NEW YORK — The Chiefs chiseled a new face into Kansas City professional football history Thursday night, using the first No. 1 overall NFL Draft pick in their 50-plus years to select left tackle Eric Fisher of Central Michigan.
With red-clad fans in the crowd and Kansas City Here I Come pumping through the Radio City Music Hall loudspeakers, Fisher strolled out, blinked into the bright stage lights and bear-hugged NFL commissioner Roger Goodell before accepting a Chiefs cap and jersey.
Soon after, Kansas Citys newest millionaire thanked the Hunt family and, in a moment most anyone with a heart could appreciate, his mother.
This is like winning the lottery right here, Fisher said. This is unreal.
Exact details of the money will be worked out in the days to come, but Fishers newfound wealth will enable him to give back to Heidi Langegger, a single mom whos spent the last 33 years working an office job at a Volkswagen facility near the familys home in Rochester Hills, Mich., to make ends meet.
In exchange, the 22-year-old Fisher all 6 feet 7 and 306 pounds of him will be tasked with protecting the back side of new starting quarterback Alex Smith, whom the Chiefs acquired in a March trade with the San Francisco 49ers.
Fisher has never been to Kansas City, but said hes looking forward to playing at Arrowhead Stadium.
Ive heard the fans are absolutely amazing, he said.
In what was considered a relatively weak draft class, the Chiefs choice came down to Fisher or Texas A&M tackle Luke Joeckel. Most observers rated the two offensive linemen nearly even in terms of current skill level and ultimate potential.
In the end, the Chiefs opted for a player who arrives with fewer accolades receiving just two scholarship offers out of high school, Fisher didnt block for a Heisman Trophy winner at a powerhouse Southeastern Conference university, as Joeckel did in safeguarding quarterback Johnny Manziel but one whom they believe could have a higher ceiling as a pro despite playing in a less heralded conference.
The Jacksonville Jaguars, with second overall pick, selected Joeckel.
Chiefs coach Andy Reid praised both players, but said the team started to narrow its choice to Fisher two weeks ago.
We liked his athletic ability and his overall makeup, Reid said. We thought hed be a good fit.
Fishers selection all but completes the Chiefs separation from a nightmare 2012 season that resulted in the removal of general manager Scott Pioli and head coach Romeo Crennel and eventual release of Matt Cassel, Piolis handpicked quarterback from the New England Patriots.
Last year will be remembered by Chiefs fans for many awful things: a 2-14 record, offense more dismal than the league had seen since the 1920s, banners being flown over Arrowhead Stadium calling for Piolis ouster, and the late-season murder-suicide of linebacker Jovan Belcher, who killed longtime girlfriend Kasandra Perkins before taking his own life.
Once the season ended with a December loss at Denver, however, changes came in torrents.
Deeply dissatisfied with the despair enveloping his franchise, Chiefs chairman and CEO Clark Hunt fired Crennel and soon after dismissed Pioli. Hunt then hired Reid, a big-name head coach whod just been let go by the Philadelphia Eagles, and brought in Green Bay Packers draft mastermind John Dorsey as his next general manager.
How exactly Fisher figures into a Chiefs team thats undergone such upheaval since the first of the year remains to be seen.
For now, its enough for many Chiefs fans that their team believes in the player they drafted Thursday night.
I am really excited about this team, said Kenny Batson, a pastor from El Dorado Springs, Mo., who was in New York for a conference and decided to attend the draft with his 10-year-old son Josiah. I like this pick. I believe in what Andy Reid is doing.
And Fisher? Hes happy to be the face of a football revival at Arrowhead.
(Dorsey) said theyre really excited for me to get down there, Fisher said. Its so hard to process right now. Im really excited to get to Kansas City.