By Matt Derrick
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Darwin Thompson took the handoff from Patrick Mahomes and headed toward the end zone, carrying weight both physical and metaphorically as he kept his legs pumping and grinding his way toward the goal line.
“Man, I was tired as hell, but I was like, I’ve got to get in the end zone now,” Thompson said. “Got to close it up right now.”
Thompson found the gap and burst into the hole. He met resistance from the Raiders, but his legs kept churning. He stumbled toward the end zone, and right guard Andrew Wylie put his arms around Thompson, pulling the rookie off the ground while pushing him toward the end zone. Thompson broke the plane and went to the ground. He closed his eyes, knowing he just scored the first regular-season touchdown of his budding career.
“Just the first of many,” Thompson said after the game. “I had the vets behind me cheering me on, the team. I knew I had to seal the deal, close the game.”
Thompson entered Sunday’s 40-9 win over Oakland with a sum total of 21 offensive plays and eight touches under his belt. But with Damien Williams out a sore rib and Darrel Williams exiting with a hamstring injury, the Chiefs leaned on their sixth-round draft pick to close out the game.
The rookie came through, rushing 11 times for 44 yards in 14-play, 75-yard drive that drained 9 minutes and 32 seconds off the clock in the fourth quarter.
Thompson entered the game with a heavy heart. His younger brother Reuben texted him Sunday morning to inform him Allan Trimble, his football coach at Jenks High School in Oklahoma passed away after a lengthy battle with ALS. Trimble won 13 state titles in 22 seasons at Jenks, more than any other high school coach in state history.
Thompson played on three of those state championship teams. At 5-foot-8, 200 pounds, Thompson learned at a young age that he had to push himself if he wanted to become a great football player. He learned that from Trimble.
“He taught me how to win,” Thompson said. “That’s really where my foundation started, how to win, how to grind, how to work hard. Ultimately it helped build to where I am today.”
Thompson said he knows exactly what Trimble would would have said to him following his first NFL touchdown.
“Good job,” Thompson said. “He would have slapped me on the back and give me a hug. He would just say, ‘Good job.’”
When Thompson opened his eyes following his touchdown, all he could see where his teammates crowded around him helping to celebrate his first NFL touchdown.
“Love that guy,” center Austin Reiter said. “I was just as excited as he was.”
Thompson was tired, but he appreciated the support from his teammates.
“It was all the O-linemen, Austin, and then Pat (Mahomes) carried me off the field,” Thompson said. “And my stomach was hurting when I was on his pads. I was like, ‘Pat, put me down, I can’t breathe.’ They all showed love.”
Right guard Andrew Wylie said the touchdown run epitomized why teammates love Thompson and were eager to help him celebrate.
“Talk about a hard worker, that guy embodies it,” Wylie said. “He comes to work everyday with a purpose. He’s not loud, not boisterous, just goes to work and does his job. Shows up on game day when he gets a chance like this.”
“He’s been working all season long,” the quarterback said. “You saw in the preseason, and you’ve seen it in little spurts, he runs hard. He’s a small guy, but he’s a stocky guy. He runs the ball hard, and he was hitting it and really drained that whole fourth quarter.”
Thompson admitted the work load on the final wore him out. He kept reminding himself to trust himself and lean on the hard work he put in during training camp and throughout practice during the regular season.
“You know the reads, you know how to run the ball, you’ve been doing it all your life,” Thompson said. “Be you. Don’t try to do too much, don’t try to be a super hero. Just play your game.”
Matt Derrick is the lead beat writer for ChiefsDigest.com and a contributor for Sports Radio 810 WHB. Follow him on Twitter @mattderrick.