ST. JOSEPH, Mo. (TNS) — As he pulled into a Salvation Army donation center in February, Dustin Colquitt reached for his phone, scrolled through his contacts and called a number toward the bottom of the list.
As the line trilled, pinging Chiefs general manager Brett Veach, Colquitt crossed his fingers.
His contract was up, and as a 36-year-old veteran, he was the oldest member of a team that seemed to get younger by the day.
A call to his blunt boss could either reassure him or give him a reason to start packing his bags.
It didn't take long for the young general manager to put his punter's mind at ease.
"You're a big part of this thing," Veach told him. "You've been here a long time. I would hate for us to have a parade downtown and you not be a part of it."
Colquitt exhaled, and a month later, he signed a three-year, $7.5 million deal to keep him with the Chiefs.
"We're going young across the board," Colquitt remembers Veach saying, "except for you."
Since his first season with the Chiefs in 2005, Colquitt has been areliable force in the kicking game. He's stayed in solid shape and avoided major injury, missing only two regular-season games in 2008 with a groin injury.
He holds a career average of 44.9 yards per punt and was slightly better than that in 2017, with a 45.2 yard average. His 77-yard punt in Week 17 against Denver was the longest in the league last season.
But the importance of keeping Colquitt around goes beyond his football ability. He's a steadying presence for second-year kicker Harrison Butker.
"The impact the punter has on a kicker, not just the hold, but (it's) getting that kicker in the right frame of mind," Veach said. "The special teams coach is great, but when you're out there on the field and you're in the huddle and you're getting ready, the field conditions, playing the winds, it's almost like having that caddy relationship with a golfer, when you're talking about things.
"It's a real connection."
With Colquitt's help, Butker — whom coach Andy Reid jokingly referred to as "Buttkicker" or "Buttkicker.com" last season — hit 38 of 42 field goals in his rookie year and converted all 28 extra points.
"I look at every year as trying to keep the return game for the other team dead," Colquitt said. "Everything I can for Harrison, make sure he feels comfortable with everything we're doing beforehand so he can just think about himself and where he's going to put the ball. So really, we just have to focus on that."
It's not the first time Colquitt has played a crucial role in steadying a young kicker.
Before helping Butker, Colquitt was there to help guide Cairo Santos through his first three years. In his rookie season, Santos connected on 25 of 30 field goals and all 38 extra points.
"Maybe they could've had something in regards to production similar somewhere else, but I believe Dustin was a factor in that, in regards to helping them prep," Veach said. "(It's) so much of the mind. And that's a big deal, so that's why we want to bring him back."
While Colquitt continues to be a steady presence on the team, he recognizes the rest of the organization is changing around him.
Entering his 14th year in the league, Colquitt is the longest-tenured Chief and the most veteran member of the squad. With the offseason departures of linebackers Tamba Hali and Derrick Johnson, the second most veteran player on the team is Chad Henne with a decade of experience.
Being without the pair is an odd feeling, Colquitt said. Johnson and Colquitt were in the same draft class and Hali came on a year later. Now, Johnson is with rival Oakland.
But even though his longtime teammates have moved on, Colquitt is content staying with the Chiefs and playing out the rest of his career in Kansas City — however long that may be.
He laughs at the memory of the February phone call with Veach now, and he laughs even harder remembering the mishap that led to two trash bags of Legos spilling out across the Salvation Army's drop-off bay minutes later.
"It filled up the whole bay with Legos," he said. "Harry Potter Legos, the big Legos for my 4-year old. It was crazy."