Chiefs’ Winchester plays with heavy heart after father’s death
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — One day after the Chiefs’ James Winchester attended his father’s funeral, he walked onto the field inside Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday to snap for a 22-yard field-goal attempt.
When it went through, Winchester and kicker Cairo Santos stood together for an extra moment.
"I said, ‘This one’s for daddy,’" Santos said later. "I told James after, ‘You’re going to go on with your life honoring him with everything that you do."
Winchester’s father, Michael, was shot to death Tuesday by a disgruntled former Southwest Airlines employee outside an Oklahoma City airport. Police believe the shooting may have been in retaliation for the assailant losing his job with the airline, where Winchester worked for 29 years.
The Chiefs honored Winchester with a moment of silence before their 19-17 loss to Tampa Bay.
"I can’t speak personally about it," Chiefs offensive lineman Mitchell Schwartz said, "but there’s a sense of normalcy and getting back here kind of breaks up being away from there, and kind of intensifies the feeling. I’m sure it was good for him to get back and see everyone and get back to as normal of a situation as can possibly be, given the circumstances."
Santos said he could empathize with Winchester. His father, Cairo Santos Sr., was a Brazilian stunt pilot who was killed while performing during his son’s senior season at Tulane.
Santos kicked two days after the funeral.
"It’s a family. We’re not just teammates," he said, "the coaches and the organization included."
Chiefs general manager John Dorsey spent Saturday with Winchester in Oklahoma, representing the team at the funeral, and owner Clark Hunt was behind the dedication prior to kickoff Sunday.
"I can’t commend that guy enough," Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce said. "The stuff that he’s been dealt this week is, man, it’s hard. It makes football seem pointless."
Winchester was not available after the game, but even those on the opposite sideline had him in their thoughts. Tampa Bay defensive tackle Gerald McCoy was teammates with Winchester at Oklahoma, and the two of them shared a moment off to the side of the field.
McCoy said the conversation was private, but that they spent some time in prayer.
"Your father passed away a week ago, you wouldn’t be doing too good. But he’s holding up as good as possible," McCoy said. "I’ve lost a parent before. I know how hard it was to come out here and perform. I’m proud of him."