Andy Reid wanted to draft Dexter McCluster in 2010, when Reid coached the Philadelphia Eagles and McCluster was coming out of college at Mississippi.
The Chiefs got to McCluster instead, taking him with a pick early in the second round. But it’s no coincidence that one of Reid’s favorite topics since joining the Chiefs in January as their new coach is McCluster and what he can do for the Chiefs on offense as a receiver and a runner and on special teams.
“He’s not the biggest guy in the world, but he’s got a heart of a lion,” Reid said. “He’s got that … tremendous quickness and can catch. He’s pretty good at running the football, so there is a place for him. You line him up everywhere. You can move him around and kind of do some unique things with him.
“I like McCluster. I think he’s a good football player and he has a role on this football team. I’ve got some things in mind for him.”
This wouldn’t be the first time that the Chiefs had big plans for McCluster. But he has only infrequently lived up to them.
His signature play from his three seasons with the Chiefs came in his first regular-season game when he returned a punt for a touchdown to spark a victory over San Diego. Otherwise, McCluster has 119 catches, 657 rushing yards and four touchdowns, but few big plays of the game-changing variety.
Reid and offensive coordinator Doug Pederson may not be able to get anything more from McCluster, though it sounds as if they will try.
“I was interested in drafting him,” Reid said. “It just didn’t fall that way. But I did have some interest. I liked him as a football player. He’s a unique talent because he can do a couple, three different things for you whether it’s special teams as a returner or whether it’s offense as a receiver or a running back.
“His value … is that you can move him into different spots where you can utilize his talents the best. You saw what Charlie (Weis) did with him the one year when he kind of mixed him in the different positions offensively. He can handle it. He’s a sharp kid. Obviously he’s a talented kid.”
For his part, McCluster thought the Eagles might draft him in 2010. He said that at the time he had never met Reid and didn’t visit the Eagles in Philadelphia before the draft but “there were rumors circulating that he had some interest in me.”
Reid will be McCluster’s third head coach and Pederson his fourth offensive coordinator. While the others generally kept McCluster at a certain position for an entire season — he lined up mostly as a receiver in 2010 and 2012 and a running back in 2011 — the Chiefs don’t plan a specific role for McCluster.
That suits him well.
“Keeping the defense on their toes,” McCluster said. “Move me around, make a headache for the defense. He said he wants to use me in multiple places. That’s the type of player I am and that’s the type of player I’ve been. Now I have the opportunity to showcase what I can really do.”
McCluster said he’s as frustrated as anyone that he hasn’t delivered more big plays. He played in all 16 games the past two seasons and was the Chiefs’ second-leading rusher in 2011 and their second-leading pass receiver last season.
But he said a better test of what he was capable of would come this season.
“I would just say opportunity,” McCluster said when asked why he hasn’t been the player the Chiefs, and apparently Reid, envisioned when he was drafted. “Opportunity has been limited. I’m not a guy that’s always complaining how I want the ball and I need the ball. The chips are going to fall into place. I’ve been saying this for a couple of years now: When it’s my time, it’s going to be my time. That’s my mind-set. I’m going to go out there and I’m going to grind. The world will know when Dexter McCluster is out there.”