Nick Bolton is emerging as the leader of the Chiefs defense

Nick Bolton showed up to play in Super Bowl LVII.

Nick Bolton showed up to play in Super Bowl LVII.
Photography: AP

Andy Reid started coaching in college, spending a decade recruiting and visiting high schools across America in hopes of finding the next great offensive lineman. His last collegiate stint was at Missouri, which wasn’t a great team during Reid’s three seasons in Columbia. The now-two-time-Super-Bowl-winner head coach leads the Show-Me State’s only NFL franchise and two years ago delved into its past to help make its future brighter when the Chiefs selected Nick Bolton with their first pick in the 2021 NFL Draft at No. 58 overall.

Bolton has been an integral part of Kansas City’s defense since making the two-hour trip west from Mizzou to KC. As a rookie, Bolton had 112 tackles in 16 games. He was second in the NFL this season with 180. Kevin Burkhardt and Greg Olsen didn’t call any quarterback on any team in Super Bowl LVII more than Bolton, who will turn 23 in March. Those who have watched Bolton since his arrival at Columbia have seen this potential. His nine moves in the game, fumble recovery, and the ensuing touchdown are nothing new to those who have followed him closely. He is ready for his third year of glory.

Being in the right place at the right time more often than anyone else is a skill. Let’s not forget that Bolton probably should have had two balls and scored against the Eagles. Miles Sanders caught the ball before he was hit and the ball came loose. With two defensive touchdowns, Bolton could gave Patrick Mahomes a run for the MVP award of the game. To be this good, this young at any position, means a big contract is coming. Bolton just completed year #2 of his 4-year rookie deal. My guess is the Chiefs want to lock him up long term before Bolton is tempted by free agency, so he’ll be paid until the end of the 2024 season.

Bolton didn’t even start his freshman year at Missouri, behind Terez Hall and Cale Garrett, who both spent time on NFL practice squads. In Hall’s case, he played a few games for the Patriots active list. In 2019, when I joined the Mizzou beat full-time, Bolton got his starting spot alongside Garrett. Over the next two seasons, Bolton evolved into one of the best defensive players in college football’s best conference. Of course, he didn’t play for a team competing for national championships, but anyone who watches the entire Southeastern Conference, as any good NFL scout should, he could see his next-level talent from a mile away.

The charge against the Chiefs after the 2020 season is that they needed a second-round pick to play as the heart of their defense. At Bolton’s pro day in March 2021, Kansas City’s presence was evident. There was tons of momentum behind keeping Bolton fit. For those in rhythm, on a high profile players, finding the right home has always somehow made more sense than any of us could have realized. After Gary Kubiak and John Elway appeared in the Missouri press box during the 2018 season, it should have been obvious that Drew Lock would be drafted by the Broncos. When tons of media in Kansas City paid extra attention to Bolton’s pro day than the usual array of Tigers prospects, it should have been a gift. And the Show-Me State was great for Bolton, mostly because it was great against his only NFL and FBS teams.

The Chiefs’ defense will always be second nature act as long as one of the best defenders of all time is on the list. His main goal: Let’s not put up enough points where even Mahomes can’t save our asses. It’s the best safety net in the world, but still, one that cannot be messed with. Despite Travis Kelce’s assertion that many people doubt Kansas City’s arrival this season, who are those people? They certainly didn’t know football as the Chiefs hosted four straight AFC Championship games with the same starting lineup. Next season, there’s no reason Kansas City can’t make it six straight. Yeah, that’s mostly because of Mahomes. But take note by Eric StonestreetEmmy Award-winning Kansas City, Kansas native and die-hard Chiefs fan. In an interview with Fox Sports after the game, he went out of his way to applaud Bolton for his performance. Every other Chiefs fan should do the same.

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