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KANSAS CITY, Mo. – One of the reasons the Kansas City Chiefs chose defensive end George Karlaftis in the first round of the 2022 NFL draft was his energy. At Purdue, Karlaftis tended to run full speed at every game, whether he was rushing quarterback or defending the race.
Karlaftis confirmed this habit on the pitch in the early days of the Chiefs’ offseason practices.
“He walks 100 miles an hour,” coach Andy Reid said after a recent training session. “Crawls, everything. We had to slow him down.
“He moves around well when he’s in space. He has good hands, it seems … but that engine is probably the thing that jumps out of you. He walks and walks.”
The Chiefs will need that energy from the Karlaftis, their only significant pass-rush addition, as they try to revitalize a unit that dropped to 29th in the NFL layoffs last season. Karlaftis had 29 sacks in 26 career games for Purdue.
“Merciless,” Karlaftis said as he explained his style of play. “I’m coming after the quarterback. I’m stopping the race. I feel like I’m a three-down player, I’m an all-around player who can do whatever is asked of him, so I think I bring it to the table. I feel like I’m very, very consistent. I feel like my best football is in front of me …. I’ve only been playing football for about six to seven years now so I’m really excited on developing under a great system, good teammates, good organization. “
Karlaftis got a late start in football because he was born in Greece, where football is not very present, and lived there for much of his childhood. He moved with his family to the United States when he was 13 and is still growing within the game.
When he first got started in football, Karlaftis found out that he was not only good at it, but also enjoyed it.
“My parents pressured me to play almost every sport imaginable,” Karlaftis said. “When you find the one you love, work as hard as you possibly can at it. I think there’s not much point in dedicating almost your entire life to doing something that you do not maximally each. only time you’re out there. “
“I love everything about it,” Karlaftis said of football. “I love the offseason. I like the mental and physical challenge and the strain and the game of chess. I like that every single game is a single challenge, both pre-snap, after the ball snaps, during the game, whether it is to perform your task, make the game, do the right thing, have the perfect technique and have to do it again and again and be perfect.
“On top of everything else, you love the locker room, right? You love the connection and the bond you create with your teammates and everything that comes with it.”
ESPN rated Karlaftis as his overall number 79 in the college football recruiting class in 2019. He had offers from Alabama to Notre Dame. The Chiefs took him with the 30th overall pick in this year’s draft, but his late start in football is reason to believe his ceiling is rising.
“All the people we talked to in Purdue just said that all his best football is in front of him,” said Chiefs General Manager Brett Veach. “He had a water polo background when he was born in Athens, but came over here with a late start in football and he picked it up quickly. One thing common to everyone you talk to about George is his approach. to the game. and how important it is to him. “
The Chiefs lost one of their best pass rushers from last season on the defensive Melvin Ingram, who signed as a free agent with the Miami Dolphins. But Chris Jones and Frank Clark, who have been first and second on the team in each of the past three seasons, return.
Their presence can mean plenty of pass-rush opportunities for a defensive beginner.
“When you’re a defensive lineman, you want one-on-one, whether it’s me or anyone,” Karlaftis said. “You want guys playing next to you who are really, really good players. Obviously they’s great players and that just means more success for me and the whole unit.”