July 23, 2019
Kansas City Chiefs Training Camp
DEFINITION: Involving the use of physical skills or capabilities, as strength, agility, or stamina:
St. Joseph is about to “see red” for three action-packed weeks, and the fans and community couldn’t be happier. Or louder. Or more pumped. Especially St. Joseph’s super fans (keep reading to see who won our contest).
From the last few days of July through the first two weeks of August, St. Joseph will host its 10th Kansas City Chiefs Training Camp at the campus of Missouri Western State University. A detailed list of autograph sessions, family fun events and more makes this is an experience for everyone in the region to celebrate having an NFL team that’s loaded with talent – and anchored just 45 minutes away in nearby Kansas City.
For these three weeks, the Chiefs are all about St. Joseph – and St. Joseph is all about the Chiefs. Since building the professional-quality facility in 2009, complete with a state-of-the-art indoor training facility and outdoor Mosaic Training Fields, Chiefs Training Camp has been a celebration and a highlight of summer for both Kansas City and St. Joseph.
During this pre-season time, the players will practice hard. They’ll workout in the top-notch weight room that accompanies the multi-million dollar facility. Players will battle for positions in the upcoming NFL season. And they’ll shake hundreds of hands, of course, with young children who visit camp and greet some of their most “seasoned” fans.
Dozens of personal conversations between fans and players will take place, because the Kansas City Chiefs are “uncommon” in this way. They’re said by fans to be very approachable, friendly and down-to-earth. And they appreciate all the fans, even those they only see at Training Camp. Some members of the coaching staff … ah hem, including the head coach … have been known to visit St. Joseph restaurants and brag on the food enthusiastically. It’s definitely a community thing, and not just a Chiefs thing.
If this sounds like one big family reunion, you would be correct. Fans say the atmosphere is casual and similar to a giant party. People greet each other and share high fives on every impressive throw or each 50-yard field goal made. There’s laughing, hugging, smiling and a lot of noise, especially when the first team offense is going against the first team defense. Kansas City is known across the NFL for having the most passionate, and loudest, fan base. Chiefs Training Camp doesn’t disappoint in this way – and the roar at times reminds many fans of a Sunday afternoon at Arrowhead.
Meet Susie and Dave Dudley, St. Joseph Super Fans:
For Susie Dudley, a local “super fan,” Kansas City Chiefs Training Camp is pretty fantastic, and exciting, and delightfully loud – and serves as a great first course to the upcoming season of games she will attend with her husband, Dave. The Chiefs are part of the fabric of Dudley’s marriage, and her life, in a very big way.
“It’s not just an interest, it’s a passion,” says Dudley. “I’m a really, really big fan. We’ve been to London to see the Chiefs play at Wembly. We have dozens and dozens of memorabilia items at our home, and I probably have 50 or more items just in my living room. At one point, I gave all my coworkers a shirt to wear for Chiefs days at my former employer. I think part of it may be because the Chiefs are so friendly and approachable, even Clark Hunt. They’ll stop and talk if you see them at Training Camp, and they care about the fans.”
She explains that as a newlywed, nearly 50 years ago, she and her husband had one television. He wanted to watch Monday Night Football each week, but she wasn’t completely interested. To make it more interesting, they began placing bets on household chores related to game outcomes. Susie’s husband kept winning those bets, week after week, until one of the couple’s good friends, Nick Edwards, explained the “secret” to Susie. At that time, football fans could sometimes listen to the game on the radio on a Saturday or a Sunday, and so by Monday, a fan could already know the details. Nick relayed information so that Susie would win the household chore bets each week, turning the tables and igniting a lifelong enjoyment of football.
“It really is a funny story, because my husband was so surprised when I started guessing the score correctly,” says Dudley. “We still laugh about it today.”
And they’ve had many, many games to reflect on how they got their start in football. The Dudleys have been attending games since 1968, and have been season ticket holders for the past 40 years.
“We’ve only missed three games in the past 40 years,” says Dudley. “That’s bitter cold, and rain, and everything you can think of. We really enjoy the time with other friends and couples, even if that means by now, we’re one of the oldest tailgating couples in our group.”
Dudley explains that they were attending games with friends, including those from MWSU, when the Chiefs were really struggling and “you could watch a game on the 50-yard line for next to nothing.” She remembers all the names, like Len Dawson, Emmitt Thomas, Derek Thomas, Bobby Bell, Tony Gonzales, Hank Stram, and so many more.
“It was a smaller scale when we started going. And now the Chiefs experience is just huge,” says Dudley. “The first time we had camp, Eric Berry was a rookie and we used to be on the actual football field, just standing in groups getting autographs. With the new facility, it’s come so far since then. You just have to be there to experience it, either for camp or a game day.”
As long-time season ticket holders, the Chiefs organization sent the Dudleys a letter for their 50th wedding anniversary. At their daughter’s wedding, the Dudleys had several televisions positioned so they wouldn’t miss a play (ironically, their daughter, Lisa, is a former professional cheerleader for the St. Louis Rams). “Our daughter’s husband and his groomsmen were all from St. Louis and big Rams fans, but in honor of me, they all came out wearing KC Chiefs caps. The Chiefs happened to be playing the Rams that day and the Chiefs won!” says Dudley. “Once, we were attending a Chiefs versus Rams game and sitting in an all blue section reserved for family members of the Rams Cheerleaders at Rams home games. I was the only one wearing red, which my daughter enjoyed pointing out then, and still laughs about today.”
Dudley says hosting the Kansas City Chiefs Training Camp has been a big boom for St. Joseph for many reasons. “A lot of people visit the camp from out of town. Some because they love the Chiefs, and others because it’s the closest NFL experience or team to where they live. We have gotten to know new people at camp that we talk to year after year. Not just here or Kansas City, but as far away as Florida. We know they’re visiting local things like museums and restaurants while they’re here.”
She also praises the facility and the way St. Joseph accommodates the team. “At MWSU and across town, we pull out all the stops. The facility here is very similar to what you would see at Arrowhead Stadium on a tour. We should be very proud of it,” says Dudley. “Chiefs Training Camp in St. Joseph is something we look forward to doing with our grandkids and our great grandkids, and we hope to for years to come.”
Meet Chet Lake, St. Joseph Super Fan:
When it comes to the Chiefs, Chet Lake isn’t messing around – in fact, he gets downright nostalgic and a little emotional about his favorite team. And he should, because he has an “uncommon” connection of his own. “My story begins in 1993. As a nine-year-old kid, I had watched many games on tv. I had played the game in youth leagues. But nothing could have prepared me for my first-attended Chiefs game. I was so excited to see some of my favorite players. My father had attempted to teach me some of the traditions that Arrowhead provides on a weekly basis. From the introduction to the National Anthem, I was hooked,” says Lake.
What Lake calls an “obsession” means he attended around half of the Chiefs games at Arrowhead from the ages of nine to 17. “I have so many fond memories of those years and still have pictures of me as a young kid with Derrick Thomas, Marcus Allen, Neil Smith and so many others. I often tell my friends that as fans of the Chiefs and being as young as we were, there was no way we fully understood or appreciated what it meant to have Joe Montana running our offense. We have been spoiled as fans of the Chiefs.”
Lake, like many local youth, grew up romanticizing thoughts of playing in the NFL one day. “From age 10 onward, I began playing only two positions: kicker and punter. By age 13, my family and I went to River Falls, Wisconsin, to attend training camp activities. It was a thrill to compete in punt, pass and kick competitions, and for one kick, I was awarded an opportunity to return to compete against the other national contenders.”
The young and enthusiastic training camp attendee may not have known it then, but his career as a high school place kicker was already taking shape – and it would bring a special connection to the Chiefs.
A few days after high school graduation, Lake was contacted by a team that would be moving their indoor football league team to St Joseph. He was given a tryout and signed to a contract just days later.
“My career in the Arena Football League and Indoor Football League lasted more than 10 years in total, and several former NFL kickers took time to offer advice and teach me proper technique. This is kickers and punters like Pete Stoyanovich (MIA, KC), Darren Bennett (SD), David Parnell (CAR, GB) and so many others,” says Lake. “While I never got the opportunity to play in the NFL, my years playing this sport – representing the Chiefs in the Punt, Pass and Kick competition and being able to represent my hometown as a kicker for the Arena teams here in St. Joseph – were a true honor. I feel lucky to have had the experience around the Chiefs, as well as the experience of being able to play the game for all those years.”
Today, Lake passes the knowledge forward by helping develop future kickers in St. Joseph, in hopes they can have similar experiences and a lifelong love of the game.
You could call these super fans (and others in St. Joseph) passionate, obsessed or completely immersed in the Chiefs. But when you stand alongside them at Kansas City Chiefs Training Camp in St. Joseph, yelling at top volume and sharing high-fives, you’re one of them – if even for a moment. And we can all share an “uncommon” love for our local NFL team and the inspiration they bring each year for three awesome weeks.
As an art professor with nearly 30 years of experience, he is more often the student himself as he observes everyday moments and encourages students to express themselves through these artistic mediums.
It’s not paintball. It’s not even a water balloon fight. It’s foam warfare, and there’s a good chance you’ll want to join the fun.
St. Joseph is a city of stories. Like historic towns across the country, there are blocks of amazing homes, business buildings and neighborhoods. Founded in 1843, St. Joseph’s location along the Missouri River and national mid-point created an economic and residential boom fueled by Westward expansion, transportation and communication industries.
Starting in the 1910s organizations, communities, and even private individuals began developing the first paved highways to connect metropolitan areas which would collectively become known as the National Auto Trail system.
Times change, but the best stories remain. They are shared from generation to generation, through everything from photographs to buildings to real conversations (a.k.a, the good stuff).