 or so fans at the Chiefs’ scrimmage on Saturday. Dante Hall sold a lot of jerseys, too.

McCluster will not make or break the Chiefs this year. He’s a bit like a kickass stereo system in your car — fun to play with but not essential to the functionality — which is why he was a curious pick for a team that’s won 10 games in three years.
I've kinda felt this way since draft day. Even then, it looked to me like the franchise was trying to give the fans something to have hope for, instead of boringly focusing on building for the future. He's the bright shiny object to keep the fans distracted, so they won't be quite so bothered by the management completely neglecting other key positions.

I just hope the kid can live up to the hype...
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Old 08-08-2010, 09:00 AM   #8
OnTheWarpath58 OnTheWarpath58 is offline
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Originally Posted by KC Fish View Post
I've kinda felt this way since draft day. Even then, it looked to me like the franchise was trying to give the fans something to have hope for, instead of boringly focusing on building for the future. He's the bright shiny object to keep the fans distracted, so they won't be quite so bothered by the management completely neglecting other key positions.

I just hope the kid can live up to the hype...
Yep. That part summed it up for me as well.

Good piece overall by Mellinger. He should write more.

Quote:
McCluster made it a point to never go down on his own, to never step out of bounds before taking a hit, all the way until college when his coaches asked over and over and over if he’d just please be smarter about things.
Hopefully he'll listen to Haley and Weis on this - you might get away with it in college, but taking unnecessary hits in the NFL at his weight is going to catch up to him.
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Old 08-08-2010, 09:01 AM   #9
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I thought that "Pocket Rocket" was a cool nickname, but it seems that another object that brings women pleasure via D or C batteries has that honor.
Well, since he already seems to have some fans jizzing themselves, I'd think that Pocket Rocket would be appropriate.
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Old 08-08-2010, 09:09 AM   #10
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Well, since he already seems to have some fans jizzing themselves, I'd think that Pocket Rocket would be appropriate.
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Old 08-08-2010, 09:26 AM   #11
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Well, since he already seems to have some fans jizzing themselves, I'd think that Pocket Rocket would be appropriate.
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Old 08-08-2010, 09:29 AM   #12
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Originally Posted by KC Fish View Post
I've kinda felt this way since draft day. Even then, it looked to me like the franchise was trying to give the fans something to have hope for, instead of boringly focusing on building for the future. He's the bright shiny object to keep the fans distracted, so they won't be quite so bothered by the management completely neglecting other key positions.

I just hope the kid can live up to the hype...
Exactly.

I'm excited to see what he brings. Certrainly, I'm not hoping he'll fall short, but I remain skeptically optimistic.
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Old 08-08-2010, 09:29 AM   #13
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I'm just grateful that all of our draft picks are going to be very productive, and we avoided busts like Kindle, Cody, and Benn.

Relieved.
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Old 08-08-2010, 09:30 AM   #14
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I'm just grateful that all of our draft picks are going to be very productive, and we avoided busts like Kindle, Cody, and Benn.

Relieved.
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Old 08-08-2010, 09:35 AM   #15
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Originally Posted by OnTheWarpath58 View Post
Yep. That part summed it up for me as well.

Good piece overall by Mellinger. He should write more.



Hopefully he'll listen to Haley and Weis on this - you might get away with it in college, but taking unnecessary hits in the NFL at his weight is going to catch up to him.
What do the two dropped punts have to do with anything? shit it happens. he dropped two punts. lets talk when it happens in a game. Isnt that how YOU approach training camp? (at least when its positive i guess)
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