Connor’s Corner: Marquez Valdes-Scantling 


Hello and welcome back to the third edition of Connor’s Corner, where I discuss a standout performance in professional sports and that player’s journey from high school to the professional level. Following a pair of exciting conference championship games this past Sunday, one performance stood out to help lead their team to the Rihanna Bowl (Rihanna is performing at halftime): Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling. 

Valdes-Scantling tore up the stat sheet, accumulating 116 yards on six catches and hauling in a touchdown from 19 yards out to put his team up 20-13 en route to a 23-20 victory for the Chiefs. Valdes-Scantling’s performance is all the more impressive, considering the injuries this Kansas City squad has racked up. For one, Patrick Mahomes came into this contest still reeling from a badly sprained ankle from last week’s match against Jacksonville, which caused him to sit out most of the second quarter. Not to mention, All-Pro tight end Travis Kelce almost didn’t play this past Sunday due to back spasms. As if matters weren’t bad enough for Kansas City, they lost three of their wide receivers during Sunday’s game: Kadarius Toney (ankle), Mecole Hardman (pelvis) and JuJu Smith-Schuster (knee). None of these players returned after their injuries, so we did not see the most efficient offense from the Chiefs. Thus, Valdes-Scantling was the next man up, and he lived up to that. All of his catches netted a Kansas City first down or touchdown, and three of his six receptions moved the chains on third down, meaning he was a focal point in keeping drives alive. Valdes-Scantling was a menace in the passing attack, and it begs the question of what the result of the AFC Championship would have been had he not played how he did. 

This season has been one of Valdes-Scantling’s best campaigns to date in his young career. He played all 17 games and, in that stretch, had the fourth-most receptions on the team (42) and third-most reception yards (687). This stat line might not seem the most impressive, but Valdes-Scantling has carried his weight. With the loss of star Tyreek Hill in the offseason and the acquisition of Smith-Schuster to fill his void, the Chiefs downgraded at this position. As a result, throughout the season, as many as 11 different receivers in a single game came away with a catch. Because of this, Valdes-Scantling and some of his teammates would only see around three targets per game, meaning there is little opportunity to amass a monster stat line. Not to mention, Valdes-Scantling is rarely used in the red zone, hence his two receiving touchdowns. It should also be noted that Kelce had a career-high in targets, catches, receiving yards and touchdowns and led the team in these stats. 

Hailing from St. Petersburg, Florida, Valdes-Scantling attended Lakewood High School, where he was tabbed as a three-star recruit. In his senior year, he caught 50 balls for 800 yards and 14 touchdowns. As a junior, he hauled in 28 receptions for 600 yards and six scores. These stats, combined with his unmatched speed, helped put colleges on his radar, where he committed to North Carolina State University. 

After his high school career, Valdes-Scantling put up two solid seasons with NC State, accumulating 538 yards and a touchdown on 44 catches. After his sophomore season in 2014, Valdes-Scantling transferred to USF, where he broke out in a big way. Valdes-Scantling racked up 1294 yards on 75 receptions and 11 touchdowns. In his senior year with the Bulls, Valdes-Scantling’s 879 yards through the air was good enough to capture the USF single-season record. Valdes-Scantling also helped lead USF to a bowl game in each year he was there, and went 2-0 in this stretch. What blew away NFL scouts was how at the NFL Combine, Valdes-Scantling ran a 4.37 40-yard dash, which convinced the Green Bay Packers to take him as their 174th overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. 

Valdes-Scantling has enjoyed a solid NFL career up to this point. With the Packers, he averaged 17.5 yards per catch — which happened to be the fourth highest in the NFL over that span (2018-2021). Valdes-Scantling also led the league in yards per catch in 2020 with 20.9, which highlights his big-play ability. Valdes-Scantling has also been relatively healthy during his tenure in Green Bay: a good thing for the Chiefs considering all of the injuries they have sustained. He only missed six games in 2021, one due to COVID-19 and five with a hamstring injury. Because of this, he had a career-low in catches and yards in his final campaign. He finished with 123 receptions for 2,153 yards and 13 touchdowns for his career with the Packers. 

Without a doubt, with Valdes-Scantling’s performance and the rest week coming up, his squad is in a good position to hoist the Lombardi Trophy; however, for Valdes-Scantling, just playing in the big game isn’t enough. Following the Chiefs’ big win, Valdes-Scantling tweeted out, “Serious question… can I watch Rihanna perform at halftime?” Funny enough, If Valdes-Scantling or any other player did sneak out to see the halftime show, it wouldn’t be the first time, as Cowboys legend Michael Irvin admitted to sneaking out to see Michael Jackson’s Super Bowl XXVII performance, which turned out to be a good decision as the Cowboys would end up winning the Super Bowl that year. Halftime show aside, Valdes-Scantling has experienced his share of highs and lows, but his team needs him now more than ever as they face a must-win game against the Eagles. If Valdes-Scantling puts out half the performance he did this past weekend, and the injured Chiefs come back to full participation, the Chiefs will have a solid chance at bringing the Lombardi Trophy back to Arrowhead. 

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