Triumph through tragedy: the Isiah Pacheco story

Days away from a Super Bowl appearance, the rookie running back continues to play his role to a hopeful championship.

[One-sentence description of what this media is: "A photo of a vaccine site on USC campus" or "Gif of dancing banana". Important for accessibility/people who use screen readers.]

This Sunday, the Kansas City Chiefs will face off against the Philadelphia Eagles for all the marbles in Superbowl LVII. As the Chiefs aim to capture the franchise’s second title, familiar faces including the likes of quarterback Patrick Mahomes and tight end Travis Kelce lead the charge.

However, new faces stepped up throughout the season to propel Kansas City to its third Super Bowl in four years, with some changes more surprising than others. In an offseason that saw the Chiefs sign big name receiver, USC alumnus Juju Smith-Schuster, one of the biggest boosts came through seventh round pick Isiah Pacheco.

In his first year as an NFL pro, Pacheco made a name for himself through his speed and elusiveness. The rookie tallied 830 rushing yards on nearly 5 yards a carry to go with 5 touchdowns. What many don’t know is the root of this success is born out of hardship.

Pacheco hails from Vineland, New Jersey. From Puerto Rican descent, Pacheco grew up with his parents and two older siblings. Early on, Pacheco flashed his potential on the football field, even getting voted a team captain his freshman year at Vineland High School.

But everything changed in January 2016 when his brother, Travoise Cannon, was killed. Isiah was 16 years old. Only a year later, Isiah also lost his older sister, Celeste Cannon, through tragedy. Reeling from the loss of two important figures in his life, Pacheco channeled that energy onto the football field.

During his time at Vineland, Pacheco was a four-year team captain and 3 star recruit that garnered attention from numerous DI programs. However, he decided to stay home and commit to Rutgers University.

At Rutgers, Pacheco continued his growth into the star the world now sees on national television. During his four years as a Scarlet Knight, he rushed for a total of 2,442 yards and scored 19 touchdowns in 44 games. Combined with his impressive NFL Combine and pro day performances, Pacheco made a name for himself, and the pros took notice.

[One-sentence description of what this media is: "A photo of a vaccine site on USC campus" or "Gif of dancing banana". Important for accessibility/people who use screen readers.]

Come draft day, Pacheco fell to the seventh round. Often, late round picks rarely make an impact in the league, but Pacheco fell into the hands of one of the most explosive offenses in the NFL. Kansas City took Pacheco with the 251st overall pick and little time was needed for him to show his worth.

Pacheco became a steady contributor in a Chiefs offense stacked from top to bottom with offensive stars. In the Chiefs’ AFC playoff game against the Jacksonville Jaguars that saw Patrick Mahomes battle an ankle injury, Pacheco played his role via a 95-yard rushing contribution to the Chiefs’ 27-17 victory.

Sunday’s matchup against Philadelphia is a clash of heavyweights. But in a game that sees superstars on both sides, an X factor might just be what one team needs to capture the title. Isiah Pacheco continues to prove his worth on the field in his late siblings’ honor, and he doesn’t plan on stopping this weekend.