Share “Former Sooner tackle Donald Stephenson is...”

Former Sooner tackle Donald Stephenson is injury insurance for Kansas City Chiefs

Stephenson: “I know my role on this team. I work hard at what I do. When I'm in there I have to play like a starter and prove I'm worthy of being a starter in this league.”
BY MIKE BALDWIN, Staff Writer, Published: September 19, 2013

Earning $9.8 million this season, Albert, the No. 15 overall pick in 2008, will be an unrestricted free agent after the season. Stephenson costs only $664,000 this season, $755,000 in 2014.

Having signed Fisher to a five-year, fully guaranteed contract worth $22.2 million, the Chiefs might not want to invest major money in both starting tackles. Another possibility is KC could let Albert walk and draft an offensive tackle the first three rounds to compete with Stephenson.

“Nothing is ever certain in this league,” Stephenson said. “I have to prove every day I'm worthy. Right now I have to do that in practice and the chances I get into games.”

Choosing the Sooners over Michigan, Missouri and Nebraska, Stephenson was a two-year starter at OU at left tackle protecting quarterback Landry Jones' blindside.

Stephenson, 6-foot-5, 312 pounds, has quickness, broad shoulders and long arms to keep rushers off his body. The one area that needs work is better footwork to handle speed rushers like Ware.

The Blue Springs, Mo., product is thrilled just to have the opportunity. Having played high school football 12 miles from Arrowhead Stadium, Stephenson is living the ultimate dream. He grew up idolizing KC offensive linemen Will Shields, Willie Roaf, Brian Waters and John Tait.

“This is so awesome,” Stephenson said. “But last year wasn't fun. It was a tough year for us. But this year I'm seeing how much of a good thing this could be, how excited my mom, friends, everyone in Kansas City, would be if we made the playoffs.”

The playoffs aren't an unrealistic goal despite a 2-14 finish last season. Playing a soft schedule is a huge advantage in the AFC, which doesn't have nearly as many playoff contenders as the NFC.

“Last year was kind of depressing. But this year could really be special,” Stephenson said. “We're all excited about what could happen.”

And Reid's impact?

“It was huge,” Stephenson said. “As soon as they told us Andy Reid was coming here a lot of players' confidence went up immediately. Everyone knew the potential this team had. We just needed somebody to help us put it all together.”

Stephenson is in the second year of a four-year deal that runs through 2015. Next season he could be a starter. At worst, Stephenson is a salary-cap friendly “swing” tackle on the team he rooted for as a kid.

“All I can do is keep working hard,” Stephenson said. “Whatever decisions they make in the future it will be what's best for this team. I've just got to be ready when they put me in. When I get my chance I have to do what I'm supposed to do.”