By TOMMY REZAC
St. Joseph Post
Mitch Holthus is entering his 29th year as radio voice of the Kansas City Chiefs.
He's experienced the highs and lows of the modern era in Chiefs football. He went to training camp for 16 years in River Falls, Wisconsin, the one training camp in Kansas City in 2020 and now for the 12th time, he's watching the team come into form on the Mosaic Training Fields at Missouri Western State University in St. Joseph.
"Every year seems like the first year," Holthus told KFEQ Radio. "I know that sounds trite or corny, but truthfully, it's that feeling. I feel like I'm a rookie every year. That's what I tell the team. Your stomach churns, you get nervous and every day is just awesome."
Holthus has had a front row seat to what's surely been the best 10-year stretch in franchise history. Six straight AFC West championships. Nine straight winning seasons. Eight playoff berths since 2013. Four straight AFC Championship games at Arrowhead Stadium. The first Super Bowl win 50 years. The list goes on.
Yet, heading into 2022, despite all of this recent success and a star-studded roster, Holthus believes this team has something to prove, even though they've proven themselves time and again.
"This is a team that has very unique focus," he said. "They're hyperfocused, starting with their biggest stars Patrick Mahomes and Travis Kelce. Truthfully, there's a chip on these guys' shoulder."
The 2021 season left a sour taste. Whether it was the 3-4 start, or blowing a 21-3 lead to Cincinnati in the AFC title game. The Tyreek Hill trade in March gave doubters some fuel as well. Holthus believes all of those factors combined gave this team a unique swagger in the offseason.
"They've come in here a little ticked off," he noted. "I saw it in minicamp, I saw it in OTAs and I've seen it so far here in St. Joe."
Hill is a franchise changing player, but the Chiefs picked up veteran receivers Juju Smith-Schuster and Marquez Valdes-Scantling in free agency. Plus, rookie receiver Skyy Moore has been a breakout star in camp. As has rookie running back Isiah Pacheco.
You also look at running back Ronald Jones and safety Justin Reid - two veterans picked up in free agency that could have a big impact on how the Chiefs do.
"To add that with what's already here and the new rookies...somebody pick them fourth in the division, but do so at your own peril."
This marks the last year that Chiefs training camp is required to be in St. Joseph, according to the current agreement. There are two more optional years after this, but Missouri Western and Chiefs leadership will evaluate the contract once camp is over.
With only about six or seven teams left in the NFL that stil travel outside of their home city for camp, Holthus is hopeful the Chiefs will keep coming back to Missouri Western.
"They've been phenomenal," Holthus said of the University. "Mosaic (Life Care) has been phenomenal. The merchants, people like HyVee, have been phenomenal. It's a great camp. People say you're going away for camp. We're only going 50 minutes away. It's not like we're in Wisconsin."
"We've had 11 camps in St. Joe and have been to the playoffs in eight of those 11 years. I don't think it's a coincidence that the most successful nine years in Chiefs history, a lot of it is Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes and Travis Kelce, but this is where those seasons begin - right here on this campus and right here in this city."
As for a season prediction? Holthus doesn't put out a specific number of wins and losses. Though, he's confident a Super Bowl contender is being molded yet again. Even if others on the outside don't feel that way anymore.
"This is a refocused, recharged, rebooted team," he said. "There's a lot of talent and the coaching is superb. It's crazy that a team that is this successful is actually, in a way, going to sneak up on people. But, that's the way I feel."
You can follow Tommy on Twitter @TommyKFEQ and St. Joseph Post @StJosephPost.