Willie Gay, Nick Bolton bolster linebacker core for the Chiefs with speed and athleticism

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ST JOSEPH, MISSOURI – JULY 30: Linebacker Willie Gay #50 of the Kansas City Chiefs covers tight end Evan Baylis #80 during training camp at Missouri Western State University on July 30, 2021 in St Joseph, Missouri. (Photo by Peter Aiken/Getty Images)

ST. JOSEPH, Mo. — Two rising prospects in the Kansas City Chiefs’ linebackers room have been grabbing a lot of attention this offseason.

Second year linebacker out of Mississippi State Willie Gay and rookie linebacker Nick Bolton out of Missouri are showing promise and causing havoc on the defensive end during training camp.

“Both of those guys work as hard anybody else on the defense,” defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo said.

During his time at Mississippi State, Gay’s speed and athleticism stood out and got him drafted in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft.

At the 2020 NFL Scouting Combine, Gay ran a 4.46 40-yard dash, which was second among all linebackers and an 11-foot-4-inch broad jump which topped the position group.

After a rookie year that saw a limited number of snaps and an injury before the Super Bowl, Gay is working to get back to full fitness and be a force in the linebackers group.

“He stayed up here the whole offseason and worked. He’s doing good. He’s really busted his tail, so it’s refreshing. He’s got such a positive attitude,” head coach Andy Reid said.

In the first few days of training camp, Gay has picked off a few passes from quarterback Patrick Mahomes.

“The OTA’s in the offseason for Willie were huge. I’m hoping going through this whole process we can get back to normal football and normal offseason and he can even grow better,” Spagnuolo said. “I love his energy. You guys see him and talk to him. He loves ball. That’s a good thing. Good place to start.”

The turnovers he and his defensive teammates have been causing have even annoyed offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy.

“Sometimes you have good days, sometimes the guys on the other side have good days,” Bieniemy said. “The only thing you want to see is guys making sure that they continue to play with the effort that we expect them to play with.”

Gay’s improvement and performance has even caught the attention of teammate Tyrann Mathieu who shouted out the 23-year-old on Twitter.

“Willie Gay. That’s the tweet,” the Honey Badger wrote.

For the last few years, the linebacker position has had several veterans come through and lead the way.

“We’re both still fresh in this thing, so I teach him the game as much as I can because I’m still learning from guys like Hitch (Anthony Hitches) and Ben (Niemann) and Dorian (O’Daniel) and all those older guys. So whatever I learn, I pass it down to him,” Gay said earlier this offseason. “Whatever I’ve been through, I pass it down to him and we continue to stay close. I’m learning him, he’s learning me, so it’s a good connection we have.”

Spagnuolo said Bolton is embracing the challenge of playing in multiple defensive packages even as a rookie.

“He’s playing multiple, multiple, multiple spots, but he’s doing a really good job,” Spagnuolo said. “Sometimes when that happens, you get the brain cluttered, it ties up their feet a little bit, he doesn’t seem to do that. He doesn’t know everything mentally right now, but he’s still making a lot of plays out there.”

Much is said about the offensive side of the ball for the Chiefs and Gay and Bolton will be part of the group that tries to make the defensive unit just as potent.

“Really all I want to do is just my job. Be able to be counted on and just do what I do to the best of my ability,” Gay said. “Whether it’s tackling, whether it’s covering guys, blitzing, just continue to improve each and every day on the details of plays and execute every little detail that I do have with my assignments and all.”

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