This spring, 25 year old defensive back Brandin Dandridge will be fighting for a spot on the Kansas City Chiefs in the NFL. After spending a part of his childhood and early life in the Kansas City, Missouri region, his life has come full circle with this new opportunity, but the journey to get here, on and off the football field has not been easy.
Dandridge mainly grew up in Des Moines, Iowa where he starred in many sports. He got his introduction to sports from his older brother. In an interview with JZ Media’s Jordan Zlomislic, while talking about his story, he said, “My brother played basketball and seeing him ball and grind, it made me want to follow in his footsteps in a way.” In Iowa he started to play basketball, baseball and football, which he would all continue to play when he and his family moved to Missouri, not too far away from Kansas City. While living in Missouri, Dandridge was mainly a star on the baseball diamonds. Dating back to when he was just getting started with baseball while in Iowa, “there were people around the fences watching my tee ball games because I was the only kid there that could hit over the fence home runs.” he said, “I played everywhere in baseball, mainly in the outfield but played 3rd base, pitched and caught too. When we moved to Missouri I actually played on a travel team, and thats when we first started seeing more about the Royals and Chiefs in Kansas City. Then when we moved even closer to Kansas City it was like, ‘wow there’s really an NFL and MLB team right down the road.'”
Going to Blue Springs South High School in Blue Springs, Missouri, Dandridge continued his baseball career, but also had a lot of focus on football. Being in the NFL was a big dream of his, but eventually going to a small school in Missouri Western State he didn’t know it was really a possibility until his senior year when he was getting interest and was talked about around the NFL. After making 74 tackles, 35 pass deflections, and 8 interceptions in his final two seasons of University at Missouri Western, he was looked at to actually go to the NFL out of University, doing something he didn’t think was possible. Unfortunately though, things didn’t work out exactly like that and his road to get to where he is now, now being in the NFL was a lot bumpier than he first pictured.
During that senior season at Missouri Western, Brandin Dandridge was nursing a knee injury. He wasn’t 100% sure what the injury was exactly, but he and those around him knew he could play through the injury in 2018 and take care of the injury after the season, getting the necessary surgeries and treatment to get back to one hundred percent. When asked about his story, and his whole life really, he told Zlomislic that this knee injury was the biggest, most influential turning point in his life. “I had good draft stock going into the year.” he said, “If I had another good year, and everything went well I probably would have been drafted, but to start out the year I knew I wasn’t 100%, and we knew there was something. Then around the middle of the season my knee was bugging me. I got an MRI, and it showed that there were loose bodies in my knee. I ended up playing the rest of the season, probably like 5 or 6 more games. Looking at it now, I probably shouldn’t have, but I didn’t know it was a big deal at the time. Come the last game of the year my leg was so swelled up, and it was stiff, I could barely move it, it was stuck in like a 90 degree angle. I thought that would be my last game of the year, have surgery and be ready for the pro day, and get into the NFL, but then we were eligible for a bowl game. The competitiveness in me made myself play that bowl game, and we ended up winning it, and it was a good experience, but it backed up my surgery and the plans I originally had. I ended up having surgery in December, and since it was more serious than they first thought it was, it ended up being a knee scope microfracture surgery. When I heard that, I started tearing up because I knew that the recovery for that was 6 months, everything would need to heal and I ended up missing pro day and really thought I’d miss out on the opportunity in the NFL, and at that moment in time it made me decide if I even wanted to keep going and play football. I knew I had the ability and talent to play at that level, I just knew that it would be a long journey to get there.”
Once he had fully recovered from his surgery, Dandridge got his first football opportunity with the XFL for a showcase in June of 2019. He said, “I was nervous, I didn’t really do any football activities since the surgery, and I didn’t even train that much leading up to it. Ran a 4.5 40 yard dash. After that I was looking for a job, and was actually in an orientation at UPS when my agent called me about Ottawa.”
When Brandin Dandridge had the opportunity to come to Canada and play with the CFL’s Ottawa Redblacks, he didn’t know where Ottawa was. In fact, he didn’t even know Ottawa was a city. “I said, ‘what is Ottawa?’ as soon as I got the news. I heard of the CFL, and knew some teams in it and stuff but I didn’t know the Redblacks so it was all so new to me and I was actually off to Ottawa the next day.”
Signed midway through the 2019 CFL season, Dandridge started his time in Ottawa on the practice roster, and only played the final 4 games of the season. In those four games, in a limited amount of snaps he made 12 tackles for the Redblacks and solidified a spot in training camp for the next year. “When the season ended I met with the GM and the front office,” Dandridge said, “they said they saw good things but before saying anymore they wanted to see me in a camp setting with more competition around and stuff.”
Unfortunately though, due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the CFL’s cancelled season in 2020 the Ottawa Redblacks had to wait a bit longer for that look at Brandin Dandridge in a camp setting. Dandridge was out of football for the entirety of the 2020 calendar year, and really didn’t know if he’d see the football field again. During the time away from the game, Dandridge spent time back home in the states but mainly found himself in Canada with his girlfriend that he met in Ottawa and eventually with his son Khari who was born in March of 2021, just months before Brandin was able to play football again with the Redblacks. “Becoming a father was amazing.” he commented on the 2020-2021 calendar years, “growing up I looked up to my dad in many ways. Having a son, I want him to be able to look up to me the same way I looked up to my dad. I hope he can look at me and be like ‘wow, thats my dad.’ At the end of the day I want to leave a legacy for him, and give him something that he can build on to. I love being a dad, and really I cannot describe the feeling I have being around him.” Being in Ottawa while Khari was born, and throughout the off-season leading up to the season in 2021 was great for Brandin to be around his family and was overall very meaningful and beneficial for his life off of the football field, but come the 2021 CFL season, that time in Ottawa proved to be good for his life on the football field as well.
It ended up being a rocky road to get on the field for the Redblacks in 2021, from originally making it onto the practice roster after training camp, cut, then signed back to the practice roster and finally the active roster in September where he’d end up playing the final 8 games of the season. In those 8 games, 5 had turnovers, finishing the season with 4 interceptions and a fumble recovery on top of his 12 defensive tackles. The success he had in Ottawa during the 2021 CFL season, a lot of it, he credits to his preparation leading up to the games he played. He told JZ Media, “coming to Ottawa during the off-season was a blessing. I came around November of 2020 and originally because of the border’s rules my girlfriend and I had to fight for me to even come to Canada from the states. She did a great job and helped me thankfully get in and when I was in Ottawa I could use the facilities at TD Place, workout with some guys and it really helped me develop and learn during that time too.” he continued, “I spent some time with Sherrod (Baltimore) and he taught me a lot about everything. How to be a better professional, how to carry yourself on and off the field and he taught me a lot just watching film and training once and a while together too.”
The time learning during the off-season, and everything he’s done over the span of his football career paid off big time in early February of this year when his agent called him with a dream come true opportunity to workout for the Kansas City Chiefs. Prior to the call from his agent, he already had some ties with the Chiefs. It was his hometown team, he attended a local pro day they had put on in 2019 during his draft year (couldn’t participate due to injury) and his former strength coach at Missouri Western, Greg Carbin is now coaching with the Chiefs but his links to the Chiefs never gave him the idea that they were interested in signing him. He was actually very surprised when he got the call. “I was working at my job, and I got a call from my agent.” he explained, “I don’t talk to my agent that much unless I call him or something is happening so I called him back and he pretty much told me that I have a tryout that Friday with the Chiefs, and I think it was Tuesday at the time.”
“I wasn’t really in perfect shape to do a workout, so I didn’t know how I would do, but my agent pretty much said I couldn’t pass on the opportunity. I ended up getting there on the Thursday, did some training at the place I used to train at all the time that day to get into the 40 yard dash training and getting prepared for the workout and I ended up running a 4.51 with no speed or combine training and they offered me a contract.” he went into detail, “Even as soon as I got there, it just felt like home. Well, it really is home there but seeing my old strength coach, and having been at the facilities already, it just felt like home for me and it all felt so right. It was a dream come true to get that opportunity and I’m all focused on making the team and playing for the Chiefs this year.”
Mandatory training with the Chiefs will begin in April for Dandridge, and until then he will be focused on getting 100% prepared for the opportunity in front of him and will be spending time with his family. During his free time though, when he is not playing football, and not busy doing anything with Khari, he is listening to music, eating or watching movies. Listing some of his favourite artists, movies and foods he says he likes to eat pizza, banana bread, zucchini bread, while in Ottawa he likes Little Italy Pizza and in the states he enjoys hitting up Waffle House. As for music, in no specific order he likes to listen to his top 5 artists Rod Wave, Lil Durk, Lil Baby, G Herbo and Young Boy NBA. Right now his favourite song on repeat is Back Door by Lil Durk and is always watching any Will Smith movies or shows as well as Marvel movies and the Dark Knight Batman movies.
When he has more free time to watch all of these movies on repeat, and eat all of the Waffle House he desires, when football is no longer in the picture, Dandridge sees himself sticking around the game of football. Not as a coach, but as a mentor for the next generation of football players. He has the vision of potentially having his own gym in the future where he has kids come and workout, train and get better but also get guidance. He said, “A lot of young athletes need to hear about my story, and I want to tell more kids about the path I took, and to help them with their own paths. Mentorship is huge and I was fortunate enough to have good coaches, and trainers in my corner during my journey. I have a lot to give back and when I have the time to do so I want to definitely start something that helps me do so.”