KANSAS CITY, Mo. — When Chiefs rookie running back Darwin Thompson heard about LeSean McCoy became a free agent after his release from Buffalo, he briefly wondered if the veteran might come to Kansas City, then immediately dismissed it.
“When I saw he got cut from the Bills, I was like, he's not coming out here,” Thompson said. “He's not coming, he already played with Andy Reid. Then when he came I was like, that's great, that's a blessing.”
No one would have blamed Thompson if he felt a flash of frustration. Thompson appeared to secured the No. 2 running back job behind Damien Williams, and the arrival of McCoy upset that rotation. But the opportunity to play with two running backs he idolized growing up proved too exciting to harbor any bitterness.
“A blessing to be able to learn from that vet has been in the league 10 years,” Thompson said. “Then learning from D-Will also, I watched D-Will when he was at OU. I'm from Oklahoma, so I watched D-Will when he was at OU. Great to learn from two guys I was watching growing up.”
It's that respect that made it easier for Thompson to swap jersey numbers with McCoy. Thompson's favorite jersye is No. 3, but that's not a legal NFL uniform number for a running back. “If I could wear 3 in the NFL, I would wear 3,” Thompson said.
But when the Chiefs selected Thompson in the sixth round of this year's draft. He knew what number he wanted to wear – the No. 25 familiar in the KC backfield for nine seasons thanks to Jamaal Charles. Thompson reached out Charles for permission to wear his numbers, which the retired running back granted.
“I'm sure Jamaal understands it as well,” Thompson said. “He wore that all his career and it was definitely just respect. It was a respect thing. It's not necessarily that was my number or I wore that all my career.”
When Thompson arrived in the locker room following McCoy's signing, one of the equipment managers approached him about jersey numbers, but he didn't think anything of it. Later equipment manager Allen Wright came to Thompson and asked him what number he wanted to wear.
“I was like, 'What do you mean what number I want? I want 25,'” Thompson said with a laugh.
Then it sunk in that McCoy had wore No. 25 throughout nearly all his entire 10-year NFL career. Thompson said McCoy gave him a gift for surrendering No. 25, but that's not why the rookie did it.
“It's all respect at the end of the day,” Thompson said. “That's a 10-year vet, future Hall of Famer in LeSean McCoy and he deserves to wear his number.”
Thompson feels like he's gaining something else from McCoy as well. He always wondered what the league's best running do, how they go about their business in practice and prepare for games. Now he's getting a masterclass from one of the league's best.
“I'm kind of like walking in his footsteps, following in his footsteps, to be in his best routine in the NFL,” Thompson said. “They say the lifespan of a running back is three years – (McCoy has) 10 of them, so he beat the odds just there. To be able to learn from him and watch what he does is cool.”
Thompson was offered a several new jersey numbers and immediately settled on a choice for many of the same reasons he initially selected No. 25.
“I got 34 now and that's what I'm going to roll with it,” he said. “I'm glad to wear 34. Walter Payton, Bo Jackson, everybody, 34 is a good number.”
While Thompson felt “love and respect” for McCoy in surrendering No. 25, he's not intimidated playing alongside two of his childhood idols. Finding himself in the same backfield with McCoy and Williams simply adds to his drive and determination.
“They knew I'm coming for their spot as well,” Thompson said. “I'm working every day. It's great to learn from them, but at the end of the day they know we all got to eat in some shape or form. So I learn and I take what I can, but I'm definitely coming for whatever spot is available. “