Posted: Monday, November 21, 2016. 11:57 am CST.
By BBN Staff: Rakeem Nunez-Roches, the first Belizean born athlete to play in the American National Football League (NFL), is making a name for himself on the defensive end of the field.
Nunez-Roches, a second-year defensive lineman for the Kansas City Chiefs, recently made his first appearance in the team’s starting lineup.
In it, he made the most of the opportunity, recording four tackles, one solo, in the Chiefs’ 20-17 victory at Carolina. He played 32 of 73 snaps and was typically energetic on all of them. His best moment came when he nearly recorded a sack of Cam Newton, who got off the throw about the time Nunez-Roches arrived.
The effort reflected what the Chiefs have seen in practices.
“We know we’re getting a high-motor guy,” Chiefs defensive coordinator Bob Sutton said.
The Chiefs are off to a great start this season, currently holding a 7-3 record. The team credits a lot of its success to its defensive efforts, of which Nunez-Roches has had an undeniable impact.
The Dangriga native, known to his teammates as the “Belizean beast” moved to the United States with his mom when he was 8. The Chiefs made him their sixth-round pick out of Southern Mississippi in 2015. He appeared in seven games with four tackles last season.
“When he was a rookie, we said you just can’t cut him,” Chiefs linebacker Derrick Johnson said. “He has more energy than anybody on the field, even (defensive backs). Teams throw it downfield and he’s chasing guys.
“The hustle he has in his soul helps us. He’s a small guy, but he has a lot of fight in him.”
For the record, Nunez-Roches is 6’2″ and weighs 307 lbs, however, at his position he is smaller than most other defensive linemen in the NFL. And that contributed to the uncertainty Nunez-Roches faced entering this season.
When the Chiefs took Chris Jones with their first draft selection for 2016, the interior line was getting crowded. And when the Chiefs suddenly found themselves in need of offensive linemen early in the season, the roster was shuffled and Nunez-Roches was waived.
“At that point, I didn’t think about anything,” Nunez-Roches said. “I got closer to my faith. I don’t worry about the things I can’t control,” he told a local Kansas City newspaper.
But Nunez-Roches didn’t abandon the notion that he belonged in the NFL. Before the week was over, the Chiefs brought him back to their practice squad.
As the season unfolded, the defensive line started taking injury hits. Allen Bailey was lost for the season with a torn muscle in his chest, and more recently Jaye Howard suffered a hip injury. Howard didn’t play against the Panthers, and that’s when Nunez-Roches stepped in.
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