Former Chemic named KC’s top first-year player
While Kansas City Chiefs’ quarterback Patrick Mahomes has certainly captured the attention of NFL fans nationwide, a lesser-known first-year player has earned the trust and respect of the Chiefs’ locker room. That player is Midland High alum Andrew Wylie.
Wylie, who has been entrenched as Kanas City’s starting right guard since early in the season, was named the team’s Mack Lee Hill Award winner for 2018. The award is presented annually to the Chiefs’ top rookie or first-year player in remembrance of the late Mack Lee Hill, who tragically passed away after two seasons with the team in the mid-1960s.
“It was a real surprise (to win the Hill Award), and I think the thing that means the most to me is that it’s an award that your teammates and coaches vote on,” said Wylie, adding of his teammates and coaches, “ … These are guys who I’m with every single day. After being around guys for a while, you get a real sense of their character, and that’s just huge that my teammates and coaches think that highly of me.
“ … And if you look at some of the guys who have won the award in the past, that means a lot, too,” he added. “There are some big-name guys (who have won this award). It’s really an honor to receive that from my teammates and coaches.”
Football fans will recognize many of the names of past Hill Award winners, including Mike Garrett (1966), Christian Okoye (1987), Derrick Thomas (1989), Tony Gonzalez (1997), and Tyreek Hill (2016).
Wylie, who has made 10 starts so far this season, said he is “absolutely” a different player now than he was at the start of the season.
“If you can’t (improve continually), you won’t make it very long in the NFL,” he noted. “I try week by week to really hone in on certain details that maybe I didn’t do well the week before, really hone in on those things and (work on them) in practice … and, hopefully, by the end of the season, you’re a completely different player.
“ … At the beginning of the season, when I first got put in (the starting lineup), I was kind of testing the waters. I wasn’t playing as dominant as I am now,” he admitted. “Now that I have 10 starts under my belt, I’m really going out there knowing exactly what I’m doing on every play. I’ve done great preparation, and I know the opponents I’m going up against.”
Asked about the excitement of playing in front of huge crowds and appearing in nationally-televised games regularly, Wylie said he has adjusted well to the big stage.
“During our home games, the offense gets its names called individually (during introductions). The first time that happened (after I was inserted into the starting lineup), I ran out on the field and heard thousands of fans yelling, and it hit me that this is real; this is my job,” he said. “I haven’t looked back since.”
Regarding the toughest opponents he’s had to block thus far, Wylie mentioned Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingrim of the Los Angeles Chargers, Geno Atkins of the Cincinnati Bengals, Ndamukong Suh of the Miami Dolphins, and Aaron Donald of the Los Angeles Rams.
“It’s a really high level of competition, and you’re going against guys who’ve been in the league for seven or eight years, and they’re really bringing the heat,” Wylie said.
Looking ahead to Saturday’s 4:35 p.m. divisional round playoff game against Indianapolis — a team with which he formerly spent time on the practice squad — Wylie said he is looking forward to competing against some of his former teammates.
“It’s a big thing this week, being my first playoff game,” he noted. “It’s a great matchup for us. I spent some time with the Colts, so I know those guys who are now in their second year pretty well, and I know how those guys play.
“It should be a great game to play in and a great game to watch. It’ll be a good one.”