ST. JOSEPH, Mo. — Growing up in central Michigan, Chiefs offensive lineman Andrew Wylie can handle a little Midwestern heat, but it takes time adjusting to the humidity engulfing St. Joseph for training camp.
“Still getting used to the humidity every day but I'm having fun,” Wylie said. “Michigan's still hot, just a little bit of change.”
Wylie's had several adjustments to make during training aside from the weather, and so far handled each one seemingly flawlessly. No one's stock rose more during the team's 15 days of work in St. Joseph than Wylie, who entered camp as a project on the offensive line and leaves running with the first-team offense filling in for injured right guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif.
“I thought he did a good job,” offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy said of Wylie. “He's a dirty, tough kid. We just want to see the next man perform and play at a high level.”
Wylie's road to the NFL started at a young age, even if he didn't know it at the time. He grew up on the family farm in Midland, Mich., and credits his parents Scott and Deb for his physical gifts.
“I've been blessed,” Wylie said. “It's all genes. My parents are great people and I can't put anything on me, it's all them.”
Wylie started working on the farm at young age, planting trees when he was just 6 years old.
“We have a cash-crop farm so we grow corn, sugar beets, soybeans, and then we also have a Christmas tree farm that we handle in the winter,” Wylie said.
While other kids his age were hanging out after school or on the weekends, Wylie's dad made sure he stayed home to work.
“Chopping wood was his thing,” Wylie said. “It did prepare me a lot. A lot with work ethic too. I had a lot of fun but it was a lot of seriousness too.”
Once the idea of playing college football and winning a college scholarship entered his mind, Wylie applied the lessons learned on the farm.
“I've been in the weight room ever since sixth or seven grade developing my body, trying to stay agile and not stiff,” Wylie said. “I like to think it showed a little bit (on my pro day).”
Wylie didn't receive an invite to the NFL Combine, and at his pro day in 2017 he proved that slight as a major oversight. The 6-foot-6, 309-pound lineman posted a 34-inch vertical jump two inches better than any lineman at that year's combine. His broad jump, 20-yard shuttle and three-cone time would have all ranked among the top two performers in each category.
He credits his strength and condition coach at Eastern Michigan, Rod McKeefery, and Jim Kielbaso, the director of Total Performance Training Center in Wixom, Mich., for preparing him for his pro day.
“I had a really fun time at pro day,” Wylie said.
Despite the freakish numbers he put up for NFL scouts, Wylie didn't hear his name called on draft day. He signed as a free agent with Indianapolis and played in the preseason with the Colts. He spent time on the practice squads for the Colts, Browns and Chargers before landing in Kansas City in December.
Now in his second season in the NFL, Wylie feels a comfort level setting in as he discovers newfound skills.
“Personally I feel like I know a lot more about the game,” Wylie said. “My technique is still developing. I played under a few O-line coaches. Coach (Andy) Heck is really helping me develop into a pretty good offensive lineman at both tackle and guard.”
Wylie played primarily tackle at Eastern Michigan, but occasionally filled it at guard. When the Colts asked him to play guard last season, he took to the position change quickly.
“It's nothing new to me,” Wylie said. “I like to pride myself for being able to play those positions so I'm having a lot of fun at it.”
The Chiefs want their backup lineman to display flexibility, and that's exactly what Wylie delivered during camp. He's played right guard as well as left and right tackle on the first-team offensive line when injuries knocked starters from practice.
“You hate to see guys go down, everyone does,” Wylie said. “But it's something I try to stay prepared for. Every day in practice I try to prepare myself for these situations if they do come about and I prepare for both guard and tackle reps so when they call upon me for reps with the ones I try to be ready.”
The Chiefs remain on the search for a swing tackle. The team envisions Cameron Erving as their primary backup to both Eric Fisher and Mitchell Schwartz. But with Erving appearing on his way to winning the starting left guard role, it makes finding a swing tackle more critical. Third-year lineman Parker Ehinger moved to right tackle earlier in camp as part of the search, and Wylie's ability to play inside adds to his versatility.
“Sometimes it's a lot to handle playing both sides of the ball and both guard and tackle,” Wylie said. “But I'm getting to the point where the game's starting to slow down for me now, so I'm able to handle and I like to think I'm doing pretty well at it.”
Wylie also feels at comfortable in Kansas City finding the setting similar to his upbringing in central Michigan. Now he hopes to make it his home for a while.
“This team and this O-line specifically have made me feel at home, a really tight group of guys,” Wylie said.