Kansas City, Missouri — Most great athletes are motivated by something bigger than themselves.

Their drive can come from many things: money, fame, rudeness, upbringing, family, survival.

Isiah Pacheco’s source of motivation is undeniable and unwavering.

As the 23-year-old Chiefs rookie running back arrived at Sunday’s game between Kansas City and the Bengals for the AFC Championship at Arrowhead Stadium via Vineland, N.J., and Rutgers, he was driven by a family tragedy.

Pacheco’s youth was forever scarred by the murder of his brother and sister during the less than two years he attended high school in Southern Jersey. drove to.

Everyone knows Patrick Mahomes Chief. And why? His longtime NFL MVP favorite produced 45 touchdowns (41 passes and he rushed 4) this season and threw for 5,250 yards.

The Chiefs go like the Mahomes go.

But don’t sleep with Pacheco, the 5-foot-11, 215-pound hoop-ass can that keeps your opponent’s defenses honest and prevents you from defending just Mahomes.

Isaiah Pacheco #10 of the Kansas City Chiefs takes on the Buffalo Bills on October 16, 2022 at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri.
Pacheco will face the biggest challenge of his football career during Sunday’s AFC Championship match.
Cooper Neal/Getty Images

Pacheco has never been more important on Sunday for the Chiefs. Mahomes is expected to be at least somewhat compromised by the ankle sprain he sustained in last week’s playoff victory over Jacksonville.

Certainly one would be surprised at what Pacheco achieved so quickly, moving from a 7th-round draft pick project from Rutgers to RB1 for the Chiefs, leading the team with 830 rushing yards, 4.9 yards average and 5 touchdowns. There is also

Pacheco’s accomplishments aren’t surprising to those who know him best, including his former head coach at Rutgers, Greg Schiano.

“I don’t think anyone expected him to succeed so quickly, but I told everyone. [scouts] “He’s the hardest practice player I’ve ever coached,” Schiano told the Post. “I’m so happy for him and his family.” He’s worked for it all, he’s overcome a lot, he’s had a rough upbringing, a lot of love, but a lot of trauma is there too.

“He’s seen tragic things. But he’s overcome. He’s got people who love him and care about him, but there’s also a lot of history there. I’m really excited about him.” He deserves this. Super cool.”

Pacheco’s older brother, Travoise, was stabbed to death on January 10, 2016 in Bridgeton, New Jersey, at the age of 29.

Isaiah Pacheco #10 of the Kansas City Chiefs celebrates with fans after defeating the Jacksonville Jaguars in the AFC Divisional Playoffs game at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri, January 21, 2023.
Pacheco became the Chiefs’ primary running back during his rookie season.
Jason Hannah/Getty Images

Then, on September 20, 2017, his sister Celeste was found dead at her Millville home with a gunshot wound to the head. Her killer was the man with whom she shared a child.

In a 2019 interview with NJ.com, Pacheco reflected on his brother’s death, saying his sister “was like a best friend” to him.

“Brother, if he sees me here, he will be shocked,” he said. “He encouraged me to play soccer when I was a kid, but he never got the chance to see me play. I don’t have to. I want to work harder.”

Pacheco’s arms are adorned with tattoos honoring his brother and sister.

“I play soccer for them,” he said.

Pacheco playing for the Rutgers.
Pacheco made a name for himself while playing for the Rutgers.
Jon Jones/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Kansas City head coach Andy Reed has been jailed for one of his sons’ death from an accidental drug overdose and another for seriously injuring a young girl in an alcohol-related accident. Having endured the unthinkable family tragedy of being shunned, Pacheco is certainly happy to be playing for the Chiefs.

In Kansas City’s divisional playoff win over the Jaguars, Pacheco rushed for 95 yards on 12 carries, taking a lot of the strain off Mahomes. He is one of the keys to Kansas City winning and advancing to the Super Bowl.

“I’ve been waiting for this moment for so long,” Pacheco told reporters this week.

“He’s so physically gifted,” Mahomes said. ‘It’s hard for defense to explain his physicality’

Jay Butler, Schiano’s strength and conditioning coach at Rutgers University, said he’s never seen a player who embraces hard work behind the scenes like Pacheco did when he was with the Scarlet Knights.

“There’s no doubt he loves football. It’s number one,” Butler told The Post. “His motivation comes from the whole family situation. When I talk to him, he said, ‘So I always go for it.

“If there’s one man who deserves success because of what he’s been through and how hard he’s worked, it’s him.”

On the morning of Sept. 29, 2017, he attended his sister’s funeral and rushed for 157 yards and three touchdowns while playing at Vineland High in a 60-6 win over the Cumberland Regional that night. .

Three days after his sister’s death, on September 23, 2017, he rushed for 222 yards and scored a touchdown in a 42–6 win over Egg Harbor Township for Vineland.

“He’s very ambitious to finally be great,” Schiano said. “His future is bright. I can’t wait to see him grow.”

Among the many conversations he had with Pacheco about playing in the NFL, one of Schiano’s constant messages to him was, “A lot of people go there, they go to training camp, but it’s not there. Stay in and make it a career.”

Barring injury, Pacheco will likely stay in Kansas City.

“Thank you Andy and the Chiefs for taking him,” Schiano said.

Certainly not that Reed and the Chiefs are grateful to have him.


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