On a cold winter day nearly two years ago, a group of friends sat in the nosebleeds of Arrowhead Stadium, hoping to witness the Chiefs’ first home playoff win in a couple of decades. They were lifelong Chiefs fans, particularly Josh Caldwell, a local kid who grew up in Lee’s Summit.
Caldwell remembers much of that evening. The biting wind that prompted him to make a trip to the bathroom just to warm his hands. The seats near the top of the stadium. The “rocking” Arrowhead playoff crowd.
And the thought that popped into his mind as the Chiefs took the field during introductions.
“Man, it would be cool to play on that field,” Caldwell said to a friend.
He got his chance Saturday.
Made the most of it, too.
Caldwell, a rookie who played college ball at Missouri Western State and Northwest Missouri State, led the Chiefs with 59 rushing yards and a touchdown in a 38-17 preseason victory against the Bengals at Arrowhead Stadium.
In his first game in a NFL uniform, Caldwell estimated he had 20-25 family and friends to watch him play in his hometown.
“Oh, man. There’s nothing like running out there in Arrowhead Stadium with all those Chiefs fans out there,” said Caldwell, who ran for 2,885 yards during his career at Lee’s Summit North High School.
“It’s kinda crazy. Just to have those kids look up to you from Kansas City. Not a lot of people make it out there. Just to show them (that) it doesn’t matter what background you come from; you can make it out.”
Undrafted out of college, Caldwell is considered a longshot to make the Chiefs’ roster. Even with starting running back Damien Williams getting the night off, Caldwell played behind Carlos Hyde, Darwin Thompson and Darrel Williams. But he made the most of an opportunity in the fourth quarter, playing primarily with the third-string offense.
He busted a run of 47 yards on a cutback move through the line, the longest play for the Chiefs on Saturday. One snap later, he scored on a 4-yard run, celebrating with an emphatic spike into the end-zone grass.
“Listen, I might have just taken a knee there other than the kid’s from Kansas City,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. “So he makes a huge run to get down there, I mean, you have to give him the ball, right?”
A pair of conversations — one with Reid and one with a teammate — preceded the back-to-back carries.
The Chiefs were setting up a third-and-7 play near midfield, milking the clock, when Reid asked Caldwell if he could rush for the first down.
“I said, ‘Heck, yeah, Coach,” Caldwell said.
He got the 7. And then 40 more, shedding a would-be tackler over the middle of the field. He was tripped up at the 4-yard line.
One more carry.
“I knew Coach Reid was going to give me a chance just because I should’ve scored the first time. But our quarterback, Chase (Litton) said, ‘Hey, if you don’t score right here, I’m gonna throw it in, so you better get in there,’” Caldwell said. “I asked my (offensive) line, man give me one hard play for me. You know, they delivered.”