PHOENIX -- Who doesn't love a good Cinderella story? When you look at these Super Bowl teams, however, you may be more inclined to think there isn't one. After all, you have the two No. 1 seeds squaring off in a game that also boasts two quarterbacks who are finalists for league MVP. Sounds more like Goliath vs. Goliath. And it is. But if you want your underdog fix this go around, it resides in the Kanas City backfield with Isiah Pacheco.
This time a year ago, Pacheco had just finished up his final season at Rutgers and was gearing up for the NFL Draft, where he'd eventually be taken No. 251 overall in the seventh round. Given his draft status, odds were more likely that he'd be roster filler rather than a bonafide impact player. Fast-forward to the present moment, not only has Pacheco blossomed into a contributor for Kansas City, but he's looked at as one of the mainstays of their offense.
For proof of how drastic of a rise Pacheco has experienced, look no further than Monday night. He was alongside the likes of Patrick Mahomes, Chris Jones, and Travis Kelce as one of just 10 Chiefs players elevated to a podium during Super Bowl Opening Night, a spot typically held for players held in high standard with their respective clubs. Not too shabby for No. 251.
"As a seventh-round pick, you always have something to prove," Pacheco said. "If you dream big, you can go get it. That's always something I've had in mind of being on this stage, at this level. I still get the jitters cause it feels unreal, but it's real and it's here so I have to embrace it."
Pacheco showed flashes of his potential quite early, totaling 62 yards on just 12 carries in the Chiefs blowout win over the Cardinals in Week 1. He'd popped here and there as the weeks progressed, but the tides truly swung when he was given the starting job in Week 7. From that moment, Pacheco totaled 681 rushing yards to finish out the regular season while averaging 4.9 yards per carry and giving K.C. a much-needed ability to run the football effectively to help extend drives and churn down clock late.
Through two playoff games this year, Pacheco's play has remained steady, averaging 6.6 yards per touch, and he is now gearing up for a start in the Super Bowl.
"For me, it happened so fast," he said. "I have to soak it all in and allow the game to come to me cause it's going to be very exciting. I know my adrenaline is going to be pumping, so I just gotta be patient."
The Chiefs may lean on Pacheco to try and exploit one of the few weaknesses that Philadelphia has: stopping the run. The Eagles rank 24th in the NFL yards allowed per rush this season, giving up 4.6 yards per carry. With that mismatch, Pacheco, a guy taken with one of the very last picks in the draft, is one of the biggest X-factors on the NFL's biggest stage. If he succeeds, he'd be setting himself up for a Lombardi-sized cherry on top of what has been a rather improbable rise to stardom.