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Super Bowl receiver credits Call of Duty with getting Kansas City to the big game

‘The communication’s on point, we’ve been working, man, day in and day out,’ says JuJu Smith-Schuster

AFC Divisional Playoffs - Jacksonville Jaguars v Kansas City Chiefs
JuJu Smith-Schuster takes the field during lineup introductions at the divisional playoff game against Jacksonville on Jan. 21.
Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images

When the Kansas City Chiefs take the field for their third Super Bowl Sunday in four years, their starting lineup will include two wide receivers both in their first year with the team. JuJu Smith-Schuster, an All-Pro wideout who left Pittsburgh as a free agent, and Marquez Valdez-Scantling, likewise signed from Green Bay, accounted for 120 catches, 1,620 receiving yards and five touchdowns in the 2022 season. And to hear Smith-Schuster tell it, the fast bond he and Valdez-Scantling formed with quarterback Patrick Mahomes came from Call of Duty.

“I put in a lot of work, man; I put in a lot, a lot, a lot of Call of Duty hours with Patrick Mahomes, [tight end] Travis Kelce, and Marquez, baby,” Smith-Schuster said during Tuesday’s Super Bowl media day, a notoriously anything-goes event where all kinds of questions are asked and answered.

But, taken at face value, playing first-person shooter multiplayer with his new quarterback and Kelce, Mahomes’ No. 1 target, helped build the kind of communication that the NFL’s best receiving tandems often ride to a championship.

“A lot of COD hours, man. We’re dropping down, the communication’s on point, we’ve been working, man, day in and day out,” Smith-Schuster said.

Moreover, back in October, Smith-Schuster said he, Valdez-Scantling, Kelce, and Mahomes won three straight matches of Call of Duty: Warzone (played on the Rebirth Island map) the day before a 44-23 road victory over the San Francisco 49ers.

“It kind of just led into this game and it showed on the field,” Smith-Schuster said then. “We all land in, once we get our guns, we’re working together […] the communication is like, ‘Let’s move upstairs, let’s go here,’ That’s where it all started out.

Smith-Schuster and Valdez-Scantling were both signed after the Chiefs traded four-time All-Pro Tyreek Hill, formerly their top wide receiver threat, to Miami for five draft picks back in March 2022. Hill had 111 catches, 1,239 yards, and nine touchdowns for Kansas City in 2021. The volume approach to replacing Hill’s contributions apparently worked; the Chiefs again led the league in passing yards, passing touchdowns, and total points.

Kansas City is the underdog in Sunday’s Super Bowl LVII —but not by much. Sports books have the Philadelphia Eagles as the favorite by 1.5 points. EA Sports’ annual simulation of the big game with Madden NFL 23 called for a big Eagles win, 31-17.

Madden’s record picking the Super Bowl has been hit-or-miss lately, mostly missing, and Kansas City is in something of a dynasty, making the last five AFC championship games, winning three of them, and also winning Super Bowl LIV in February 2020.

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