KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Cam Erving can't remember whether it happened in the second or third grade, but he remembers it as the first time he wanted to prove someone who doubted him wrong. A teacher asked him what job he wanted when he grew up, and he chose professional athlete.
“She told me to pick a real job,” Erving said one day after inking a two-year contract extension keeping him connected with the Chiefs through 2020. “It was one of the first times I told somebody, the first time that I thought, “She don't know what she's talking about, I'm going to go do it.'”
Erving wrote another chapter of proving his doubters wrong this week, signing a two-year extension with the Chiefs that keeps him in Kansas City thought the 2020 season. The deal worth up to $15.7 million includes $6.45 million in guaranteed money.
He arrived in Kansas City a year ago via a trade just before the team's final preseason game in exchange for a fifth-round pick. Some critics labeled Erving as a bust for failing to live up to the expectations as the No. 19 overall pick in the 2015 draft.
But at every step when Erving heard the doubts, he also remembered the voices in his head telling him to believe in himself.
“My parents always told me just never let anybody tell you what you can't do and that's been the biggest thing in my life,” Erving said, “regardless of what's happening, positive or negative. No man can tell you what you can or can't do.”
It's little surprise that when Erving signed his new contract with the Chiefs, he turned to his parents Linda and Moses. They told their middle son how proud of him they were, proud that he kept his head during difficult situations, never accepting no for an answer and continuing to fight.
“They instilled that in me,” Erving said.
Erving's father recalled how much his 7-year-old son loved sports. He recalled getting up at 5:30 in the morning to take Cameron to school for workouts. Those are the things parents don't always want to do, but they do it because of how much their children want it.
“I look at that and it could have been easy for my dad to say no and me not even be here,” Erving said. “For them to just have done everything they have done for me in my life, it's amazing.”
That's a big reason why Erving wants to give back to other kids on his hometown of Moultrie, Ga., sharing his life story and how others can make the life they want for themselves.
“Where I'm from, you don't see anybody doing anything like this,” Erving said, “and just actually to come out and still be a positive role model for kids, for people. And for also just letting people know this isn't the only way to you can get out of a situation, but this isn't the only way you can make money.”
It's likely no coincidence that Erving's new contract comes at a time when he has accepted as a strength that he once viewed as a flaw. For the first three years of his career he bristled at the notion of playing center or guard. He was a left tackle, and that's what we wanted to play.
But that slowly changed once he arrived with the Chiefs last year. Now he has a new contract making him among the best paid swing lineman in the league.
“If you had asked me this three or four years ago, I would have told you I was a left tackle,” Erving said. “At this point I just tell everybody I'm an offensive lineman because I've played at everyone of them, I've started at every spot out there. It's different. I just people I'm an offensive lineman.”
Head coach Andy Reid said Erving's versatility provides tremendous value to the Chiefs.
“He can play every position and play it well,” Reid said. “You’ve seen that this offseason. He was in at center for most of the OTAs and then at the guard position this camp and swinging at the tackle spots where we had him doing a little work.”
Locking up Erving provides short-term and long-term benefits for the Chiefs. The club has right tackle Mitchell Schwartz signed through 2020, left tackle Eric Fisher through 2021 an right guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif through 2022. Extending Erving means the Chiefs have only center Mitch Morse as a potential free agent next season. Having Erving in the fold is insurance if Morse doesn't return next year.
When the Chiefs reached out to Erving's agent to discuss an extension, he knew he wanted to stay in Kansas City. He calls the offensive line group the best he's been a part of during his time in the league.
“It's a great place to play football, great place to be in general,” Erving said. “There wasn't really much hesitation as far as thinking where I wanted to go, if I wanted to stay.”
Kansas City is Erving's may serve as his new home, but his first priority with his new contract is taking care of something back in his first hometown in Moultrie.
“Finishing getting my parents their crib, their house built,” Erving said.