Cornerback cousins battle for same Chiefs spot
Published on -6/2/2014, 11:14 AM
By Randy Covitz
Kansas City Chiefs newcomers DeMarcus and David Van Dyke have waited a lifetime for this opportunity.
For as long as they can remember, the Van Dykes, who are first cousins, always wanted to wear the same uniform. It didn't matter -- high school, college or the NFL.
They finally got their opportunity when the Chiefs signed DeMarcus as a veteran free agent in the offseason and David as an undrafted rookie free agent in May.
Both are cornerbacks. It's going to be difficult for one of them to crack a roster that includes 10 corners heading into training camp, much less both.
So while the cousins may be close companions, they're also keen competitors.
"May the best man win," said DeMarcus Van Dyke, 25, a veteran of one NFL season with Oakland and two with Pittsburgh. "I'll be proud of him (David) if he does make it, because I want him to win an opportunity in the NFL. He's worked hard since little league to get here, so anything I can do to help him win a job, I'm down for it."
David Van Dyke, 23, put his personal feelings aside when it comes to battling his cousin on the field.
"You have to compete for a job," he said, "no matter what team you go to."
While the Pro Football Hall of Fame lists 348 sets of siblings who have played in the NFL -- most famously the Manning brothers -- few were teammates. Although there are no records kept of first cousins, it's rare for a team not only to have first cousins on the roster but also two who play the same position.
David Van Dyke, who played free safety at Tennessee State, is embracing the opportunity.
"I knew it would be a nice fit because all my life I've been learning from him, following in his footsteps," she said. "He's the reason I'm here. He pushed me (to sign with the Chiefs)."
The Van Dykes played at different high schools in Miami, and DeMarcus, 25, went on to the University of Miami where he used his blazing speed as a football and track athlete for the Hurricanes.
The cousins could have played together one year at Miami, but David Van Dyke went to Tennessee State, where he was a second-team All-Ohio Valley Conference selection. He recorded four interceptions last season, including a 46-yard touchdown return.
"I pushed Miami to offer him a scholarship," DeMarcus said, "but there was a coaching change. The third time is a charm ... we got it right."
Although DeMarcus Van Dyke never was a full-time starter at Miami (21 starts in 50 games), his stock rose after he ran a 4.28 in the 40-yard dash at the 2011 NFL Scouting Combine.
That time, which is still the fifth fastest at the Combine since electronic timing began in 1999, endeared him to the speed-loving Oakland Raiders, who selected him in the third round as the 81st overall pick in the draft.
DeMarcus lasted just one season with the Raiders. He appeared in 14 games in 2011, starting four, including a game at Oakland against the Chiefs in which he intercepted a Matt Cassel pass, his only career pick. He was released in the final roster cut before the 2012 season and was signed by Pittsburgh.
On his first snap on opening day at Denver, DeMarcus downed a punt at the Broncos 1, but he missed the last seven games of the 2012 season because of a shoulder injury and appeared in just two games last season because of hamstring issues.
"If I stay healthy, I'll be OK," said DeMarcus, who lined up mostly at left cornerback during last week's organized team activities. "I can bring a lot of things to this team ... on special teams, covering guys, whatever the coaches need me to do, I can do.
"I love this defense, playing with guys like Sean Smith and Eric Berry."
DeMarcus' 6-foot-1, 187-pound size and his outstanding speed made him attractive to the Chiefs, who play a lot of man-press coverage.
"He was a good player in college," said Chiefs coach Andy Reid. "He's had some ups and downs in the NFL. We brought him in for competition. We'll give him an opportunity to see how it works in the scheme. We do a little bit more bump-and-run than maybe he's done before. We think that's one of his strengths."
David Van Dyke, 6 feet and 185, will have a tougher road to making the team, though he might have the opportunity to work on making the conversion from safety to cornerback on the practice squad.
"He's a tough kid," Reid said. "It looks like he's made the transition from safety pretty good. He needs as many reps as he can possibly get to make that transition. It's good competition when (the cousins) work against each other."
DeMarcus Van Dyke felt a connection to the Chiefs long before he came to Kansas City.
"I always rooted for Kansas City growing up because of Derrick Thomas came from Miami," he said. "I got my first interception against Kansas City. ...
"And when I was hurt last year, I watched Kansas City because (defensive lineman) Allen Bailey was my roommate at Miami. So it's kind of crazy. I rooted for them every game."