Having been raised right here in Overland Park, former Blue Valley Northwest (and Kansas State) receiver Dalton Schoen knows the Kansas City Chiefs franchise as well as anybody. Born in 1996, he endured the eras of Dick Vermeil, Herm Edwards and Todd Haley during his early childhood — and eventually as a teenager.
“I remember growing up and the Chiefs weren’t so good,” said Schoen in a virtual press conference at the conclusion of rookie minicamp. The Chiefs signed him to a reserve/futures deal back in mid-February. “That’s what kind of makes it so cool to be here now. I grew up and there were some trying years, and then I remember when they hired coach Reid and turned things around those first years with Alex Smith — that huge comeback win they had that one year, and then when they got Tyreek (Hill) and (Travis) Kelce and all these guys.
“I remember seeing a preseason game when Kelce I think was a brand new tight end. He caught like a 60-yard touchdown, and I was like that guy’s going to be somebody, and here we are years later, and it’s just really cool that now I’m here in this building.”
Kelce likely presents as inspiration for Schoen, considering the tight end has grown from third-round pick to NFL superstar over the past seven-plus seasons. But it’s not as if Schoen necessarily needs it.
Schoen — to his own credit — earned first-team all-state honors with 42 receptions for 880 yards and eight touchdowns at Blue Valley Northwest in 2014 before walking on at Kansas State. He simply took each step in stride and eventually became a reliable receiver for the Wildcats.
“Going to K-State was a dream come true for me,” he said. “My first goal going there though was to get on the field. I was fighting for a job on special teams and stuff like that. Going into my sophomore year, I was just trying to earn a spot all of those and then all of a sudden, I kind of got in the mix there at receiver and ended up starting as a sophomore. So then all of a sudden your goals get a little bit higher. Going through my whole career there though, I was focusing on being the best I could be there. Kind of got to my end senior year point and gave it my all preparing for pro day and now to be here is just a true dream.”
Schoen had 470 yards his sophomore year, 520 yards his junior year and 579 yards his senior year, totaling nine receiving touchdowns over the three college seasons. Walking on and becoming a role player in his college offense was a challenge he conquered, one that helps him as he tries to make it at the pro level.
“It’s the exact same mindset,” he said. “Going there as a walk-on and being here as an undrafted free agent, you know you’re instantly kind of thrown to the bottom of the totem pole. You just got to have that mindset that you’re a street dog, you’re going to show up, you’re going to fight every day, you’re going to do most things that other guys don’t want to do or won’t do and you just got to keep fighting until you get the opportunity to prove yourself.”
The Los Angeles Chargers were the first to give Schoen an opportunity in 2020, but he did not make the team out of training camp. The pandemic greatly hurt the chances for undrafted free agents, in particular, as no preseason games meant no game film to serve as a league-wide proving ground. Teams also held fewer workouts throughout the year because of the special protocols.
Schoen said he had no regrets, feeling like he showed all he could given the circumstances. And now he is not only with a very familiar team but also with a very familiar teammate — former Kansas State receiver Byron Pringle.
“Me and B were good buddies at K-State,” Schoen said. “We started together in 2017. He texted me instantly right when he saw that I signed. He said hit him up if I had any questions about the playbook and he was in town one weekend and he was like, “Hey, let’s hit the field” and stuff like that. He’s been back in Tampa most of the time, so we haven’t been together working out that much or anything like that but we’ve definitely been in contact. He’s been helping me out.”
Given his local ties, Schoen will be an easy player to root for, as the Chiefs are expected to return to St. Joseph for training camp. With the offseason departure of wide receiver Sammy Watkins, the position is as open as it’s ever been.
Still, making the team will be no easy task, considering just how many young receivers are vying for just a few spots. The one benefit for Schoen is that he has climbed what likely seemed like mountains before.
The question now is, can he do it again?