st. Joseph, Mo.
Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Willie Gay, following a practice when picked off Patrick Mahomes, wasn’t shy about sharing one of his aspirations ahead of this season.
“I’ve got goals to lead linebackers in the NFL in interceptions this year,” Gay told reporters on Wednesday. “So when Pat throws me some, I know other quarterbacks will, because they’re not as good as him.”
Wednesday might’ve been a bit of payback. During a mandatory minicamp practice in June, Mahomes got the best of Gay, peering one way before firing a no-look pass to Josh Gordon for a completion. Gay was stunned, jumping up and down a few times before putting his hands on his head.
When he won Wednesday’s battle against Mahomes, Gay said he didn’t dare engage in any trash-talk with the superstar QB.
“I ain’t that cocky,” Gay said with a smile.
His 2022 objective certainly has a chance to be attainable.
Indianapolis’ Shaquille Leonard and Cincinnati’s Logan Wilson led all linebackers last season with four interceptions each. Gay had two, and that was with possibilities to bring down more.
“Coming out of college, I was a guy I feel like was drafted because of my coverage ability,” Gay said. “And man, I feel like I dropped four of them last year: Cowboys, Broncos, a couple other teams I can say. I feel like if I make those opportunities and make the play, that’s like five, six interceptions last year. So this year, I really can take it to the next level, I feel. I know that for a fact.”
The 24-year-old Gay — this will be his third season with the Chiefs after being selected in the second round of the 2020 draft — is part of one of the most promising young linebacking groups in the NFL. Next to him will be second-year player Nick Bolton, who ranked top 30 last season in both tackles and tackles-for-loss.
Bolton also will have more responsibility this season, as he’s the team’s new “green dot” defensive player, meaning he will communicate play calls from the coaches to the players on-field.
“He runs the show, man,” Gay said of Bolton. “Since he got here last year in my second year, we both were learning. He’s taken off ever since and hasn’t looked back. We’re both just trying to take things to the next level.”
Gay has also brought some life to training camp drills, as fans can often hear his energetic screams echoing across both practice fields.
“I’ve been like that since I started playing football. Once again, they call me the juice man for a reason,” Gay said of his enthusiasm. “That’s what I try to do every day, bring the energy, bring the juice. It’s nothing that I do because people look at me. It’s just I have fun doing it and just being out there, so it’s just part of who I am.”
Moving forward, Gay hopes his identity will be someone who can reliably create turnovers.
The first step toward achieving that was to make clear Wednesday he expects to be the league’s best linebacker with interceptions.
“I know,” Gay said, “I can do it.”