The moment lasted a fraction of a second, and in the end, it would not even be Dexter McCluster's biggest play of the game.
But as he sped around the corner on an end-around Sunday, only to get crunched by a helmet-to-helmet hit by Texans safety Kareem Jackson for a meager 3-yard gain, the audible groans that echoed throughout Arrowhead ― as well as the way he quickly popped right back up ― gave a certain validity to the pride he takes in being a tough guy, despite his diminutive stature.
“Aw man, listen,” McCluster said with a grin afterward. “I'm 5-8, 165 (pounds) soaking wet. But I've got heart man, and I've got some guys behind me that trust me and believe in me.”
Fellow receiver Donnie Avery, who was standing by McCluster's locker, overheard his teammate and could not help but interject.
“Amen, amen,” Avery said.
The big hit he took on his first touch of the game was indicative of the kind of game it would be for McCluster, who took all kinds of punishment but still posted what he considered to be the best game of his career. He was targeted five times in the passing game, catching four of them for 70 yards, and also had two carries for four yards and four punt returns for 32 yards.
McCluster didn't muster the type of dynamic, jaw-dropping 89-yard punt return like he did against New York a few weeks ago, but his big plays were nonetheless crucial to the Chiefs' 17-16 victory. He improbably converted a third-and-21 in the third quarter by gaining 43 yards on a screen, and also returned punts of 24 and 26 yards in the fourth quarter.
McCluster, who has been itching for more work since his rookie year in 2010, couldn't be pleased with how much he's been involved this season.
“You gotta love it, you know?” McCluster said.
Even when he takes the punishment he did Sunday. After getting tackled by Jackson on his first touch of the game, he took another big hit the very next play and had to get checked out for what the team called a head injury.
“I was fine,” McCluster said. “And even if I wasn't, I wouldn't let them see it. But luckily, nothing happened. It's football, it's contact.
“I just had to look to see if there was anything in my eye. Other than that, I was good. Nothing with the head. My helmet came down on (my eye) a little bit.”
McCluster returned to the field rather quickly and proceeded to do his thing, which impressed his teammates.
“Dex is tough, man,” said Chiefs guard Jeff Allen. “That dude takes hits. He's not the biggest guy in the world so you know he feels those things, but he popped right back up off the ground.”
When asked if he thinks defenders often sense an opportunity to get a big hit on him because of his size, McCluster ― who is listed at 5-feet-8 and 170 pounds ― essentially said he welcomes all comers.
“I've been this size pretty much all my life,” McCluster said. “I just try to play bigger than what I am. If those guys feel that way, I welcome them.”
He certainly did Sunday, though he jokingly hinted he may pay the price for being a tough guy against the Texans sooner rather than later.
“You know what? After a win, everything feels good,” McCluster said. “It might be different tomorrow, but right now, I'm feeling great.”