Sign up for premium coverage of the Chiefs and NFL on bobgretz.com, click here.

-  -

A Couple of Trojans Reunited … Thursday Cup O’Chiefs

For the longest time in southern California, the USC Trojans have gotten the pick of the litter when it comes to top high school football players.

Once in awhile, UCLA will siphon a few off the top, and sometimes guys sneak out the back door and end up at places like Cal-Berkley or Stanford, even up to Washington and Oregon or over to Arizona. The best of the best almost always ended up wearing the maroon and gold and play their home games at the Los Angeles Coliseum.

In the winter of 1999/2000 Southern Cal head coach Paul Hackett was putting together a recruiting class that he hoped would solidify his position with the Trojans. Hackett had left as offensive coordinator of the Chiefs after the 1997 NFL playoffs and took over the program at USD. In his first two seasons his record was 14-11, with an 8-8 mark in the Pac-10 Conference. That’s considered a disaster as far as fans of the Trojans were concerned.

Two members of that recruiting class went to high schools 50 miles apart in the northwest reaches of the sprawl that is Los Angeles. They were two of the best players in the state, and they had both received national recognition for their talents. One was an athletic quarterback from Chatsworth High School by the name of Matt Cassel. The other was a speedy wide receiver out of Hueneme High School in Oxnard by the name of Keary Colbert.  

As USC recruits much was expected of them. Only Colbert had the chance to produce, as he turned in back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons for the Trojans in 2002 and 2003 and left as the school’s all-time leading receiver with 207 catches. Cassel couldn’t get on the field. First, he was behind Heisman Trophy winner Carson Palmer, who was the starting QB for three full seasons (2000-02). Then he was beaten out as replacement for Palmer by Matt Leinart in 2003. Leinart won the Heisman Trophy in 2004.

Cassel and Colbert became good friends during their time at Southern Cal. In 2002 and 2003 they shared a house not far from campus with other football players, including Palmer and now Pittsburgh S Troy Polamalu. They stayed in touch over the years. Cassel called Colbert “as fine a man as you’d ever want to know.” Colbert called Cassel “a true friend; he’s somebody you can count on. He’d give you the shirt of his back and drive 100 miles out of his way to do it.”

They have been reunited on the Chiefs 2011 pre-season roster and their roles have dramatically switched. Now it’s Cassel who is the established player, the quarterback of a team that went to the playoffs last year and earned him a trip to the Pro Bowl as an injury replacement. And Colbert is trying to revive an NFL career that died three years ago, after a season where he played for three different teams and then could not find anybody else interested in his services.

Cassel knows he has the job of Chiefs starting QB; Colbert is trying to make up for lost time and earn a spot on the roster to play as a slot receiver and to help out on special teams. He has no idea what the future holds.

“It’s one day at a time,” Colbert said. “I’m trying to get through each day, learning as much as I can, and then at the end of the day figuring out what went wrong and how I can fix those mistakes the next day. I don’t think about yesterday or tomorrow.”

How Colbert went from a second-round pick in the 2004 NFL Draft to spending a year scuffling through the UFL (2009) and then a year working as a graduate assistant coach at Southern Cal (2010) is a story that has to have some interesting twists and turns. It’s just that Colbert doesn’t care to share. “I wanted to get back in the NFL and now here I am so everything else that happened in the past is not a factor now,” he said. “It’s about making good on my opportunity right now to keep on playing football.”

Coming out of Southern Cal, he was known for his speed and he adapted pretty quickly to NFL life with the Carolina Panthers, starting 15 games and catching 47 passes for 754 yards and 5 touchdowns. But it was all downhill from there, as he never came close to matching those numbers with the Panthers. Injuries took a toll, as he dealt with hamstring pulls and knee problems. After the 2007 season, he became an unrestricted free agent and signed with Denver. The Broncos traded him early in the season to Seattle, and then the Seahawks cut him right before the start of the 2008 season. Later that year he was signed as an injury replacement with Detroit.

In all, that ’08 season saw him play in 13 games with 7 starts for the Broncos, Seahawks and Lions. He caught 12 passes for 116 yards and a touchdown. His fall from grace was complete in 2009 when the NFL wasn’t interested and he hooked up briefly with the Florida Tuskers in the UFL, where his impact was negligible.

So the 2010 season was about regrouping. Already owner of a bachelor’s degree from Southern Cal, he decided to go back to school and work on a Masters. He also became a graduate assistant on Lane Kiffin’s coaching staff where he worked with the tight ends. G.A.s does the grunt work of college coaching. They are the first ones in the office, charged with making the coffee and making sure the full-time assistants have everything they want. They are the last one’s out of the office, finishing up practice plans, running copies and making sure everything that could be done that done has gotten done.

“It’s a lot of hours, but then I knew that,” Colbert said. “I wasn’t one of those players that paid no attention to the amount of time coaches put in. I knew from doing extra study all the way back to when I was a player at SC that they put in long hours. I always respected that.”

For Colbert the biggest revelation from coaching was learning a whole new position. He’s always been a wide receiver, but now he had to learn the tight end position. Unlike any other spot on the offense, tight end time is divided evenly between the run game and the pass offense. “As a wide receiver, I never really paid that much attention to the running game,” Colbert said. “So this was all new territory for me.”

He enjoyed working with the players and staff, but the flame of playing the game still burned. He was going to go back to the UFL and had agreed to a deal with the Sacramento Mountain Lions, when a workout video put together by his agent landed with the Chiefs. Todd Haley had always liked Colbert and the things he could do as a receiver. So the Chiefs added him to the roster and view him as a candidate to play the slot receiver role.

So far, Cassel has liked what he’s seen from his friend.

“I think he’s done a good job of coming in and getting into the physical shape that’s asked of us and he’s picked up the offense pretty quickly,” Cassel said. “There are still times when he’s not sure and we have to help him out a bit, but I’m really proud of how he’s come in here and worked.”

But is he a true factor in making the team? The answer seems to be yes when it comes from Haley. Because of the unusual nature of the 2011 season not having an off-season program to help team development, the Chiefs head coach talks more and more about putting players into certain roles and asking them to only worry about that task in the pre-season. For Colbert, that’s running pass patterns out of the slot, one of the trickier roles presented in a standard NFL offense. In the slot, the receiver has to have the quickness to get away from coverage very quickly, but he has to be tough enough to go inside and fight for the ball physically, even when he’s open to getting smashed by the defense.

“It’s tough duty,” Haley said of the slot. “But Keary handles it very well. That’s a spot here for somebody to serve that role.”

And it’s a spot that Keary Colbert wants.

“I want to stay here, no doubt,” he said. “I like the atmosphere, I like the guys in the locker room, its great being back together with Matt and it’s a football atmosphere. These guys are serious about the game. When you’ve been gone a few years, you find yourself being serious about the game as well.”

Here’s Colbert’s complete receiving record for Southern Cal, the NFL and UFL:

YearYr Team

G

S

Rec

Yds

Avg

TD

2000 Southern Cal

12

5

33

480

14.5

3

2001 Southern Cal

12

11

34

442

13.0

2

2002 Southern Cal

13

13

71

1,029

14.5

5

2003 Southern Cal

13

13

69

1,013

14.7

9

2004 Carolina

15

15

47

754

16.0

5

2005 Carolina

16

16

25

382

11.3

2

2006 Carolina

12

3

5

67

11.2

0

2007 Carolina

12

8

32

332

10.4

0

2008 Denver

2

0

0

0

0

0

2008 Seattle

7

4

7

52

7.4

1

2008 Detroit

4

3

5

64

12.8

0

2009 Florida Tuskers

0

0

0

0

0

0

2010 DNP (USC coach)

x

x

x

x

x

x

  Totals

G

S

Rec

Yds

Avg

TD

  College

50

42

207

2,964

14.3

19

  NFL

68

49

121

1,651

13.7

8

  UFL

0

0

0

0

0

0


5 Responses to “A Couple of Trojans Reunited … Thursday Cup O’Chiefs”

  • August 25, 2011  - Jimbo says:

    He sounds promising. The old saying is sometimes you have to reach bottom before you can rise to the top. Obviously in the NFL you have to be both physically and mentally tough. Maybe Colbert has what it takes at least through Haley’s eyes. The Chiefs have not had a bonafide slot receiver in many, many years, if ever. Would’nt it be great 10 weeks from now that Colbert was the dark horse of the 2011 Chiefs.
    Realisticly though he needs to find a way to make the team. Me, I’m always game for a success story. You know, a story about a guy that nobody wanted until the phone rings. If memory serves me correctly it was’nt that long ago a true story about a QB that was bagging groceries when his phone rang. He turned out alright.
    Go Chiefs.


  • August 25, 2011  - el cid says:

    Chief signed a TE, Becht. Out of football last year. Any ideas? A little late for training camp fodder. A vet. backup QB might have been more important.


  • August 25, 2011  - Don in ICT says:

    Good article Bob! I’d like to see him help us out this year. I like the color in the graph!




Get the Flash Player to see the slideshow.


Categories

AFC West Analysis 2014
Answer Bob
Chiefs 2014 Schedule
Chiefs Roster Moves 2014
Game Coverage 2013
Game Coverage 2014
Minicamps-OTAs 2014
NFL Almanac 2014
NFL Combine 2014
NFL Draft 2014
NFL Free Agency 2014
Other News
Practice Reports 2014
Training Camp 2014

Archives


RSS


Pages

Home