MIAMI – Tanoh Kpassagnon is a very smart guy with not one but two degrees from Villanova’s business school (finance and accounting). But the Wissahickon High product admitted this week that when the Kansas City Chiefs selected him in the second round of the 2017 draft, well, he had to check to see exactly where Kansas City was.
“I honestly wasn’t sure where it was on the map,’’ he said. “I knew it was in the Midwest somewhere. I also knew it wasn’t anywhere near Wissahickon.’’
Kansas City took some getting used to for Kpassagnon, and so did the NFL. But the 6-7, 289-pound defensive end with the chiseled frame and 35 ½-inch arms is starting to make his presence known on the Chiefs’ defense.
An injury to fellow defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah opened the door for more playing time for Kpassagnon. He started the Chiefs’ final eight regular-season games and played 62% of the defensive snaps this season after playing just 12% of the snaps in 2017-18. He had a career-high four sacks.
He has started both of the Chiefs’ playoff games so far this year, playing 67 of 80 snaps in their 51-31 divisional-round win over Houston, and 53 of 66 snaps in their 35-24 win over Tennessee in the AFC championship game. He had two sacks against the Titans.
“It was just a matter of gaining the confidence that, ‘OK, I can do this; I can play with these guys,’ ’’ Kpassagnon said this week.
He’ll make his 11th straight start Sunday in Super Bowl LIV against the San Francisco 49ers. While he’ll primarily line up at right end, defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo will frequently move him around.
“We ask him to do a lot of things, which is a credit to him that [he] can play multiple positions,’’ Spagnuolo said. “He lines up inside and outside. He’s really coming along, which is good because we’re going to need him to play well Sunday.’’
Kpassagnon can’t believe his good fortune to be playing in the Super Bowl in only his third pro season.
“There are guys who have been waiting their whole careers for this opportunity,’’ he said. “I’m here in three years.
“[Terrell] Suggs was telling me he’s been with guys that played 15-plus years and never got close to playing in this game. It just reminds you to take it all in and enjoy the moment, and not think it’s going to be a given that you’ll ever be back. Because you might not.’’
Coming out of Wissahickon High eight years ago, Kpassagnon didn’t get a single Division I scholarship offer. With a mother who is a scientist and a father who is an economist, his biggest priority was academics rather than football. He once turned down an invitation to a prestigious football camp to attend a Future Business Leaders of America conference in Florida.