The Kansas City Chiefs have been busy this offseason with additions to the offensive line, secondary and special teams. Another position of interest recently has been the growth of the core linebacker led by veteran Anthony Hitchens.
Hitchens is entering his eighth season in the NFL, but his third year with the Chiefs. During his time in Kansas City, he played a central role in calling defensive plays on the field. Now he’s putting on his mentor’s hat, which will require him to be directed to a young and talented linebacker hall; he discussed the liability with reporters.
“When I was younger, I had guys that I admired and who taught me the ropes, and since then I’ve been doing my part by giving back to the game, to young players and things like that” , Hitchens said. “Honestly, I’m just me studying, and if they need help they can ask. I just give advice sometimes and try to teach them the pros and cons of playing linebacker and being in the NFL. I’m just like a big brother to everyone, we’re all family here and just trying to get everyone to improve so we can be as good as we can be in our linebacker room, as a defenseman and as a team. “
Hitchens will have rookies Nick Bolton and Riley Cole on his mentorship list as he looks to make the most of the young crew. He will also continue to help some of the sophomore linebackers like Willie Gay Jr. and Omari Cobb.
“I think it’s just like extra work. Just pull them to the side, whether it’s texting, between periods, phone calls, just off days. stuff like that that just talks about the ball, ”Hitchens said. “Everyone learns differently; I know me and Nick (Bolton) are working right now – he’s not good at taking notes, so he’s trying to put everything together with the notes and on the pitch in the walkthroughs and practice. So I’m just trying to give him different ways to learn, and maybe that can help him grow. I’m just here to play the best possible ball and help everyone around me be the best player, so that we can win the ultimate goal, which is the Super Bowl.
The role of a leader is not a job to be taken lightly due to the immense responsibility of helping to shape young talent. Chiefs head coach Andy Reid is no stranger to the role, but has found a comedic way to deal with the Hitchens’ position on the team.
“He’s kind of the grandfather of the band, and he does a great job of communicating,” Reid joked. “He’s still in (Matt) House’s pocket over there with him, and he’s a very willing student. He goes above and beyond to find out what’s going on, and he’s very capable of communicating that and he’s been great for young guys. I think he does a hell of a job with it. He was great with Willie (Gay) last year; he will be good with the young man this year. He knows he is a good football player and he is very confident as a veteran.
Hitchens is a vital part of Steve Spagnuolo’s defense and will need to convert the same energy into leadership. Chiefs will only go this far defensively if linebackers are effective this coming season.