By Travis M. Smith | KBEC Sports
An on-field celebration during halftime of the Kansas City Chiefs game Sunday evening against the Indianapolis Colts served as the latest chapter in an improbable career and extraordinary life of one Waxahachie native.
And the path to the Chiefs Hall of Fame and Ring of Honor was certainly not paved in gold for Brian Waters, a 1995 Waxahachie High graduate.
“This is an honor for me, my family and all of my friends in my hometown,” Waters said Sunday in a stand-up interview on the Chiefs official Twitter account. “To have all of them here and supporting me and seeing all of my old teammates, this has been a great weekend for me. Obviously, having my name associated with the great legacy of this great organization and being a part of something and the foundation of what I think is the greatest organization in all of sports, I am just thankful…I’m thankful that they chose me.”
Waters was raised by his grandmother in Waxahachie, where he learned at an early age to use sports as an outlet in the oft-sports-crazed small town. As he grew (literally), so did his love for football and the community — with the latter taking importance.
“Sometimes other people needed help, and sometimes we needed help,” Waters told the UNT North Texan in a 2010 article. “I think it’s just human nature to try to do what you can.”
Waters eventually starred on the field as a varsity member of the Indians football team, hauling in 16 catches for 380 yards as a tight end and recorded 66 total tackles with five sacks on defense during his senior campaign.
Those numbers and his off-field character eventually landed Waters a scholarship at the University of North Texas.
At that time, Waters was still a tight end at UNT. The three-year starter appeared in 44 games at the position, catching 86 passes for 975 yards and nine touchdowns. He then shifted to defensive end ahead of his senior campaign and recorded 45 tackles (32 solo) with 5.0 sacks.
The efforts led to Waters receiving first-team All-Big West Conference honors. He also snuck in four receptions for 66 yards and one touchdown.
He didn’t, however, have enough film or experience as a defensive end, nor was he not thought highly enough by scouts as a tight end, to warrant an NFL team using a draft pick on his services in the 1999 NFL Draft.
Luckily, the Dallas Cowboys did see something in his athleticism and size and signed Waters as an undrafted free agent shortly after the draft to play tight end and fullback. He was released after training camp just a few months later.
Though he had a taste of the NFL, Waters was once again unemployed and unsure of his future.
All of that worry began to clear in March of 2000 when Waters attended a free-agent workout in Kansas City. It was during that showcase that Chiefs brass convinced Waters to move from defensive end to the offensive line — despite having never played on the offensive line outside of lining up as a pass-catching tight end.
Waters obliged and it’s a good thing he did, as he eventually reshaped and rebuilt his body into a 6-foot-3, 320-plus-pound athletic force.
Following a spring where he started at center in every game for the Berlin Thunder in the since-defunct NFL Europe, Waters returned to the States and officially became a Kansas City Chief. It marked the beginning of his illustrious 13-year NFL career with the Chiefs (2000-10), Cowboys (2013) and New England Patriots (2011).
In his decade-plus with the Chiefs, Waters was twice selected by the Associated Press as a first-team All-Pro guard. He even became the first offensive lineman named the AFC Offensive Player of the Week following the Chiefs 56-10 victory against the Atlanta Falcons on Oct. 24, 2004 — a game in which the team rushed for an NFL record eight touchdowns.
According to Chiefs.com, Waters was also on the field for each of the top four individual single-season and three of the top five individual single-game rushing performances in franchise history. One of those single-game efforts included Jamaal Charles rushing for a franchise-record 259 yards against the Denver Broncos on Jan. 3, 2010.
He was named to five of his six NFL Pro Bowls while with the Chiefs in 2004, 2005, 2006, 2008 and 2010.
According to Chiefs.com, the selection in 2004 allowed Waters and Pro Football Hall of Fame guard Will Shields to become the first Pro Bowl guards selected from the same team since Dallas Cowboys Larry Allen and Nate Newton accomplished the feat following the 1995 season.
Waters and Shields eventually became the first guard duo from the same team to be selected to three consecutive Pro Bowls.
“In his 11 seasons with the Chiefs, Brian Waters was a fixture on some of the best offensive lines in franchise history,” Chiefs Chairman and CEO Clark Hunt told Chiefs.com when the announcement to induct Waters into the franchise’s Hall of Fame was made in April.
“Although he was undrafted coming out of college, Brian made the most of his opportunity here in Kansas City, and his work ethic, talent and toughness made him an undisputed leader on the field and in the locker room,” Hunt added. He also noted it was Waters’ “tremendous heart of service, and his commitment to the Kansas City community” that earned him the prestigious Walter Payton Man of the Year Award in 2009.
The Walter Peyton Man of the Year Award recognizes one player on each of the 32 NFL teams who have significantly positively impacted his community through volunteer and charity work, as well as his excellence on the field. The overall award winner is then chosen from a pool of four finalists and announced during the annual NFL awards ceremony.
The Walter Peyton award was the culmination of the efforts behind the Brian Waters 54 Foundation, which has helped thousands of children through back-to-school programs, haircuts, school supplies and medical check-ups in Kansas City and across Texas. For several years, he also conducted a free two-day football skills camp for local youth in his hometown of Waxahachie.
“At the time of his Man of the Year selection, he had granted more than 80 college scholarships for low-income students,” an article on Chiefs.com stated. “The 54 Foundation partnered with more than 20 different agencies annually.”
As a Patriot, Waters appeared in his lone Super Bowl (XLVI) in 2011, which New England lost to the New York Giants, 21-17. He was named to the Pro Bowl for the final sixth and final time in his career that same season.
Waters then missed the 2012 season with an injury and was signed by the Cowboys to a one-year contract on Sept. 4, 2013. He was placed on the Injured Reserve list on Nov. 2, 2013, and eventually retired Sept. 2, 2014.
This next sentence needs to be read at least twice to appreciate just how dominant Waters was as a left guard playing against the very best that the NFL had to offer.
During the course of his 13-year career, Waters was flagged just 24 times for holding and 19 times for a false stater over 170 games started and 186 appearances.
In case you’re scrambling to grab a calculator: That means Waters was typically flagged just twice per season for holding — a penalty that any official will assure could be called on nearly every play.
Those efforts, both on and off the field, led to Waters being formally inducted into the Chiefs Hall of Fame and the Ring of Honor during halftime Sunday night with over 60 Chiefs alumni present for the team’s annual Legends Game festivities. He was the 49th individual and 45th player to receive the honor.
But to label Waters as simply being remarkable on the field would be a disservice.
Brian Demond Waters should be celebrated for his relentless efforts to master his craft as an eventual Pro Football Hall of Fame guard, despite having never played the position previously. He was coachable, a trait that most young men do not possess.
Waters should be applauded for his unwavering support of the youth in his hometown and adopted communities. He should also, and more importantly, be admired for refusing to give up.
Waters proved to us and the world that your future is not written in stone, nor is it over when someone else — even if that someone is 32 NFL franchises on draft day — suggests it might be time to change paths.
He proved that humility and character lead to success. And he did it with the type of class that should make every Waxahachie alumni, native and resident proud.
Congrats, Brian. Enjoy the spotlight. You’ve earned it.
Travis M. Smith, @Travis5mith