KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Chiefs rookie guard Zach Fulton has an opportunity to accomplish something that hasn’t been done in quite some time.
When Fulton takes the field Sunday with the starting offense, as expected, against the Tennessee Titans, he’ll become the first Chiefs sixth- or seventh-round pick to start the season opener in 30 years.
The last Chiefs sixth-round pick to start Week 1 was cornerback Steve Taylor in 1976. The last seventh-round pick to start Week 1 was Chiefs Hall of Fame cornerback Kevin Ross in 1984.
“I didn’t know that,” Fulton said Friday with genuine surprise. “I’m just trying to do my job.”
Kansas City selected the 6-5, 316-pound Fulton out of Tennessee as one of two sixth-round picks (193rd overall) during May’s NFL Draft.
He initially battled Rishaw Johnson for the vacant right guard position and emerged during June’s minicamp. Fulton used the momentum to put a strangle hold on the position during training camp and started the first three preseason games.
The Chiefs felt strongly enough of Fulton to eventually trade Johnson to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in exchange for free safety Kelcie McCray on Aug. 21.
“Zach is a big kid,” coach Andy Reid said Friday. “Smart, tough, has a good feel for the game.”
Meanwhile, there could be rookie jitters Sunday.
But Fulton said he’ll be able to focus on playing well with technique and communicate with teammates along the offensive line.
He is also in a convenient spot to accomplish the latter.
The rookie will be sandwiched between a pair of veterans in Jeff Allen and center Rodney Hudson. Allen fills in at right tackle while Donald Stephenson serves a four-game suspension for violating the league’s policy on performance enhancing substances.
“It’s nice to have those two next to me communicating,” Fulton said. “It will be fun.”
Allen appeared confident in his rookie teammate. The third-year pro said he’s offered mentorship and advice to Fulton as game day approaches.
“I’m just trying to keep him calm,” Allen said. “That’s the biggest thing, just be yourself. It’s definitely not preseason anymore, but at the end of the day you have a little bit of tell-tale what the NFL is like. Just go out there and believe in your abilities and try to keep him confident.”
Fulton looks forward to lining up Sunday with the first-team offense as the first Chiefs sixth- or seventh-round pick in decades.
The 22-year-old native of Homewood, Ill., appreciates the significance.
But he also knows there are more important things to take care of when he looks across the line of scrimmage at Titans defenders.
“It’s nice,” Fulton said, “but you still got to get the job done.”