KANSAS CITY, Mo. — For Chiefs offensive lineman Andrew Wylie, Sunday night's game against Cincinnati marked his first NFL start, and with it came the fulfillment of a goal that started back on the family farm in Midland, Michigan.
“This was the moment where all my dreams come true,” Wylie said about his start at right guard Sunday night. “This is what I've been working for my entire life. They gave me the opportunity today. It was a great feeling being out there.”
Wylie plays football with his heart on his sleeve. Offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy calls him a “dirty, tough kid.” Left tackle Eric Fisher, a fellow native from Michigan, call him a “tough dude.” Wylie need that grit and determination facing a defensive line led by Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap, who have combined for 11 sacks on the season. He used his emotion to fuel his performance.
“I was very pumped up to get out there,” Wylie said. “This is an elite O-line, I'm playing next to some of the best offensive lineman in the league, especially playing next to Mitchell Schwartz. It's a blessing to be out there with those guys.”
Wylie felt the weight of high expectations filling in for starting right guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, who went on injured reserve last week and expects to miss most, if not all, of the remaining season. That opened up an opportunity for Wylie, who couldn't wait to prove how far he's come since entering the league last season as an undrafted free agent from Eastern Michigan.
Despite the pressure, Wylie said a good week of preparation and working with offensive line coach Andy Heck helped put him in a position to fare well against a touch Cincinnati front seven. The Bengals picked up two sacks, but neither came on Wylie's watch.
“Coach Heck did a great job getting us all set with the game plan,” Wylie said. “I wasn't too worried about who I was going up against.”
Center Jordan Devey, who filled in for Mitch Morse who remains in the league's concussion protocol, joined with Wylie to provide an entirely new look to two-thirds of the Chiefs' entire offensive line. Quarterback Patrick Mahomes said the duo played well together.
“For them to steup and get the run game going at the same time as protecting me, it shows we have a lot of depth in that offensive line room, and it's the next man up mentality we have on this team,” Mahomes said.
Left guard Cam Erving said work on the offensive line isn't pretty, but he thought Wylie and Devey both fought hard and finished strong.
“You can't dwell on injuries,” Erving said. “You have to just process it and those guys who stepped in did a tremendous job. Andrew Wylie made his first start tonight in the NFL and he did a great job.”
Wylie's parents Scott and Deb bought tickets for this game several weeks ago to come visit their son. They didn't know he'd be playing, much less making his first NFL start. That fortuitous event made for a happy family reunion. He said his dad gave him the same speech he's given him before every football game since middle school.
“He tells me, 'No one knows who you are, everyone knows who they are, they're not putting respect on your name, so make them respect you,'” Wylie said. “That's what I tried to go out there and do tonight.”