Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
For Kansas City’s “Dirty Dan,” it’s all about doing the little things right.
We often hear Kansas City Chiefs players say that the beds in the dorms at Missouri Western State University in St. Joseph are not comfortable — but don’t tell that to veteran safety Daniel Sorensen. Now entering his eighth season with the team, he says he’s been sleeping like a baby during Chiefs training camp.
“It’s good, yeah, the dorms good,” he told reporters after Friday’s practice. “I sleep good.”
He has a reason to sleep soundly. Life is different for “Dirty Dan” now. Undrafted out of BYU, he was considered not athletic enough — and too inconsistent — to garner substantial NFL playing time. Once a perennial bubble player, he had to prove that he had what it took to hang around in this league.
But in Kansas City, his blue-collar, workmanlike style has earned the trust of the coaching staff. Last season, he was on the field for 82% of the team’s defensive snaps — including every defensive snap from Week 9 through the Super Bowl. And during Friday’s practice session, Sorensen was running with the first team in place of third-year safety Juan Thornhill.
Sorensen is not a perfect player by any stretch of the imagination. Our own Pete Sweeney noted that during Thursday’s practice, rookie tight end Noah Gray had beaten him for a touchdown.
Baby Kelce alert. Patrick Mahomes hits Noah Gray with a deep back-shoulder pass down the left sideline in 7s. Gray beat Daniel Sorensen in coverage.
— Pete Sweeney (@pgsween) July 29, 2021
In many fans’ minds, this occurs far too often. But Sorensen has a specific role on the team — and he fulfills it very well. Whether lining up as an in-the-box safety — or on special teams — he’s has made a name for himself as a tough-nosed competitor who is savvy enough to put himself in a position to succeed.
Entering the third year of defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo’s system, Sorensen said that there is now a sense of continuity for the defensive unit as a whole.
“We have a lot of veterans in similar roles, that have played positions for us [in the past],” he told reporters, “so [there’s] a lot of experience in that regard — [and] a lot of young guys are filling in nicely.”
Part of Sorensen’s appeal is that he seems like a normal guy. This approachability has allowed the team’s younger players to feel comfortable about picking his brain.
“I love giving advice and experience and passing it along to the next guy,” said Sorensen. “Everything that I’ve learned and the experiences that I’ve had — which is a lot.”
Photo by Peter Aiken/Getty Images
Sorensen also noted that going against their own teammates in practice might be the toughest competition the Chiefs defense will face all year.
“It’s really great for our defense to be able to go against Patrick and the offense — and Coach Reid and their scheme — and the amount of pass plays and the schemes that they draw up,” he said. “It really challenges us — which is great, [because] we can tighten up, we can adjust, we can focus, because we know going into the regular season, we might not face such a pass-heavy proficient throwing offense. So if we can get all that working and training in now, it will be really good for us during the season.”
But that doesn’t mean Sorensen doesn’t see room for improvement. He said that the main thing he and his defensive teammates are working on is doing the little things right.
“You’re not perfect in any regards,” he noted. “I think the biggest thing is [in the] third year in the system, we’ve got to nail down the details … when you have repeated success, it’s about being very detail-oriented.”
Coaches like to say that success is where preparation meets opportunity. It may be a worn-out expression, but it’s true. Sorensen has made a career out of focusing on the minute details of his craft — so that when his number is called, he is ready to step up.
“I look forward to continuing to grind, and continuing to work with this team, and to accomplish more.
“We’ve done a lot,” he said. “But we’re not done yet.”