KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Rookie defensive end Mike Catapano was like a lot of Kansas City Chiefs fans last week. Catapano was initially wondering what he, a seventh-round pick less than a year removed from his senior season of Ivy League football, was doing rushing the Jacksonville quarterback in his regular-season debut.
Then, on one of his first plays, Catapano put a hit on Jaguars quarterback Blaine Gabbert. Any doubt in Catapano’s mind disappeared.
“That’s when I told myself, ‘Yeah, I belong here.'" Catapano said. “You can’t rush and be a good player or do anything well in this league unless you have that confidence. Getting that hit early on really took the edge off for me. After that, I was just playing ball.’’
Catapano was a situational pass-rusher for the Chiefs in his first NFL game. He had an impact on four Jacksonville passes, the most of important of which being a fourth-down play on which he forced Chad Henne to hurry a throw that wound up incomplete.
Catapano played against Jacksonville only because he was replacing Allen Bailey, who missed all of the practice week after the death of his father. But Catapano was impressive enough against the Jaguars that he should get some playing time this week against Dallas even though Bailey has returned.
“I’ll say this: His role isn’t getting reduced," defensive coordinator Bob Sutton said. “He’ll just keep playing."
Catapano showed pass-rush skills in college at Princeton, but the Chiefs drafted him as a developmental player. He wasn’t expected to play so soon and when he missed a couple weeks of training camp with a leg injury, Catapano looked like a strong candidate for the practice squad.
But he played well enough in the final preseason game that the Chiefs believed he was ready now.
“The consensus opinion was that we could use this guy right now in (passing) situations," Sutton said. “He’s a good rusher. He can be inside or outside as a rusher. He’s got a great motor. Obviously he’s an intelligent guy so he can take on a lot of different jobs."
The Chiefs are well-stocked with pass-rushers, so Catapano will not be the star. The Chiefs are OK with that given Catapano’s football roots.
“Coming from the Ivy League, being a seventh-round draft pick, not going to the combine, that all just makes my story a lot more fun," Catapano said. “It fuels my fire. I just want to show everybody what I can do."