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Rookie Victor Ochi goes from last-place Jets to AFC playoffs with Chiefs

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Victor Ochi received a call from his agent Monday as he emerged from his exit meeting with the New York Jets.

"A life-changing event," he called it.

Ochi, a rookie linebacker who spent most of the season on the Jets' practice squad, was offered a contract by the Kansas City Chiefs. The AFC West champions wanted him to sign immediately, so they could put him on their 53-man roster for the postseason.

Imagine that: Ochi went from the AFC East basement to a first-round bye in the playoffs, two wins from the Super Bowl. On a depressing day at One Jets Drive, where players cleaned out their lockers and trudged into an offseason filled with uncertainty, Ochi was handed a winning lottery ticket.

"It's a good opportunity and I get to continue to play football," he said. "I couldn't resist."

Ochi flew to Kansas City to meet the coaches and pick up a playbook, and he returned home to Long Island, New York, because coach Andy Reid gave the players a week off. He'll go back to Kansas City on Sunday night to begin preparation for the divisional-round game.

Ochi said the Jets were interested in signing him to a reserve-future contract, as they've done with most of their practice-squad players. That would've tied him to the team, but Chiefs general manager John Dorsey and director of player personnel Chris Ballard made a pre-emptive strike, reaching out to Ochi's agent, Alan Herman. They needed a replacement for linebacker Dadi Nicolas, who suffered a major knee injury in the final game.

Truth be told, the Chiefs were interested in Ochi early in the season after he was released by the Baltimore Ravens. The former Stony Brook pass rushing star opted to stay local, accepting an invite to the Jets' practice squad. He made it to the 53-man roster for two games (a total of 14 defensive snaps), making one tackle. He was so overcome with emotion in his debut that he fought back tears as he ran out of the tunnel.

The Jets missed the playoffs for the sixth straight year, but the affable Ochi is going in his first year.

"It feels great," he said. "If I have an opportunity to play a role in their journey, that would make it even more memorable for me. Right now, I'm just focused on learning the playbook."