A Night, and a Quarterback, to Remember

This will all sound completely sappy. You might call it overblown, unrealistic and a rush to judgment. By the end of this column, some of you may regard me a complete homer with no grounded view of Brodie Croyle.

But man, viewing Brodie Croyle was truly enjoyable Saturday night in River Falls, Wisconsin. I can't remember the last time I've had more fun watching someone play quarterback for the Kansas City Chiefs.

Put it this way – Croyle attempted 12 passes Saturday during KC's Family Fun Night extravaganza. Eleven of those passes hit a receiver in the hands.

•••

It started simply enough, a casual bootleg play culminating in a dart into the hands of wide receiver Devard Darling. Then Croyle fired an absolute rocket over the middle of the field to his favorite target, Dwayne Bowe, and right then is where the magic started.

On his next pass, the kid from Alabama stood tall in the face of pressure and thumped a short throw over the middle to his tight end, Tony Gonzalez. It was only good for about five yards, but the pass was so on target, thrown in just the right place, no one but Gonzalez was coming up with it. No linebacker in Wisconsin had a prayer of touching the ball as it zipped from quarterback to receiver.

The next throw was innocent, a mere dumpoff in the left flat to fullback Mike Cox. But here's what's important – Brodie Croyle had time. There were receivers down the field, perhaps an opportunity to squeeze the ball into a tight hole. But the man in the yellow jersey simply flicked the ball shortly, accurately, and as a head coach once said, matriculated the ball down the field.

Then another rocket sizzled into the Wisconsin sky – an 18-yard pass to Bowe that couldn't have been thrown more perfectly. Next, a seemingly nondescript five-yard completion to Maurice Price, but here's the kicker – the scrawny guy wearing #12 threw the ball into near-perfect coverage, but placed it, again, where only his receiver could catch it.

After another garden-variety dumpoff to his tight end, the Brodie Croyle Express was derailed, if only for a brief moment. After all, it's just not smart quarterbacking to throw into the teeth of a Cover Two zone when the safety is flying over with a bead on your receiver.

But the Rainbow City boy wasn't down for long, coming right back with a quick sideline pass to Bowe (who was tackled only because an unidentified defensive back held on for dear life) before smoothly slipping a middle screen pass to running back Larry Johnson between thundering defensive linemen .

And then, well, what happened next can only be described as a receiver bailing out his quarterback. The third-round pick with two surgically-repaired knees was off balance and in no position to throw an accurate pass. Regardless, he loaded another shot and blasted it 30 yards down the left sideline, underthrowing Dwayne Bowe, who simply contorted his body in the most unnatural way possible to pluck the ball out of the air before tapping both feet down.

•••

That was 10 completions for Brodie Croyle. The 11th, right as the sun set, was perhaps the most impressive of all, however.

It was no 30-yard rocket, nor a graceful, arcing bomb. It wasn't even a first down, just another short pass in the flat to a dumpy little fullback.

But what was remarkable about the last throw of the night attempted by the unquestioned starting quarterback of the Kansas City Chiefs, was the soft, pillowy trajectory it traced through the fading light. Over offensive linemen, beyond the outstretched hands of a defensive end, well in front of closing defensive backs and right into the hands of Mike Cox.

It was a throw a year ago that Brodie Croyle might not have completed, a throw that might have been fired impatiently at a low angle, a throw that might have ricocheted off a helmet and into the hands of a linebacker. But not tonight. On this cool, cloudy River Falls evening, in front of a few hundred Chiefs fans, no one was catching that ball except the intended receiver.

•••

When all the other big-name Chiefs had finished signing autographs, Brodie Croyle slowly walked off the practice field, his helmet in one hand, his head down. He was headed for the locker room. A voice rang out.

"Brodie!"

It was a Chiefs fan, clamoring for an autograph. Still, Croyle kept walking. But another call went up, and then two more, and then a third, a fourth, a dozen. The calls became a chant. Scores of Chiefs fans were standing behind a yellow rope, chanting Brodie Croyle's name as if he was the biggest rock star they had ever seen.

"BRODIE! BRODIE! BRODIE! BRODIE! BRODIE!"

Croyle turned, smiled, and headed back toward the fans. No one cared that he hadn't won an NFL game. No one remembered the horrible preseason that landed him on the bench or the ghastly interceptions he threw at the end of the season.

Nope, they just wanted the autograph of their starting quarterback, the one who had just completed darn near every pass he threw, the one actually drafted by their team for the first time in decades. These fans were so gaga for Brodie Croyle, for a brief second it appeared he could have run for President against Barack Obama and John McCain and won the state of Wisconsin.

As fireworks soared in the sky and he signed, yes, it was only one practice, but it sure felt like Chiefs fans were accepting Brodie Croyle as their own. Maybe that will all change in two weeks and boos will rain down at Arrowhead after interceptions, but for a few hours on August 2, 2008, at Ramer Field in River Falls, Wisconsin, it was just plain fun watching a Chiefs quarterback sling the ball around.