Kansas City Chiefs

There’s a reason Josh Caldwell feels at home at Chiefs training camp

Josh Caldwell on home turf

Chiefs rookie free agent running back Josh Caldwell looks to make team training on old college ground.
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Chiefs rookie free agent running back Josh Caldwell looks to make team training on old college ground.

Chiefs running back Josh Caldwell owns the home-field advantage at training camp.

It’s not only because Caldwell attended Lee’s Summit North High and finished his career at Northwest Missouri State. Those give him familiarity with the Chiefs and their training camp site at Missouri Western State.

But in between those teams, Caldwell was a Griffon

He spent nearly four years in the Missouri Western program, earning all-MIAA honors as the conference’s leading rusher in 2016, before finishing his career at Northwest Missouri State.

He knows every corner of the Chiefs’ summer home, even though the Griffons don’t work on the Chiefs’ twin practice fields (just as the Chiefs don’t practice in Missouri Western’s stadium).

“Players ask me where things are, where to go,” Caldwell said. “I’m happy to help.”

Caldwell is a longshot to make the Chiefs’ roster, an undrafted free agent who has been working with draft pick Darwin Thompson and fellow undrafted back Marcus Marshall during the early days of camp.

When the veterans report Friday, starter Damien Williams will lead a group that includes Darrel Williams and Carlos Hyde.

But a shot is all Caldwell seeks, and he’s taking advantage of the smaller camp numbers.

“We’re getting a lot of reps and getting a chance to show what we can do,” Caldwell said.

He did just that throughout his college career. Caldwell left Lee’s Summit North as the program’s career rushing leader, with 2,885 yards, and once rushed for 310 yards in a game.

After a redshirt season at Missouri Western, Caldwell made an impact with 647 rushing yards and six touchdowns.

Then came the breakout season. Besides leading the conference in rushing with 1,408 yards, Caldwell rushed for 10 touchdowns and averaged 133.5 all-purpose yards.

He was on his way to another big season in 2017 with 856 yards in eight games when his playing days at Missouri Western ended. Caldwell said then he wanted to finish the season; the school said he had been dismissed.

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No reason for the dismissal was announced, and Caldwell didn’t elaborate about it on Thursday. Missouri Western granted his release after the season.

“I try to learn from every experience I’ve had, and there were things I would have done differently,” Caldwell said. “I was fortunate Northwest gave me a chance.”

Caldwell finished his career at Missouri Western’s rival in Maryville, and helped the Bearcats capture the MIAA championship with an 830-yard rushing season. One of his best performances came in the NCAA Division II playoffs: 147 rushing yards and two touchdowns in a first-round victory over Grand Valley State.

“I wouldn’t have had the opportunities I have now if it hadn’t been for the chance I got (at Northwest),” Caldwell said.”

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After that season, Caldwell set his sights on continuing football.

“But honestly, I didn’t know what I was going to do,” said Caldwell, who had graduated from Missouri Western and was working on his master’s from Northwest. “But I trained and I had hoped to get into a team’s mini-camp.”

Washington invited Caldwell to its rookie mini-camp, but he opted for a local pro day tryout with the Chiefs.

Caldwell was invited to rookie mini-camp in Kansas City but later was victim of a numbers crunch. The Chiefs encouraged him to keep working and that advice paid off. Caldwell was later invited to mandatory mini-camp.

Now, he’s looking for a spot with the Chiefs in an environment that’s familiar to him.

“When you get an opportunity like this, the window is so small, you have to go strong,” Caldwell said.

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