KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The Force is strong in the Chiefs locker room.
There has been an awakening, and it’s not based solely on a seven-game winning streak. Like millions around the world, numerous Chiefs players are eagerly anticipating “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” which hits movie theaters in full strength Friday.
“I would say everybody is a ‘Star Wars’ fan, for the most part,” offensive lineman Zach Fulton said. “They’re probably a few guys that don’t get into it, but everybody knows ‘Star Wars.’”
It is more than safe to include punter Dustin Colquitt among those fully aware of the movie.
“I can’t wait,” Colquitt said with a wide smile. “It’s going to be fun.”
Colquitt counts himself as a big fan of the franchise, even going so far as to dig into his locker unsolicited and retrieve a “Star Wars”-themed magazine to show as proof.
Growing up a fan of the movies proved natural for Colquitt given his background.
“We have family that works at Disney,” Colquitt said. “I grew up — I have pictures of me on those things (rides) when I was this little (holds his hand at hip level), just walking through the theme parks. That’s always the first place I went to.”
Colquitt has now shared those experiences with his sons, sometimes resulting in funny moments.
“They did Jedi training down in Disney and we didn’t tell them because we thought they’d be excited about it,” Colquitt said. “But Darth Vader comes out and they bailed. Both of them jumped off the stage. It was hilarious.”
Rookie center Mitch Morse — who admits to admiring Han Solo, a character played by Harrison Ford — also eagerly awaits the movie’s release.
But Morse has a plan in place to counter the massive hype before he watches it.
“It’s awesome,” Morse said. “I’m really going to enjoy it and kind of go in with low expectations so I can hopefully be pleasantly surprised.”
Rookie wide receiver Chris Conley is arguably the biggest fan in the locker room.
An aspiring film maker, Conley wrote and directed a 26-minute short film, “Star Wars: Retribution,” which made its debut in July 2014.
Conley points out a large part of the appeal with “Star Wars” surrounds the devoted fan base, which isn’t exclusive to a certain demographic, and the storyline.
“It encompasses so many things,” Conley said. “It’s a timeless story that no matter what age you are, there’s a part you can connect with and that will stay with you.
“There are enough people that have somehow bonded with this story that it’s something people have in common these days. You meet people out in public in random places that have the same passion for this story as you do.”
Morse agreed, adding the film does very well with connecting generations.
“I think it’s iconic,” Morse said. “It’s something I can sit down with my parents and kind of watch. It’s something you can share with your family and they can remember when they first watched it and kind of see you enjoy it as you watch it. More than anything, it’s a way to spend more time with your family.”
Colquitt echoed Morse, adding he will pass along the tradition to his five children.
“My parents watched it, they had us watch and now I’m having them watch it,” Colquitt said. “It doesn’t matter how old or how young you are. It’s the common thread of watching this idea that there are different galaxies, there’s always a good vs. evil, that there’s something possibly out there.”
Long snapper James Winchester said he was first introduced to the “Star Wars” prequel “The Phantom Menace” as a young 10-year-old boy, and the graphics and special effects drew him in.
But the storylines in the following movies, “Attack of the Clones” and “Revenge of the Sith,” compelled him to watch the original trilogy to gain a better understanding of the plot and he’s happy the new movie returns to its roots.
“You go back and learn all those characters,” Winchester said. “Everybody knows who Darth Vader is – the main ones – but the graphics and stuff in the new ones really grab you. Now that they’re going back with this movie and you see Chewbacca and the older characters our parents grew up watching, it’s kind of neat. I’m pretty excited to see it.”
Meanwhile, the challenge for the Chiefs players is squeezing in time to enjoy the movie in the middle of a postseason chase.
Fulton said he prefers to wait for the expected long lines to subside, but he adds the offensive linemen discussed Thursday morning heading off to watch the movie together.
“We mentioned it today,” Fulton said, “but it probably won’t be for another few weeks.”
Morse said he wouldn’t mind watching the film with his teammates.
“It will kind of be a fun deal,” he said, “just a bunch of giant nerds in there geeking out.”
A lot of the Chiefs players said they will likely wait to return from playing the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday before taking in “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”
Well, all except Conley, who said he plans to take in the movie Friday night.
While Conley is thrilled a new “Star Wars” movie is released, he’s even more overjoyed that a new group of moviegoers is set to experience the phenomena that earlier generations grew up loving.
“I’m just excited about these new movies because there are people that do not know ‘Star Wars’ are going to come in,” Conley said, “and it’s going to spark that imagination, spark that interest for them to go back and learn the whole story. Just the number of fans – there’s already plenty of fans of this genre – it’s just going to grow.”
Herbie Teope is the lead Chiefs beat writer for ChiefsDigest.com and The Topeka Capital-Journal. Use the contact page to reach him or find him on Twitter: @HerbieTeope.