'Dream come true': Hometown star Felix Anudike-Uzomah felt destined to join Chiefs

Anudike-Uzomah played at Lee’s Summit, Kansas Staten before Kansas City selected him in 1st round
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Posted at 11:07 PM, Apr 27, 2023
and last updated 2023-04-28 12:10:58-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Before the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft, Kansas State defensive end Felix Anudike-Uzomah walked anonymously among the throngs of fans assembling outside Union Station for the festivities with his "best friend," former Wildcats running back Deuce Vaughn.

"Nobody knew who I was, but I went to see the big crowd," said Anudike-Uzomah, a KCMO native and Lee's Summit graduate. "I have a picture of it actually. ... I was just saying, 'What's up?' to everybody ... so I got to experience it."

Several hours later, and after the fire marshal said the north lawn at the World War I Museum and Memorial was at capacity, Anudike-Uzomah’s NFL dream came true roughly 20 miles from where he became a prep star.

Before a raucous, overflow crowd, the Kansas City Chiefs selected Anudike-Uzomah with the No. 31 overall pick — the last pick in the first round.

“I got drafted by my favorite teams growing up, so it was literally a dream come true,” Anudike-Uzomah said.

Anudike-Uzomah said he felt “destined to go to the Chiefs.”

“It was a wild experience — especially having the draft in KC, me coming out this year — this is all I dreamed of,” Anudike-Uzomah said. “I had a dream of this four times in my lifetime. It’s crazy how I’m living in the moment. Tomorrow I’m going to probably wake up and check my phone to make sure that I’m still on the Kansas City Chiefs. It’s honestly surreal.

“I’m glad to be a part of the Chiefs. I’m glad to be part of a winning culture, glad to be a part of Andy Reid and everything else. I thank Vech so much for even having me on the Kansas City Chiefs.”

It's maybe the most Kansas City story possible on the opening day of the draft.

"I think it's neat," Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. "The draft's right here in Kansas City. I know the people down at the draft were excited. We had it on TV, and they were fired up about it."

Chiefs General Manager Brett Veach had the honor of placing the call to let Anudike-Uzomah know Kansas City's plan.

“He was super excited. It’s one thing to get drafted into the NFL, but for a local kid to get that call on draft night when the draft’s here in Kansas City, it was a special night,” Veach said.

Anudike-Uzomah, who attended his first Chiefs game at age 7 and was a regular at training camp, joins a defensive-end rotation that already includes George Karlaftis, a first-round pick at the end of last year’s draft, giving the Chiefs a pair of young bookend edge rushers for the foreseeable future on rookie contracts with fifth-year options available.

Kansas City also signed a relatively young defensive end in former San Francisco edge rusher Charles Omenihu earlier in the offseason.

The Chiefs cut Frank Clark earlier in the offseason, so the reigning Super Bowl champions needed reinforcements on the edge. But Reid stopped short of saying Anudike-Uzomah would fill Clark's former LEO role.

“We’ll see where he’s most comfortable ... but I think we’ll have a nice rotation there,” Reid said.

Reid said defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo and defensive line coach Joe Cullen “loved” Anudike-Uzomah and it fills a need in the defensive-line room.

Anudike-Uzomah said he loves Kansas City’s attacking style on defense and feels like he’s a good fit with his high motor.

It was a long wait before NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announced the pick shortly before 11 p.m., but the wait was worth it for the tens of thousands of people packed into the north-lawn amphitheater at the World War I Museum and Memorial — especially K-State fans.

During the last two seasons, Anudike-Uzomah — who turned 21 in January, is a Kansas City, Missouri, native — has racked up 19 1/2 sacks with 25 1/2 tackles for loss for the Wildcats in 27 games. He’s also forced eight fumbles with 98 total tackles.

“We love his ability to rush the passer and play the run,” Reid said. “He does both very well.”

With Kentucky quarterback Will Levis still available, the Chiefs fielded plenty of calls from potential trade partners who wanted to get into the first round and have a fifth-year option on his rookie deal.

Levis had been projected as a possible top-five pick, but he wasn't picked in the first round.

"When you're that pick, you're going to have opportunities to trade out, and people were calling us," Reid said. "But we felt very comfortable taking him."

Instead, the Chiefs stood pat, allowing Chiefs Chairman and CEO Clark Hunt — flanked by a pair of recently won Lombardi Trophies — to announce the Anudike-Uzomah pick before a volley of red fireworks capped the first round.

“The calls that we had were (from teams with with picks in the) mid-40s,” Veach said.

That would have meant the Chiefs would be wheeling and dealing again to start Friday’s second and third rounds, but Anudike-Uzomah was the highest player on the board and Veach elected not to “get too cute.”

The chance to get a player with a high grade at a premium position rather than trying to trade back to get the same guy made sense.

As a junior last fall, Anudike-Uzomah earned Big 12 Defensive Player of Year honors and was a second-team All-American. He also was a finalist for the Ted Hendricks Award, which is given annually to college football’s top defensive end.

He ranks sixth in K-State history with 20 1/2 career sacks.