Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel led his team to an AFC West title last season. Not bad for a guy that never started a game in college. When K-Swiss had their four-day shoot to restart their awesome Kenny Powers “MFCEO” campaign, With Leather’s Josh Zerkle was invited to check it out and spend time with the athletes supporting the California-based shoe brand. Cassel was reached via phone on his way home from relief work in Joplin and asked about his experiences with the K-Swiss campaign. Portions of this Q&A were edited for clarity and space.
How did you fare on camera for the commercial shoot in Wilmington, NC?
To be completely honest, I have no idea how I fared on camera, because most of the first day I was there, Patrick [Willis] was there and he had his shirt off the entire time, and I just…I don’t think he had a shirt on the entire day. Let’s just put it that way.
I told them, “Look, I’m wearing a shirt, okay?” I, for some reason, was not genetically blessed with the six-pack and that whole deal. So as you watch the video, I think you’re going to recognize, one, that I was overshadowed from the body standpoint, but that’s okay. I told them, “Maybe you could play around with the special effects, hook me up, ya know?”
But seriously, it was a blast. We had a lot of fun. K-Swiss is a great company, and to go to Wilmington and do a photo shoot and commercial shoot with Danny McBride or Kenny Powers was totally cool because I’m a Kenny Powers fan.
Oh yeah. Patrick told me that K-Swiss doesn’t make a cleat, so you have to wear a shoe from another company when you play. You should get on them about that.
I think they should do it. I’m ready to rock and roll. Just put some cleats on the bottom of the shoes they already have and “Let’s go.” But off the field, I’m always wearing their products, and it’s great stuff.
I know you’re doing some relief work in Joplin where that tornado came down. How did you get involved in that?
You know, it’s crazy. [Chiefs guard] Ryan Lilja said, “Hey, let’s head down to Joplin,” and I said, “Great idea.” So we went down there with a group, and thankfully Ryan hooked up with a church group that had been down here since the beginning. But the thing that shocked me the first time I came down here, I was driving over Main Street and I could get a subtle hint of what was going on. I’d see a window smashed out or something like that, and then I’d get to the top of Main Street and…I’d say you could look down and see a two-to-three mile radius. Just complete destruction.
The thing I would compare it to is a nuclear bomb going off. I mean, there was nothing. There’s a wall standing up, but there’d be huge trees that were just uprooted, splintered down the middle, and those were everywhere. And I’ll never forget getting out of the car and smelling that gasoline smell, ya know? It’s just…it’s pretty crazy.
Now, you’ve only been in Kansas City for a couple years, but obviously you play for the Chiefs. You’re only three hours away. Did people recognize you? Were you stopped a lot down there?
Well, the first year I was here, it was such an adjustment period for me. I was moving my family for the first time in four years. I was coming to a new franchise that did things a little differently than the Patriots did. I didn’t do a lot of stuff out in the community because I was just trying to get my bearings about me. It was hard to reach out when I didn’t even know which freeway I was supposed to be driving on.
But last offseason and this offseason have been nice because I’ve been able to give back to the community, do more outreach and really get involved, so they recongize me a little bit more than when I first got here.
I know you’re friends with Carson Palmer. I read that he was the best man at your wedding. Can I ask you if–
You know what? I wanna correct you. Carson wasn’t the best man at my wedding.
No. Everybody thinks that. He was at my wedding, but he wasn’t my best man.
Thank you for correcting me. But Carson says he’s done in Cincinnati. I believe him. Do you?
I don’t know that. In talking to Carson, I think he does want to continue his career. It’s a complicated situation, and it takes a lot more information that I’m not privy to…to know that. But I support him in whatever he wants to do, and I hope it works out for him and his family.
Alright, let’s bring this back to you. Obviously, the most amazing thing about your story was that you never started a game in college and yet you were still drafted in 2005. And then after being stuck behind Matt Leinart, you were stuck behind Tom Brady. Were you itching to finally get out there and play? Or were you just happy to be there?
You know, to be completely honest, I wasn’t sure which direction my career was gonna go after college. I knew if you were playing the odds, you’d probably bet against me. I really don’t think that’s been done in the history of the NFL, though I don’t know for sure. I threw 32 passes in all of college.
Yep. Not much of a sample size.
When I first got to the Patriots, I was fifth on the depth chart. First day of mini-camp, I walked in and [Patriots coach] Bill [Belichick] made sure you knew where you were, but at the same time he said, “You make your own destiny, and if you perform better than this guy, you’re gonna play.”
But my main focus that first year was making the team, and when I did, obviously I was just excited to be on the team, and from there, my focus went toward trying to become a better quarterback. So I emulated Tom and asked a lot of questions. I was almost annoying with the number of questions that I asked, but that couldn’t have been a better situation for me, because in any other organization, I don’t know if those people would have given their time or patience to develop me.
They let me play a ton in preseason. I played three quarters against Miami at the end of my rookie season, which was the most extended playing time I’d had in my entire career since high school. It just gave me confidence to know that they believed in me, especially since the following year they only carried two quarterbacks.
From there, it just came down to an opportunity. I had learned and I had prepared to the best of my ability and I was ready to play whenever an opportunity finally came up.