Speaking frankly, you weren't always my favorite player. That spot was reserved for Joe Montana. I loved, loved, LOVED, Joe Montana since I was a little girl, only a mere two years older than you. As a matter of fact, you weren't even my favorite Chief, that was the late, great Derrick Thomas. DT was the reason I became a Chiefs fan, and Joe Montana being traded to the team in 1993 secured their place in my heart over the 49ers.
1997 was a big year for me. My favorite baseball player David Justice was traded to the Cleveland Indians, I was preparing for graduation from college, and my next door neighbors introduced me to you. Well, not personally...The girls next door saw me, as well, an experiment to say the least. They felt that I wasn't privy to enough of the worldly things in life, and they felt it was their duty to be my guides through all things sordid. For example, taking me on a field trip to Bourbon Street during the midst of Jazz Fest. They decided to celebrate March Madness with a viewing party and insisted I attend. It was during this party that I first saw you play...basketball. I really didn't know you were a football player, because I'm an SEC girl...period.
By the time the 1997 draft rolled around, I was still sulking over the fact that David Justice would not be starting right field for the Atlanta Braves to even care that the Kansas City Chiefs had traded up to draft you at number 13, but my cousin made sure I knew. My first question to him was "Why did they draft a basketball player?" Anyway, August 1997 found me starting my first teaching job, and you taking the field for my beloved Chiefs--16 years ago. It really didn't seem that long until my students asked me how long I had been teaching right before Christmas break, then suddenly it seemed like a really, REALLY, long time ago, especially when they reminded me that many of them were born that year.
My take on your first couple of years in the league? Well, at least, he's cute. Yep, that was my take. by 1999, we Chiefs fans finally began to see why Carl Peterson wasn't necessary a mad man. You have been impressing us ever since. I have watched practically every season you've played with the exception of one. The 2000 season, I really couldn't watch without thinking about Derrick Thomas, so I didn't, but watching you play helped to ease that loss. When the Chiefs announced that you were being traded to Atlanta in 2009, it felt like David Justice all over again. I'll admit that I was a little hurt when you left the team, but I completely understood. The Chiefs were a hot mess. No one saw you playing very much longer, and I didn't blame you at all. It still hurt though. I mean, the Chiefs got Javier Arenas for you. Javier Arenas!!! FYI, it really didn't bother me that you dunked at Arrowhead last year. I expected it, and I didn't see it as an insult at all. I was just glad to see you dunk it at Arrowhead one last time.
Last season, I was fortunate enough to go to New Orleans to watch you play against the Saints. It was my second NFL game ever, and my first time watching you play live. I was abled to personally see you score career touchdowns #100 and #101.
When I heard you were coming back this season, I started saving to buy my ticket and once again traveled to New Orleans to watch you and the Falcons in the season opener. I watched you score yet another touchdown, and I also in the endzone for that pick at the end of the game. That's me yelling "nooooooooo" over the exuberance of the Saints fans.
I was screaming like a lunatic this past Monday night when you scored your final MNF touchdown. I wish I could be in Atlanta tomorrow, but I will have to settle for watching your final game on tv. I, however, will be screaming like a banshee tomorrow when hopefully you score one more time in the Georgia Dome.
It will really be weird next year not seeing your name among the top Tight Ends in the league. I never saw John Mackey or Mike Ditka play, and I was too young to appreciate Kellen Winslow, Sr., but I've had the privilege of watching two of the best tight ends of this era-Shannon Sharpe and Tony Gonzalez. For my money, you were better than Sharpe. The ring thing...While Super Bowls are great, so many factors have to fall into line for those to happen. That does not diminish any of your accomplishments. I read recently that your only regret was not seeing your son play for his championship. That says more about you than any ring ever would. As a teacher, I know the importance of those memories to children and their parents. You are true role model in a society where there are so few for kids these days, and while you won't be on the field next season, I am sure you will succeed at whatever path you chose. Thank you for 17 seasons, and good luck on all of your future endeavors. To my all time favorite player (Sorry, Joe) Congratulations!!! Like I tell my graduating seniors every year, this isn't goodbye; this is see you later, and thanks for the memories...
P.S. Don't file the paperwork until next year. It would be really awesome if you retired as a Chief. Hope I see you on Fox or NFL Network soon!!!
“Some of us think holding on makes us strong but sometimes it is letting go”― Hermann Hesse