KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Chiefs Kingdom lost one of its most respected voices and most revered ambassadors six months ago with Terez Paylor’s sudden death.
It’s fitting then that Friday has been proclaimed Terez Paylor Day in Kansas City, Missouri, as the Chiefs play at home for the first time since he died on Feb. 9, 2021.
With the blessing of Paylor’s family, Mayor Quinton Lucas announced the proclamation “to honor the life, work, and service of Mr. Paylor.”
“I’m grateful to Mayor Lucas for honoring Terez’s work and contributions in the Kansas City area,” Paylor’s fiancée, Ebony Reed, said in a statement from the mayor’s office. “Terez so loved Kansas City, he said we’d never live in any other city. He had a passion for covering sports in Missouri and ultimately on the national stage. Terez was deeply concerned about community issues — gun violence, the racial wealth gap, and social justice. Today, we honor Terez as a community.”
Paylor also will be remembered by the Chiefs before their preseason game against the Minnesota Vikings, which kicks off at 7 p.m. at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium.
“I am honored to declare today Terez Paylor Day in Kansas City — and to celebrate Terez’s lasting impact on our community, alongside Chiefs Kingdom and all who knew and loved Terez and his work,” Lucas said in a statement.
Long before meeting him in person, Lucas, a noted die-hard Chiefs fan, first knew Paylor through his bucket-hatted training camp dispatches and signature laugh — a soulful, joyful bellow that thundered from the pit of his stomach — which could be heard on his Kansas City-based radio program and various podcasts.
Paylor was only 37 and had covered the NFL full-time for less than eight years, but he’d already left an indelible mark on the league through his writing, his popular Yahoo Sports podcast and his passionate voice on the Pro Football Hall of Fame Selection Committee.
His legacy in NFL circles is one of passion, humility, curiosity, kindness, authenticity, positivity and professionalism, according to the NFL insiders who shared their recollections of Paylor.
“I talked very freely with Terez, because my trust level was so high with him and I knew that his intentions were always in the right place,” said Indianapolis Colts General Manager Chris Ballard, who met Paylor while working in the Chiefs’ front office from 2013-16.
’He’s so sorely missed’
Chicago Bears coach Matt Nagy met Paylor as an assistant coach with the Chiefs. He appreciated his calm demeanor and genuine interest in understanding the nuances of the NFL, as well as the game of football.
“When you have good people who do good things, and that’s what he did, it was really easy to give him a lot of your time,” Nagy said. “When you’re working with a guy like him and you’re telling stories, you just feel good about it and you want to help him out, because he treats you well. That’s the common denominator that you hear from everybody in the sports world. You hear about how well he treated people in a tough business. That’s why he’s so sorely missed, because he really did it the right way.”
Nagy said a 20-minute conversation with Paylor about the dynamics of the relationship between Chiefs General Manager Brett Veach, coach Andy Reid and quarterback Patrick Mahomes in the stands at the Reese’s Senior Bowl a few years ago remains a cherished memory.
CEO of Steinberg Sports and Entertainment Chris Cabott, an NFL agent and lawyer who negotiated Mahomes’ record-setting 10-year contract extension, also relished lengthy conversations with Paylor.
“He was such a special man, such a special ray of light,” Cabott said. “Every time you saw him — big smile, super warm. ... He truly cared. Every story was a masterpiece for him. Every detail mattered. Every quote mattered.”
Louis Riddick, who announces Monday Night Football for ESPN and worked with Veach and Reid for five years in Philadelphia, described Paylor as “a pro’s pro” — a good person who did good work.
“You want to be around people like that," Riddick said. "You want to expose yourself to people like that. You want to befriend people like that. Clearly, I wasn’t the only one who felt that way (about Terez).”
Ballard said he felt the void left by Paylor’s death acutely ahead of the 2021 NFL Draft.
“There’s no doubt the draft was not easy,” Ballard said. “The draft, there was a lot of thought about him, because we would talk frequently during draft time.”
During Ballard’s second year with the Colts, he remade the offensive line through the draft, picking Quenton Nelson sixth overall and adding Olathe South graduate Braden Smith in the second round.
“He texted me and said, ‘You know, you took two of my All-Juice guys,’” Ballard said. “I said, ‘I know. I read it.’ That was a pretty cool moment. He just was a special, special guy in terms of his love for the game, his passion for the game, his curiosity to learn the game and his humble spirit, where he didn’t necessarily think he had all the answers and was just trying to learn and get better at his craft. I really appreciated that about him.”
Ballard said Paylor was steadfastly positive, calling it a refreshing quality in an era dominated by cynicism, and endlessly inquisitive, which made him “a great ambassador with his writing regarding the game.”
“I liked having those discussions, and it was never just a five-minute encounter with Terez,” Ballard said. “Five minutes would turn into an hour, but those things I miss.”
He wasn’t the only one who deeply appreciated Paylor’s contributions.
“I could tell that he wasn’t just trying to meet deadlines,” Riddick said. “He was trying to tell stories, and he was trying to educate people. We say in TV all the time it’s about informing, educating and entertaining the people who are watching. I think he did that with his writing. He tried to inform people. He tried to educate them to be smarter about the game, and he tried to add his own twist to it a little bit and entertain them as well.”
An important voice
Paylor’s energy and passion — for writing, for his craft and for football — also stood out to Bob Glauber, Newsday NFL columnist and fellow Pro Football Hall of Fame voter.
“He just got it — and he got it from the start, and he got it from a very young age,” said Glauber, who penned a column about Paylor’s influence in finally getting Terrell Owens enshrined in Canton. “He had the passion, the intellect and the wherewithal, as well as the motivation, to really be a star in the business.”
Owens had been passed over his first two seasons on the Hall of Fame ballot despite a slam-dunk case for inclusion based on his on-field production.
“I’ll never forget when Terez took the floor, talking about Terrell Owens,” Glauber said. “Here’s a very, very young guy. He’s in a room full of mostly older, white guys, who are the Hall of Fame voters, and he shared his recollections about growing up and watching Terrell Owens. He brought a perspective that wasn’t there in the room for other people.”
Glauber described the impact of Paylor’s words as “profound.”
“You saw people looking at him and listening to him and captivated by him, the way he is talking about Terrell Owens,” Glauber said. “That moment, I’ll never forget it. It turned the room right around and within a matter of minutes the discussion changed, it kind of softened and it was much more understanding of Terrell Owens as the player and the athlete. He got into the Hall of Fame that year, and I’m convinced because of Terez Paylor.”
When Glauber relayed that moment to Owens in the days after Paylor’s death, the former NFL star wept.
That voice, engendered by the universal respect and admiration Paylor had earned, will be missed, but his colleagues hope it serves as an inspiration moving forward.
“He’s a model for the next generation or two of young, Black sportswriters,” veteran NFL reporter Peter King, of NBC Sports, said. “We still do not have nearly as many Black and minority sportswriters in the press boxes of America... But he was determined to make that one of his life passions. He was doing it; he connected with so many minority journalists and reporters. The fact that his scholarship is going to be helping generations of young, Black journalists at Howard — it’s so perfect.”
Still, it’s a shame Paylor won’t get to keep building that legacy himself.
“I’m sure over time we would have continued to broaden that spectrum, and who knows what he would have wanted to work on that maybe I could’ve offered him some kind of assistance with,” Riddick said. “It’s just a damn shame in every way imaginable that I won’t ever get to do that and a lot of other people won’t either.”
Impact beyond football
A native of Detroit, Paylor started his career in journalism at The Kansas City Star in 2006 after graduating from Howard University. He worked his way up the ranks — serving as a beat writer for high school sports, Sporting Kansas City and the University of Missouri before taking over on the Chiefs beat early in the 2013 season.
Eventually, Paylor joined Yahoo Sports as a senior NFL writer in 2018.
While Paylor’s passion for football was evident, Lucas came to know him for his boundless compassion beyond sports, including a March 2020 story about how Kansas City was preparing for the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Terez wanted to be sure leaders in a city he loved were able to share a message with the public that could save lives,” Lucas said in a statement. “That’s the kind of person Terez was, and that’s why Kansas City loved him so dearly. While we recognize Terez today, we will remember him forever.”
Lucas eventually met Paylor and even met Reed on a flight from Washington D.C. to Kansas City shortly before the start of the pandemic.
“We had some wonderful conversations, importantly some conversations not just about football,” Lucas said. “They were about life and, in 2020, they were about protests and racial relations in Kansas City or Detroit, his native area, and so many other things. I think he was a true, unique talent and that’s why so many people remember him so well."
He hopes people will remember that part of Paylor’s legacy on Terez Paylor Day.
“I hope what this shows everybody is that you can achieve your dreams without stepping on anybody else along the way,” Lucas said. “Lord knows he had a young life, a short life, which was tragically cut short, but he was somebody who was able to achieve those dreams in a short amount of time by being a good person — because he was a good man and a good person and everybody wanted to see him succeed.”
Terez’s fellow sports journalists and athletes respected his work. Terez created the #AllJuiceTeam, but through his effort, attitude and performance in journalism, he exemplified what it meant to be a member. pic.twitter.com/B4tovjHTIb— Ebony Reed (@EbonyReed) August 27, 2021
Read the Terez Paylor Day proclamation in its entirety:
The Terez A. Paylor Scholarship was launched at Howard University in February 2021. The scholarship will be awarded to journalism students at the Paylor’s alma mater.
To donate, visit https://giving.howard.edu/givenow. Under “Tribute,” please note that your gift is made in memory of Terez A. Paylor. Under “Designation,” click on “Other” and write in “Terez A. Paylor Scholarship.
Breaking T is also selling All-Juice Team shirts and hoodies in Paylor’s honor with proceeds benefiting the scholarship fund.