One of my favorite things about the Sooners in the NFL series I wrote this season was seeing Chris Chester’s name in the Atlanta Falcons starting lineup every week. The former tight end turned offensive lineman in the early to mid-2000s, Chester is now Bob Stoops’ longest-tenured player, who in his eleventh NFL season joins Adrian Peterson as the only players through Stoops’ era at Oklahoma to play 10 years or more at the pro level. The soft-spoken, big-hearted Chester exemplifies unsung hero and could be considered the consummate teammate wherever he goes.
In Berry Tramel’s recent piece in the Oklahoman, Chester talks about his career as he leads up to his biggest NFL moment tonight in Houston. After making the switch to guard his senior year in Norman, Chester went on to be drafted by Baltimore in the 2006 second round, where he started 47 games before heading to Washington where he started every game from 2011-14.
Released after the 2015 season, Chester contemplated retirement before the Falcons came calling. I’m sure he’s glad he stuck with the game for another year, and feels Atlanta has been his best NFL experience after all these years.
"It's been really awesome,” Chester said. “I had no idea I'd still be out here playing. I'm very fortunate to have played this long. I kind of find myself in Year 11, I look back, wow, it's amazing. Great players, great teams, some awesome experiences.”
A big piece on the NFL’s best offensive line leading up to the biggest game of the NFL season, Chester’s big moment at OU came on the road against Mizzou in 2002. With the Sooners down one in the fourth quarter against Brad Smith’s Tigers, Chester caught a touchdown pass on a fake field goal to clinch the big road win. Not sure this play is in the gameplan for the Falcons tonight, but Sooner fans know if his number is called Chris Chester will be ready.
Lining up on the other side for the Patriots will be former OU defensive end Geneo Grissom, who in his second season in the NFL is looking to make his mark rushing Matt Ryan in the big game. Grissom, originally drafted in the 2015 third round by New England, was released September 3 but was picked back up and has been on the Pats’ active roster since mid-October. Though only amassing a handful of tackles through this season, he has consistently found more and more time on the field for Bill Belichik and hopes to continue building on this big moment in his young NFL career.
The explosive pass rusher’s most memorable play as a Sooner came in the last game of the 2013 season. As he lines up for the NFL’s version of an evil empire this evening, he wrecked shop against the college game’s equivalent on that sweet night in New Orleans. I’ll just stop writing for a minute and let you look back...
We wish both of these guys the best of luck tonight. As much as I dislike New England, I’d love to see Geneo grab a sack or two tonight. But I’d more love to see Chester and the Falcons’ line keep mauling like they have all season and send Brady and the Pats home with another loss in the Super Bowl.