‘He’s balling’: How KC Chiefs’ 7th-round RB Isiah Pacheco impressed teammates in debut

·4 min read
David Banks/AP

Receiver Skyy Moore smiled wide in the Kansas City Chiefs’ locker room, ready to talk about fellow rookie Isiah Pacheco.

“He’s balling. I feel that he might be the steal of the century,” Moore said following the Chiefs’ 19-14 preseason loss to the Chicago Bears on Saturday at Solider Field. “He runs that ball so hard and does his thing.”

A good general rule is to never overreact to preseason games, especially when sample sizes can be limited.

Pacheco’s case, however, seems a bit different because of both when he played and how he did during his first NFL game.

Each is notable. Pacheco came in Saturday during the Chiefs’ eighth play on their first possession with the rest of the first-teamers. He also didn’t return on offense after the second possession, with the team likely putting an emphasis on keeping him healthy.

While he was in, he looked like he belonged. That included a sideline catch on the Chiefs’ first drive, when he bounced off Bears cornerback Lamar Johnson, regained his balance, then picked up three extra yards.

“It felt great to be out there, back on the field after a long time ... (college) all-star games, all that,” Pacheco said. “But at the end of the day, everything paid off, and I’m just excited to be here.”

In just a few months, he’s had quite a monumental rise.

In April, the Chiefs drafted him in the seventh round out of Rutgers. He also entered a crowded backfield with veterans Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Ronald Jones and Jerick McKinnon.

He’s made a name for himself regardless, earning kickoff return duties while also entering as the team’s backup running back during the Chiefs’ opening exhibition game Saturday.

“I thought he ran hard and played fast. He didn’t look like he shied down from anything, pretty accurate (in execution) with the things that he did,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. “I thought he did a nice job. He’s one of the young guys that I was happy had a chance to play.”

Pacheco also seems to be gaining respect in the locker room — like some other rookies — for his work ethic. When he makes a mistake, he asks for help. He also seeks out answers from guys who might know better than he does.

“He’s putting in the time to put a good product on the field, and as evidenced today, he’s having a really good camp. It’s nice to see it translate against another opponent and real NFL speed,” Chiefs fullback Michael Burton said. “So couldn’t have been happier and proud of him for how he performed today.”

Pacheco had two carries for six yards along with a five-yard catch in his limited action. TV cameras also showed Pacheco zoned in before his kickoff return to start the second half, which he caught about seven yards deep in the end zone and took back to the 27.

“I didn’t think it was going to be that deep, but he kicked it pretty deep,” Pacheco said with a smile. “I was excited when I really caught it. I’m like, ‘Now it’s time to roll.’”

Pacheco’s performance — and utilization at running back — is sure to capture the attention of both Chiefs fans and fantasy football owners. For his part, Pacheco says his main focus is just to listen to coaches while working to improve in specific areas, like becoming more patient with his run-reads.

“Hard work is always going to pay off,” Pacheco said. “For me to just keep having the same mindset to go out there and play hard on all downs, just being willing to play special teams and go out there and make plays on special teams, protect punts, whatever it is. I’m ready to do it.”

Early glimpses of Pacheco, though, indicate he might be able to help the Chiefs’ backfield immediately — an idea that might’ve seemed far-fetched when he was selected as the 251st pick in April’s draft.

And first-team reps Saturday only reinforced how the team feels about him now.

“That’s just a tribute to how hard he works in practice,” Moore said, “and what he’s put into this.”