At the onset of training camp last summer, Kansas City Chiefs Defensive End, Mike Catapano fell ill. What was initially thought to be a battle of the flu bug turned into a viral infection that forced the young man to miss the entire 2014 season.
Add that with concussion like symptoms to the virus, Catapano had a long year regaining his health and trying to get back in football shape. With all his medical issues behind him, the young defensive player is ready to get back on the field.
The road to recovery wasn’t easy for the former Princeton star. Forget the part about not knowing what was causing his flu-like symptoms, but once doctors got it under control, the distance to get back on the football field wasn’t an easy path. However, Catapano accepted the challenge of it all and midway through last season began the long journey back.
“I believe that you have to use every negative to make it a positive,’ Catapano stated. “ didn’t know what was going on and obviously I love this game with all my heart and it’s my passion. At the end of the day, dealing with unfortunate circumstances, I believe you have to use it to make you stronger.”
Entering the NFL two seasons ago, Catapano would never be confused with a person who didn’t believe in his abilities. He made a statement upon being drafted by the Chiefs - he’d become an All Pro defender after two years in the NFL. Well that didn’t happen but not because he didn’t believe it. That doesn’t mean it won’t happen in the very near future.
In fact, one of his teammates, Mike Devito, praised Catapano just weeks ago telling the media he believes strongly the young defensive lineman has a very bright future with the Chiefs.
“Mike DeVito has taught me so much and really been like my big brother on this team and really believes in me. I respect him more than any player in the game right now. I hope to make him proud,” he said about his defensive teammate.
As I stated when the team began their off-season workouts, you could sense a different team brewing in the Chiefs locker room. The fact most of these guys have been together now for two seasons with a stable coaching staff certainly has something to do with the confidence each of them appear to be displaying in the spring.
However, Catapano took it a step further.
“We’re family, we believe in each other more than anybody else, more than the media, maybe even more than the fans as hard as that might be to believe. But we believe in each other and coming from him, there’s no greater compliment,” he said.
Healthy again, the emergence of Catapano as a key contributor for the Chiefs defense could not come at a better time. With DeVito, battling back from injury, along with the fact Kansas City didn’t add much depth at defensive line in the off-season; Catapano has a chance to become that impact player he told the world he’d become after the 2013 NFL draft.
“I really believe that this maybe could have been the best thing that ever could have happened to me with the shape that I’m in. My mentality has never been stronger and I’m just ready to roll like I’ve never been before. I feel like I’ve had a fire ignited inside of me right now,” Catapano said.
If that’s the case, the Chiefs defense could be even better than expected this season.
Photos: Wesley Hitt & Peter G. Aiken Getty Images