Long The Chiefs' Newest Underdog Receiver

Lance Long is quickly becoming the latest in a line of Chiefs fan favorites to play wide receiver. Remember Sean LaChapelle, Mark Boerigter and Bobby Sippio? They were all either grabbed off the scrap heap or out of nowhere by the Chiefs.

LaChapelle was drafted out of UCLA by the Rams in the fifth round of the 1993 NFL Draft. After signing with the Chiefs in 1996, he caught 29 passes for 445 yards and two touchdowns in just 12 games and eight starts. Not bad for a player who came from nowhere. After 1996, LaChapelle never caught another pass in the NFL, but was inducted into the NFL Europe's Scottish Claymores Hall of Fame in 2000.

Boerigter's credentials as an underdog far exceed LaChapelle's. He was never drafted, and didn't attend a prominent Division I football school, instead attending Hastings College in Nebraska. Adding to Boerigter's underdog status was his two-year stint in the Candian Football League with the Calgary Stampeders.

Boerigter had a prototypical NFL body at 6-foot-3 and 220 pounds, and his eight touchdowns on his first 18 receptions excited Chiefs fans during his rookie season. He spent three more years in Kansas City, but could never duplicate the magic of his rookie season. The Packers and Colts both took a look at Boerigter after the Chiefs cut ties with him in 2005, but he didn't catch on and ultimately returned to the CFL for one more season.

Then there's Bobby Sippio. With Boerigter and LaChapelle, there was at least some form of production to justify the infatuation, but Sippio never registered a single NFL catch. Why did thousands of Chiefs fans fall head over heels for Sippio? On HBO's Hard Knocks, he appeared midway through training camp, and fans fell in love with him catch after catch. That, coupled with his success in the Arena Football League and his relation to Dwayne Bowe, made Sippio popular. However, NFL Films is probably more at fault for Sippio's cult-hero status than anything else.

Where does the early love affair with Long come from? He's got a combination of the characteristics that fed adoration for the previous three underdogs. As much as Sippio and Boerigter's large frames made fans woo, Long's small frame does the same - after all, everybody roots for the little guy (see Mark McMillian or Dante Hall for further evidence).

Like LaChapelle, Long attended a tradition-rich school in a prominent conference in Wisconsin. Unlike LaChapelle, Long wasn't much of a difference maker in Madison.

"Lance was a guy in Arizona that I think we got for about $500 right after the draft," said Todd Haley. "One of our coaches on the staff had been a college coach of his and he knew him. Lance doesn't have a lot of college career catches but he knew him and said he would be a great guy for camp. He'll come in and give you an honest day's work and when the draft ends that's always a tough deal where you're scrambling trying to find enough guys."

Like LaChapelle and Boerigter, Long is churning out some early production. He's caught 12 balls for 104 yards in his first three games and has quickly become one of Matt Cassel's favorite targets. With Dwayne Bowe out of the picture, it's possible Long's role will increase over the next four games.

It's still too early in Long's career to call him even a LaChapelle or Boerigter, but that's not stopping fans from dubbing him a poor man's Wes Welker. Are those comparisons fair?

"I think it's unfair right now at this point, to be completely honest," said Cassel, who played with Welker in New England. "I think he's a slot receiver and he's trying to find his identity and he's doing a great job for us right now, but Wes Welker has been doing it for a long time and he's a Pro Bowl receiver. To make those comparisons is kind of unfair to Lance right now in his career."

If Long wants to enjoy a career similar to Welker's, or even surpass the lore of LaChapelle, Sippio and Boerigter, what does he have to do?

"His role early on (in Arizona), and for most of the year was just a show-team player," said Haley. "But every day the guy made plays and the defense didn't like him and you take notice. That's the way guys make it and there's never going to be a day he can ever take off. But he's quick and he's tough and he goes a hundred miles an hour all the time. That's what got my attention. As we've said here, if we've got a chance to upgrade we're going to do it every time we can."

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