KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Josh Caldwell remembers the days of being a fan inside Arrowhead Stadium.
Most recently, the Lee’s Summit native watched the Chiefs’ season end during the 2017 playoffs in an improbable loss to the Titans.
“It was crazy, it was rocking, and it was pretty cold,” Caldwell said.
“I said, ‘Man, it would be nice to play on that field one day.’ Here I am now.”
On that day, Caldwell sat with friends in the nosebleeds.
Saturday night, he had dozens of family and friends scattered across his hometown stadium to watch him record a team-high 59 yards and first career touchdown as Kansas City beat Cincinnati 38-17 to open preseason action.
“Man, it’s kinda crazy just to have those kids look up to you from Kansas City,” Caldwell told reporters after the game. “Not a lot of people make it out of there. Just to show them that it don’t matter what background you come from, you can make it out.”
Caldwell finished the night with four carries for 59 yards, starting things with an 8-yard burst with an eventual 47-yard run to get inside the 5-yard line at the two-minute warning.
He broke three tacklers in unison midway through the run, eventually getting caught just short of the goal line to put the game on ice.
“I might have just taken a knee there,” head coach Andy Reid said, “other than that the kid is from Kansas City. He makes a huge run to get down there and you have to give him the ball, right?’’
Give him the ball, they did.
“I knew Coach Reid was gonna give me a chance just because I should’ve scored the first time,” Caldwell joked. “Our quarterback Chase (Litton) said, ‘If you don’t score right here, I’m gonna throw it in, so you better get in there.’ I asked my O-line to give me one hard play for me, and they delivered.”
Caldwell followed with a 4-yard run over the left guard for the final score of the game.
“It was just like a dream come true,” Caldwell said. “You know, I’m really not supposed to be here. I’ve been through a lot in my past with the transfer and whatnot. Just to cap it off with my first NFL touchdown was a blessing.”
Caldwell was dismissed from Missouri Western in Matt Williamson’s first season, eventually graduating with his bachelor’s degree and transferring to rival Northwest Missouri State for his final season of eligibility.
The Lee’s Summit North grad then secured a tryout during Chiefs minicamp, opting to even skip a trip to the Redskins to play for his hometown team. He eventually signed a contract on June 14.
“Man, it’s kinda crazy just to have those kids look up to you from Kansas City,” Caldwell said. “Not a lot of people make it out of there. Just to show them that it don’t matter what background you come from, you can make it out.”
Caldwell celebrated his first touchdown with a spike of the ball, then running to the sideline to celebrate with veterans, including Anthony Sherman, Tyreek Hill, Damien Williams and Patrick Mahomes.
“He works hard every single day,” Mahomes said of Caldwell. “When you get out there and work hard every single day, usually good things happen. You saw him make the run and before that I thought he was going to get in that time, but he got it back in his hands and figured out a way to punch it in there.
“It was definitely a special thing for him and his family. I’m glad he got to do it in Arrowhead.”
Caldwell followed up by making a tackle on the ensuing kickoff. He finished the night as the team’s highest-graded running at 80.6, according to Pro Football Focus.
The former Griffon and Bearcat entered the night fifth on the depth chart behind Damien Williams, Carlos Hyde, Darrel Williams and fellow rookie Darwin Thompson, who had a touchdown himself on the night.
The climb to a roster spot might by uphill, but he knows a ‘great job’ on the way off the field from Reid isn’t a bad start to his NFL career.
“If he gives you a compliment, it’s pretty good,” Caldwell said.