Why Chiefs rookie defensive back Chamarri Conner isn’t daunted by NFL talent

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The Chiefs locker room and practice field on the first day of rookie minicamp Saturday isn’t the first place cornerback Chamarri Conner has found himself surrounded by NFL talent.

Although he didn’t know it at the time, Conner had the same experience in high school.

As a freshman at Trinity Christian Academy in Jacksonville, Florida, Conner played with five teammates who would either be selected in the NFL Draft or play for an NFL team.

Reaching the NFL, a dream for many, didn’t seem distant for Conner during his years at Virginia Tech. Friends and former teammates had shown the way.

“I always felt like I belonged and I’d be here one day,” said Conner, the Chiefs’ selection in the fourth round, No. 119 overall.

Conner said he remains in touch with former high school teammates like Kevin Toliver, a cornerback who played in 29 games for the Colts and Broncos; linebacker Andre Smith, who played 51 games for the Panthers, Bills and Titans; and wide receiver Isaiah Ford, who has played 32 game for the Dolphins.

“I could always go back and talk to those guys, ask them questions about their time in the league,” Conner said.

The 2014 Trinity team, Conner’s freshman season, won a second straight state title. There were two more for Conner after that.

A Rivals.com three-star recruit, Conner played immediately at Virginia Tech and became a full-time starter the next season. He was used as as safety in 2022 after previously playing nickel. The Chiefs liked his versatility and, at 6-0, 202 pounds, see him covering Travis Kelce-like tight ends.

“I think he’s a guy that can come down into the box and cover some athletic tight ends,” Chiefs general manager Brett Veach said. “He’s long, he’s athletic and ran a 4.4 at the (NFL) Combine.”

The Chiefs thought enough of Conner to send a 2024 draft selection to move up in the fourth round. The maneuver didn’t go unnoticed by Conner.

“When they told me they traded up, that put an extra bonus on it,” Conner said.

The Chiefs drafted five defensive backs last season, and Conner was the first of two taken this time, so he likely opens training camp down the depth chart. But one area where he could make an immediate impact is on special teams.

He was a staple on special teams at Virginia Tech, regularly one of college football’s top units, and has always taken pride in those contributions.

“I’ve always been big on special teams,” Conner said. “Coming from Virginia Tech, it’s something we emphasize day in, day out as a big part of the game.”