Punter Dustin Colquitt made himself a promise regarding the Pro Bowl shortly after being drafted by the Chiefs in 2005.
“My rookie year I opened my mouth too wide and said I wouldn’t go to the Pro Bowl unless I was playing in it,” Colquitt said. “It took me eight years to crack the code.”
Because he did, Colquitt has been in Hawaii this week preparing for Sunday’s Pro Bowl. He is one of six Chiefs on the AFC roster. The rest of the group consists of running back Jamaal Charles, linebackers Derrick Johnson, Tamba Hali and Justin Houston and safety Eric Berry.
Houston, like Colquitt, is playing in his first Pro Bowl. Each of the others is participating for the second time.
Colquitt said he hasn’t been hearing it from other teams’ players this week that the Chiefs, despite finishing with a league-worst 2-14 record, have six representatives playing in the NFL’s all-star game. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Chiefs are the first NFL team with fewer than six victories to put six players on the Pro Bowl roster.
“You’re talking about five really good players going to Hawaii,” Colquitt said. “Jamaal Charles, I think he’s a fantastic runner. You’ve got (Johnson), who is unloading on people. He’s making a lot of tackles. (Hali) is one of those guys that you have to completely change your game plan before you go in and play him. I think every guy that we have that’s going, you have to account for. It doesn’t matter the record. You have to look at the individual.”
Colquitt’s appearance in the Pro Bowl this year stem from an apparent shift in the thinking of voters, who used to almost always selected the punter with the best average. Colquitt’s average this season was 46.8 yards, the best of his career but only two yards better than his career average. He was still just ninth in the AFC in that category.
But Colquitt had 45 of his punts, or 54 percent, downed inside the 20-yard line, showing voters appreciate the finer points of his craft. Colquitt broke the five-year reign Oakland’s Shane Lechler had as the AFC’s Pro Bowl punter.
“I got a lot of texts from people that said, ‘Well deserved’ or, “Long overdue’ or things like that,” Colquitt said. “I got a text from Shane Lechler that said, ‘I voted for you because you deserved it.’ That goes a long way to me.
“My job is to be the defensive coordinator’s best friend. I’ve got to give the defense a long field. What it’s kind of transformed into is somebody who’s hitting the ball well and putting his team in a good position and that’s what I’ve been focusing on.”
Though Colquitt has been one of the NFL’s better punters almost from the time he joined the Chiefs, he seemed destined to work mostly in obscurity. As the punter for a small-market team that had a losing record in five of the last six seasons, Colquitt outside of Kansas City has been a little-known secret.
Playing in the Pro Bowl should change that.
“It’s one of those things that’s attached now really forever to your name,” Colquitt said. “The way I’ve kind of approached it is that I’m now obviously being held accountable or responsible for performing at a high level. Once you do it once, you don’t want to be a one-hit wonder. You want to try to do what guys like Shane Lechler and Peyton Manning and Tony Gonzalez have been able to do. They go back year after year and become a mainstay. I’d like to stay here, put a stake down.”
Colquitt may be pulling up stakes in Kansas City after eight seasons with the Chiefs. His contract will expire in March and he would become an unrestricted free agent if not re-signed by then.
The Chiefs seemed to have little interest in re-signing Colquitt under former general manager Scott Pioli but their attitude may have changed under the new administration of general manager John Dorsey and coach Andy Reid.
“We’ve got to see how that shakes out,” Colquitt said. “I haven’t heard much. I think that talk really cranks up after the Super Bowl. Kansas City has been a great town for me and my family. I do enjoy Kansas City a lot. I’d like to finish things up with the Chiefs if that’s at all possible. I’ve had a chance to talk with Andy and John. I really like their direction and how they operate and the people they are.”