Chiefs rookie WR Xavier Worthy is exactly where he was meant to be

Months before the NFL Draft, Xavier Worthy’s mother, Nicky Jones, taught him how meditation, affirmation and manifestation could change his life. He didn’t quite buy in — until recently. He wanted to be drafted by the Kansas City Chiefs.

That’s when Worthy started the affirmation and manifestation in earnest, trying to will the match into existence. It almost went too far, according to Jones.

“He’s like, ‘I’m going to the Chiefs. I’m going to the Chiefs,'” she said. “But it’s like, ‘Xay, you’ve got to open your mind here. You literally could really go anywhere.'”

That was especially true after the Texans Longhorns went 12-2 and made the CFP semifinals, thanks in large part to Worthy, who topped 1,000 receiving yards and led the NCAA in punt-return yards. Then at the NFL Combine, he set a record by running the 40-yard dash in 4.21 seconds. That got teams’ attention.

But Worthy was interested in only one.

“He never wavered. It was the Chiefs,” Jones said. “That’s where he was going. And he went out and did his top 30 interviews and all the feedback was positive. He did his job. I know he wouldn’t try to bomb any interviews. But he’d come back like, ‘I’m going to the Chiefs. That’s where I’m going.'”

At a certain point, Jones had to buy in. She’d taught him these mental skills, after all.

On draft night, the family gathered at his place in Austin. The NFL had sent 32 hats, which Jones and her sister arranged on a table. But as they organized the rows, one hat didn’t fit just by coincidence. You can guess which one. So Jones and her sister — even though they knew it might look like Worthy was picking Kansas City — put that Chiefs hat right in the middle.

But then there was a scare; a moment when it seemed like fate might not happen.

Drafting at No. 28 overall, the Buffalo Bills were on the clock when Worthy’s phone began to ring. Jones was ready for her son to land in Buffalo. But it wasn’t a Bills staffer on the phone. Worthy looked at his mom and said: “It’s the Chiefs.” He picked up the phone to hear Kansas City general manager Brett Veach. 

The Super Bowl champions had traded up from No. 32 to pick Worthy.

“That was another feeling of just — wow,” Jones said. “If you knew us, if you were around us, we knew that’s where he fit. That’s where he was going. And for it to actually happen, he’s exactly where he’s meant to be.”

On that phone call, Worthy spoke to Veach, coach Andy Reid, offensive coordinator Matt Nagy and special teams coach Dave Toub.

“Can you still run fast?” Reid asked Worthy.

“I can,” he replied.

Maybe the affirmations reached Patrick Mahomes, too. The Chiefs quarterback had his eye on Worthy throughout the draft process and even touched base at the combine.

“Everybody thought the NFL was never going to let the Chiefs get to me,” Worthy said during rookie minicamp. “But I’m here. I’m excited, man, just to be able to play with Pat. It’s amazing just to be able to have that quarterback that wants you. That means they’re obviously going to try to find a way to get you the ball and make you a part of the offense.”

By the X’s and O’s, the match between Worthy and the Chiefs makes all the sense in the world. When reporters wondered whether Worthy’s play was reminiscent of that of former Chief Tyreek Hill, arguably the fastest player in the NFL, Reid downplayed the comparison. He went deeper into his archive.

“[Hill and Worthy are] different, and he’ll put his own mark on things once he gets a feel for it,” Reid said in a press conference. “Now you add in there the return ability. I’ve had some guys like that — Tyreek, DeSean Jackson — probably body type a little more like DeSean.”

What Chiefs got in trading up for speedy WR Xavier Worthy

What Chiefs got in trading up for speedy WR Xavier Worthy

Worthy was measured at 5-foot-11 and 165 pounds at this year’s combine. At the 2008 combine, Jackson measured 5-foot-10 and 169 pounds.

Guess who was Worthy’s favorite NFL player growing up?

“He really did not have a favorite team. He only loved DeSean Jackson,” Jones said. “That was his thing. He just loved DeSean Jackson.”

“I’ve watched his film since I was five years old,” Worthy said. “He’s been my favorite player since.” 

Jackson had two of his five 1,000-yard receiving seasons playing for Reid with the Philadelphia Eagles, who drafted the Cal receiver with the 49th overall pick in 2008. 

As a kid, Worthy saw so many similarities to Jackson that Reid now sees. In its own way, that was another manifestation — Worthy studying Jackson led the young receiver to be more like the three-time Pro Bowler.

And after Worthy’s record-setting 40-yard dash at the combine, the two men spoke, with Jackson reaching out after hearing that he was Worthy’s idol. 

So let’s talk about that historic sprint. It’s one of the many reasons why just about everyone earmarked Worthy as a good fit for Kansas City.

“Xavier is a perfect fit in that explosive Chiefs offense,” Texas coach Steve Sarkisian said. “He obviously has electric, world-class speed and clearly is a threat to go the distance any time he touches the ball.”

It took Worthy two attempts to break the record. On his first, he ran a 4.25. The NFL Network broadcasters suggested he should take off his cleats and call it a day. But those who know Worthy knew that wasn’t happening. While most players’ first attempt is their fastest, Worthy said his second runs had been better in training. 

After the first attempt, he texted his mom: “I’m about to go get that record.”

His mom responded: “Go get that s—.”

So he did: 4.21 seconds. Faster than John Ross’ 4.22 in 2017. Faster than anyone to ever run at the NFL Combine.

“I literally rewatch the video every once in a while because it was this feeling you can’t describe. But when you watch it, you feel it,” Jones said.

But it’s not just Worthy’s speed that appealed to NFL teams — and to the Chiefs, in particular. He finished the 2023 season with 75 catches, 1,014 yards and five touchdowns. He also added 22 punt returns for 371 yards and a touchdown. He managed that offensive production despite sharing targets with receiver Adonai Mitchell, who went 52nd overall to Indianapolis, and tight end Ja’Tavion Sanders, who went 101st overall to Carolina.

It says something about Worthy’s work ethic that his production actually increased after the arrival of Mitchell, who transferred from Georgia before the 2023 season. That addition meant the team had two top-flight receivers, but Worthy remained the team’s WR1. That’s largely because he accepted both his strengths and his weaknesses before that crucial 2023 season. 

And he had his weaknesses.

In 2022, Worthy broke his hand but decided to play through the injury. Drops plagued him in the second half of the season. The most notable examples came against Washington in the Alamo Bowl. Worthy dropped two potentially game-changing passes — back to back. The first was on a pass down the left sideline for about 40 yards, and the ball slipped through Worthy’s hands as he fell to the turf. On the next play, he streaked up the middle of the field — with no defender between him and the end zone — but again, he dropped the ball. 

The 27-20 loss was a low point for Worthy, even though he finished the game with seven catches and 84 yards. He then spent the offseason working to rehabilitate his hand, with a cast and then aggressive physical therapy.

Before the 2023 season, Texas hired receivers coach Chris Jackson, a former NFL receiver and NFL coach who spent 2022 coaching the Jaguars’ wideouts. He approached Worthy before last season.

“‘I’m not going to spend as much time on the things you do great because I think a lot of people pat you on the back and I think you know what you did great,'” Jackson remembered telling Worthy. “‘But these are the things that you need to continue to work on that I see as being inadequacies in your sophomore year.’  

“His first words to me [were], ‘I’m all on board. I’ll lock in, and I just want to be developed.'”

Jackson emphasized two things: 1) tracking the ball and 2) body language. Those were the shortcomings. So Worthy went to work. He didn’t say much, but his practice mentality spoke volumes. It was all intensity, even staying late to do ball-tracking drills.

To help with Worthy’s body language and in-game emotion, Jackson showed him film of Davante Adams. But the coach didn’t showcase when the Las Vegas Raiders star had 13 catches, 126 yards and two touchdowns against the Colts. No, it was film from Adams’ worst games, when the defense double-teamed and practically erased him. 

The message? 

“It’s the NFL, so you got to be able to adjust to the highs and lows of everything,” Jackson said.

That lesson came in handy during the 2024 Sugar Bowl, when Worthy kept his composure against Washington. The Huskies defense keyed on Texas’ star receiver duo, and neither Worthy nor Mitchell had a single catch in the first half. Worthy had a 38-yard reception in the second half but finished with just two grabs for 45 yards. It wasn’t the mark he’d hoped for, and the Longhorns lost to the Huskies 37-31 to end their season and their national title hopes. 

It also brought an end to Worthy’s college career — and a beginning to his NFL career.

Though nursing a hamstring injury, Worthy has been present for the Chiefs’ organized team activities. He is asking Nagy all the right questions — and calling (but not nagging) the OC in off hours to learn more about the playbook. The Chiefs have let him study every receiver position, in hopes of involving him in the offense right away. 

“I thought he did a nice job picking things up and working through,” Reid said after practice on May 6. “We asked him to do a whole lot of stuff. We put him in a primary spot, and it was good for him to get in there and move around a bit. He’s a sharp kid.”

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It’s fair to say that the Chiefs didn’t expect to need Worthy as badly as they do.

It has been one mishap after the next at receiver for Kansas City, which clearly didn’t get the return it hoped for on 2022 second-round pick Skyy Moore or trade acquisition Kadarius Toney. Receiver Rashee Rice, a second-round pick last year who impressed as a rookie, is facing eight charges in Dallas in connection with a multiple-car collision.

Worthy’s introduction to pro football hasn’t been completely smooth. He drew criticism for a TikTok video showing off his expensive jewelry and showering girlfriend Tia Jones in $1 bills. This came two weeks after he had his car stolen, with the vehicle being taken from the parking garage at his Kansas City apartment building.

If the Chiefs could expect to count on Moore, Toney or Rice, they might use Worthy simply as a downfield threat to start — just to get him comfortable where he’s at his best. But Kansas City is covered in that department after signing Hollywood Brown during free agency. So it’s likely that Worthy will need to show off his versatility.

“Down the field is obviously a given, but I feel like intermediate and the actual route-running, the route tree, I feel like I can run it all,” Worthy told the Kansas City media. “I feel like I’m effective from it all — bubble screens, reverses. Anywhere a ball can touch my hands, I feel like I can make a play.”

That sounds like Jackson — and, yes, like Hill, too. Those are lofty comparisons for Worthy. But it’s fate, right? 

Prior to joining FOX Sports as the AFC East reporter, Henry McKenna spent seven years covering the Patriots for USA TODAY Sports Media Group and Boston Globe Media. Follow him on Twitter at @henrycmckenna.

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