Having come a long way already, Chiefs receiver Boerigter wants more.
By IVAN CARTER
The Kansas City Star
Lynn Stiles has to laugh every time he's about to greet old friend Marty Schottenheimer.
"It's always the same," said Stiles, the Chiefs' vice president of football operations. "Within the first few seconds, Marty looks at me and says: `Marc Boerigter. Who is this guy, and where in the world did you find him?' "
In San Diego, they know without a doubt who Boerigter is now.
In two games against Schottenheimer's San Diego Chargers last season, Boerigter caught nine passes for 229 yards and four touchdowns. He also produced the highlight -- or if you are a Chargers fan, the lowlight -- of the season with a 99-yard catch-and-run for a score in the Chiefs' Dec. 22 win over San Diego at Arrowhead Stadium.
On ESPN's "SportsCenter" that night, the anchor was as surprised as everyone else. He managed to butcher Boerigter's name and labeled him a tight end.
For the record, it's Bo-RIC-ter. And the dude most definitely is not a tight end, though he is built like one.
And while most of America still doesn't know his name, some things have changed for the 6-foot-3, 223-pound Boerigter as he prepares for his second NFL season.
Two years ago at this time, he was living in an apartment and playing on the wide fields of the Canadian Football League as a member of the Calgary Stampeders, hoping it would eventually lead to an NFL opportunity.
Now, he's recently married, with a new home in Kansas City and high hopes of proving that last season's out-of-nowhere success was the prelude to something much bigger.
"Before, I was just hoping somebody would give me a shot, and I ended up taking the longest possible road to get here," Boerigter said. "Now that I'm here, I'm not going to take anything for granted. Maybe it's because of where I came from, but I always have the feeling that I'm going to have to work even harder to stay."
A hidden talent
An NFL team will do just about anything to land a big, fast wide receiver with good hands and a knack for making the big play.
That's why the Minnesota Vikings took the risk of spending a first-round pick on Randy Moss in 1998, why the 49ers continue to put up with Terrell Owens' act in San Francisco and why the Chargers spent big money to land David Boston in free-agency this off-season.
It also explains Schottenheimer's incredulous queries each time he runs into Stiles.
But Schottenheimer shouldn't feel bad. Fact is, nobody thought Boerigter was an NFL-quality wideout when his career at Hastings College -- an NAIA school in Hastings, Neb. -- ended in 1999.
Former Hastings head coach Ross Els, now the defensive coordinator at New Mexico State, remembers the prevailing mood.
"Not every NFL team worked him out, but a few came through," Els said. "Our opinion was: We don't know. We knew he had tools but hadn't seen him at that level of competition.
"I tell you this, though: I bet there are a lot of teams wishing they had him now."
Boerigter's agent, Craig Domann, said getting the attention of NFL teams wasn't easy.
"Here was this big, athletic guy who had put up good numbers (93 receptions for 1,902 yards and 30 touchdowns), but he did it at a small school," Domann said. "Then he ran a slow 40 time on his workout day, and that guaranteed that no NFL teams would be interested. He was labeled a 4.7 guy, and NFL teams don't go to Hastings for a 4.7 guy.
"At that point, Marc had a choice: Get a real job, or continue to pursue his dream."
With doors to the NFL seemingly closed, Boerigter and his dad, Bob, who is athletic director at Northwest Missouri State, hopped into a car and drove to Dallas for a CFL workout.
It was there that he caught the eye of the Calgary Stampeders, who invited him to their training camp. It didn't take long for Boerigter to turn heads.
Former Calgary offensive coordinator George Cortez, now the quarterbacks coach at California, almost couldn't believe what he was seeing: a tall, rangy receiver with good hands and excellent speed.
"From the first practice, we had guys working with him because they knew he would be making the team," Cortez said. "You could tell that he was raw, but then he made tremendous progress in the little things -- route running, getting off the jam and things like that. He made huge strides."
In two seasons with Calgary, Boerigter caught 111 passes for 2,023 yards and 19 touchdowns. He also helped the Stampeders win the 2001 Grey Cup with a 69-yard touchdown reception in the championship game.
"Sometimes we wondered how we managed to have him instead of an NFL team," Cortez said. "But then again, I think going up there helped Marc develop. Because of the rules, we threw the ball a lot and he got a chance to play in big games. I think that experience helped him get ready for the NFL."
By the spring of 2002, Boerigter didn't have to worry about chasing NFL teams any more. They came to him. Domann set up a workout at the University of Utah that was attended by 15 NFL squads, including the Chiefs.
When it came time to run the 40, Boerigter was clocked in the 4.4s.
"I timed him at 4.42, which for a guy his size is blazing," Stiles said. "But that's not the only thing that stood out. He was the only receiver at the workout, so he'd run out, catch the ball and run back. Run out, catch the ball and run back. He did this over and over again and never got tired. And then there was the way he carried himself. You could sense that this was a guy mature beyond his age."
The Chiefs beat out the Indianapolis Colts, Denver Broncos and a handful of other interested teams by signing Boerigter to a contract that included a $175,000 signing bonus -- the most ever received by a CFL player.
Success no surprise
After his introduction to the NFL was delayed by appendicitis during training camp, Boerigter slowly worked his way into the Chiefs' offense last season.
His first reception covered 51 yards, and he finished with 20 receptions for 420 yards and a team-high eight touchdowns despite seeing limited action. His 21.0 yards per reception also were a team high.
But Boerigter -- or "Bo" to his teammates -- says he was not surprised by his success. He just did what he has done since high school: Run fast. Catch the football. Score touchdowns.
The only difference was the level of competition.
"It's not that I'm cocky or anything like that, it's just that I have the confidence that I belong," Boerigter said. "I know people were like: `Who the heck is 85?' in that San Diego game, but I wasn't overwhelmed by the situation. I just knew a guy like myself is going to get only so many opportunities and I'd better be ready to take advantage of them."
Some of Boerigter's teammates weren't surprised. Count cornerback Corey Harris among them.
"We saw it every day in practice," Harris said. "Here's a guy who is big, but he's also fast and he'll go up for the ball. Believe me, that's a hard guy to cover."
Clearly, Boerigter has shown enough to factor into the Chiefs' plans for 2003. Eddie Kennison and Johnnie Morton are the starters, while Boerigter and Dante Hall have been working as the third receiver.
Add Marvin "Snoop" Minnis, former first-round pick Sylvester Morris and free-agent signee Dameane Douglas to the mix, and it's easy to see that the Chiefs will go to camp with their best crew of receivers in years.
To what extent Boerigter factors into the offense will depend on his improvement.
"Marc hasn't come close to realizing his potential," Chiefs offensive coordinator Al Saunders said. "When you consider how much he's learned in a short amount of time, it's really impressive. He's a fast learner and a hard worker, so he'll continue to get better."
Though he excels in the play-action passing game and is an ideal target in red-zone situations, Boerigter continues to work on route running, getting off the line of scrimmage against bump-and-run coverage and concentrating to make every catch.
"I know I need to become more consistent," Boerigter said. "There are a lot of things I have to improve. There are times when I look outstanding, and then there are times when I look terrible. That can't happen at this level.
"The reality of the situation is that this is the NFL and they are always looking for your replacement. There is no way I'm going to get complacent."
The one thing Boerigter won't do is sneak up on anybody.
"No," said Stiles. "They know about him now. I promise you that."