The intrinsic value of an old Chiefs jersey

There's a story behind every jersey -- some better than others.

ST. LOUIS — I awakened this morning to find a Kansas City Chiefs jersey folded over the back of a chair in my breakfast room. A jersey I’d never seen before.

Number 92. Didn’t ring a bell.

I picked up the jersey and turned it over. Across the top: MICKELL.

Ah, Darren Mickell. Sure, I remember him. A Chiefs defensive lineman from quite a few years ago.

Why a Darren Mickell jersey was in my house was, for a moment, beyond me. It might as well have been Houdini’s straitjacket or Jessica Alba’s bra.

But after a few seconds of confusion, it dawned on me: Chris left it there. For me.

Chris Corrao is my daughter’s boyfriend. Two nights before, my wife and I had said goodbye to Chris, a soldier in the U.S. Army who will be shipping off sometime in the next few weeks to Kuwait, where he’ll spend the next nine months serving his country. Last night Chris and Nicole hung out, then sometime in the wee hours they swung by the house so Nicole could get her car and take Chris to the airport for his ridiculously early flight. That had to have been when Chris left the jersey.

I’d been up for maybe half an hour when Nicole walked in the kitchen. She had just come from the airport, where she and Chris had said their tearful goodbyes. Chris’ platoon is based in another state, so Nicole might get to see him before he deploys. Or she might not. It could be next spring before she sees him again. She put on a brave face for me this morning, but the redness in her eyes gave her away.

Nicole Nahrstedt with Chris Corrao, a private (E2) in the U.S. Army.

"Where did this Chiefs jersey come from?" I asked.

"Chris," Nicole said. "He knows you’re a Chiefs fan and wanted you to have it."

Guilty as charged. I grew up in Kansas City and have been a Chiefs fan my whole life, even after settling in St. Louis 30 years ago. But Chris? He likes the Ravens, the Rams and the Bears. The Chiefs, maybe a little. He recently told me he’d been to Arrowhead Stadium only once, when he was a student at the nearby University of Central Missouri.

But why the Darren Mickell jersey?

I texted Chris, who was still at the airport, waiting for his flight. He said he’d bought it before going to that one Chiefs game. "Figured you’d like it more than I do," he wrote, "considering you’re a big Chiefs fan."

Which is how I came to have a Darren Mickell jersey.

I can tell you very little about Mickell, a player of no great renown. A second-round pick of the Chiefs in a supplemental draft, he spent four seasons in Kansas City, 1992-95, playing on some good Marty Schottenheimer teams while starting fewer than half of the 45 games he played. He then spent parts of five more years in the NFL with three other teams. He never went to a Pro Bowl.

I know these things because I looked them up. Other than his name, I don’t remember much about Mickell. I watched my share of Chiefs games in those days, pretty much every one that was broadcast in St. Louis, but if I ever saw him make a sack (he had 13 1/2 as a Chief) or tackle (71), I don’t remember it. Not like I remember Derrick Thomas’ sacks, Joe Montana’s throws or Marcus Allen’s runs.

A Darren Mickell jersey. Well.

Mine is not a military family. We celebrated Memorial Day just over a week ago, but as far as I know, I have no relatives in military cemeteries. No friends, either. I have great respect and appreciation for those who serve and have served, but I have no personal connection to that world.

Then along comes Chris Corrao, a fine young man who has taken a liking to my daughter. He’s 22, an age to be envied by those a generation removed, and he’s spending the next almost-year of his life wearing enormous amounts of clothing and equipment in a stifling hot desert on the other side of the world because that’s the job he signed up for. One he’s proud to do.

A job I am ever so thankful I never had to do.

Nicole and Chris have been dating for five months. I like Chris, a polite young man who appears to have his act together and treats my daughter well. I have every reason to believe he will represent his country well overseas. He seems like the kind of man a young lady might want to wait around for.

And he left me this jersey.

I now own three Chiefs jerseys.

A Joe Montana jersey, a Christmas gift from my parents more than two decades ago. Like pretty much anything else in my closet circa 1993, it no longer fits. But hey, it was a gift from my folks. Sentimental value.

A Len Dawson jersey, autographed and bearing the notation "SB IV MVP." I wore it twice, as I recall, and now it’s encased in glass, hanging on my basement wall. It was a gift from a former boss who wanted to thank me for support I had provided during a rough time. It means a lot to me, and besides that, it’s probably worth a few bucks.

And now, No. 92. The jersey of a long-forgotten player. A parting gift from a young man who soon will be far from those he loves, including my daughter, eager to begin an adventure abroad, yet fully cognizant that wearing the uniform of the U.S. Army makes him a target every minute he has it on. And off he goes, no hesitation.

I already like this Mickell jersey most.

Mike Nahrstedt is Digital Content Manager for FOXSportsKansasCity.com and FOXSportsMidwest.com. You can email him at mike.nahrstedt@foxsports.net.