Earlier this year, former Augusta Oriole Chris Stuart was sitting in his room at William Jewell College in Liberty, Mo., when his football coach Jerod Kruse sent him a text message with some good news.
The text said that the Kansas City Chiefs were going to call Stuart in April about attending their Pro Day.
“They called me and asked me if there was anybody good on my roster who could come by for our Pro Day,” Kruse said about the initial contact he had with the Chiefs. ”I thought of Chris and some of our other guys.”
What an opportunity.
Stuart spent several weeks leading up to this day, which was Tuesday, April 10, to do all he could to prepare for this chance. At the private session, he participated in drills and workouts with about 20 other football players at the Chiefs’ indoor facility in Kansas City. Stuart, who graduated from Augusta High School in 2008, said he did several typical drills, such as the 40-yard dash, the shuttle, the 3-cone as well as the bench and broad jump.
“I thought I did all right,” he said. “I was a little anxious, but I got the jitters out.”
The players then were introduced to the Chiefs’ staff, including head coach Romeo Crennell and Scott Pioli, the Chiefs’ general manager.
“When they talked to me, I’d acknowledged them as ‘Yes sir’,” Stuart said. “…It was pretty cool, and I was just taking everything in.”
Stuart, a running back/fullback, worked on position-specific drills, which he felt he performed well. One drill had him running back and forth on quick routes to catch short passes before ending with a long pass. For a blocking drill, he would shuffle five yards to the right and quickly shuffle back, then punch a bag. He later caught passes on wheel, flat and swing routes.
By the end of the session, Stuart said he got plenty of exercise. But Hurse said he told Stuart that the effort would be a big selling point, as well as enthusiasm.
“I wasn’t expecting them to work me that hard, but it was good for me because I know what to expect now,” Stuart said.
For Stuart, this could be the beginning of a new phase on his long journey. From his days as an Oriole to a JuCo player at Coffeyville Community College to William Jewell, now a Division-II school, Stuart has had football in his veins.
His father Michael played college football. Michael and he could talk football all day long.
Stuart said he’s gained valuable advice on the expectations of playing at high levels from his dad. He’s always had a pure drive to exceed at football.
Page 2 of 2 - “The love of the game,” Stuart said is his motivation. “My mom (Cherilyn) has always been there, pushing me. My dad, too. It runs in the family, I guess.”
Stuart may only be 5-foot-8 inches tall, but he’s packing 240 pounds of sheer brute. He said he’s not scared to do anything on the field. But Stuart also has the smarts that have made coaches take notice. Off the field, he was named a prestigious National Football Award winner for U.S. Achievement Academy while at Augusta.
On the field, Stuart played positions on both sides of the ball as an Oriole. He said when he was at Coffeyville, his coaches asked him to play linebacker after some of the team’s key guys were injured. It took a little work, but Stuart picked up the system and played well.
“The more versatile you are, the more coaches will want you,” he said.
Stuart and the Coffeyville Red Ravens were 7-4 his sophomore season and beat RCTC (Minn.) in a bowl game. His first year at William Jewell, the Cardinals were 4-7 under Kruse, his first year as head coach after spending two seasons as the defensive coordinator. This past season, they went 4-6 after moving up to Div. II. Hurse, who’s from Kansas and has connections with Coffeyville, Emporia State and Baker University, said he used Stuart as a combo back since he could both gain the tough, physical yards and run swing routes. Stuart is done playing football there, but he knows he can’t take it easy now. Just like finding out about his Pro Day, it could be any time when he gets a call that could make his dream of playing for an NFL a reality.
“They told us to stay in shape and keep working out, because if a team calls us and we’re not in shape, they’ll just move on,” he said.
“Any time you’ve coached guys who get an opportunity to get to that level is a good thing,” Hurse said. “That’d be a really good deal not only for the guys, but for the university as well.”
For now, Stuart will focus on finishing his degree in business administration. He’ll be a college graduate this December. And at least he can know he had a good showing in front of the Chiefs.
“It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” he said.