Not much alters Dontari Poe’s outlook.
The Kansas City Chiefs’ 2012 first-round draft pick started his career with a lot of expectations to fulfill — even if those came from the outside and were never internal. Poe shot up draft boards after his NFL Scouting Combine workout numbers wowed, but he entered last year’s training camp as a backup on the depth chart at nose tackle.
A year later, Poe came to Missouri Western as the unquestioned starter, but don’t expect him to change his approach.
“Coming in as one, two or a three, you just have to be ready when your number is called,” Poe said. “When they call you up to play, you just have to be ready. You have to know your stuff because when you’re in there, they’re going to coach you like you’re a one, no matter what.”
A 330-pound-plus behemoth, Poe has stayed humble throughout a meteoric rise from anonymous Conference USA lineman at Memphis to NFL millionaire.
A little competition from Anthony Toribio continues to help him along. A former Division II standout at Carson-Newman (Tenn.), Toribio owned the top spot at nose tackle to start last season, when then-head coach Romeo Crennel dubbed him “The Technician.” An ankle injury late in the preseason kept Toribio out of the first five games, and Poe picked up the starts and never dropped the spot, recording 38 tackles and occasionally flashing the brilliance that warranted a No. 11 overall pick in the draft.
Toribio, a sixth-year veteran, understands the pecking order and accepts his role as the current backup.
“I always envisioned Dontari as the man. That guy is a great player,” said Toribio, who played in 11 games last year but recorded just five tackles. “As soon as we drafted him, I knew that that guy was going to be a beast. He’s definitely filled into the player they drafted him to be.
“I’m just doing whatever the coaches ask me to do to help them win and make the 53-man roster.”
The brilliance shines even more often during this year’s camp.
Poe shed between 15 and 20 pounds between the end of offseason organized team activities in June and the start of camp — now famous for swearing off barbecue in his diet — in an effort to increase his endurance. He’s entrenched in with the No. 1 team but not only catching eyes with his play but hustle and effort as well.
“You’ve got D-Poe, just a big fella, and he’s chasing the ball down the field 50 yards. That’s impressive stuff,” coach Andy Reid said.
Poe also seems more comfortable in the public eye, giving an engaging interview following Thursday’s practice. Toribio said his young teammate always showed that side with teammates, even if fans and media received limited glimpses into that side of his persona.
Currently rooming together inside Scanlon Hall, Toribio’s quirks help keep soft-spoken Poe loose in a friendly pairing of hard-working
“I’ve got my music blasting; I’ve got my ukulele, and I’ve got my guitar in there so I keep him up all night,” Toribio said. “But the thing is he’s OK with it because he goes to sleep with music so he says I don’t bother him at night. About 10:45 or 11 I pipe it down a bit.”
Not much seems to distract Poe from his goals, and he maintains the modest approach to his practice habits. Even with all the added attention, he assesses himself in humbling terms.
“I feel like I’m playing my role and doing the best I can every day to get myself better and that’s what I’ve done,” Poe said.