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Todd Pinkston was a high school coach last year. Now he's coaching Kansas City in the Super Bowl

 Todd Pinkston's last trip to the Super Bowl was with Philadelphia in 2005, when the Eagles lost to the New England Patriots. After coaching high school football, he returns to the Super Bowl as the Kansas City Chiefs' running backs coach.
Greg Echlin
/
KCUR
Todd Pinkston's last trip to the Super Bowl was with Philadelphia in 2005, when the Eagles lost to the New England Patriots. After coaching high school football, he returns to the Super Bowl as the Kansas City Chiefs' running backs coach.

Going to the Super Bowl as a running backs coach for the Kansas City Chiefs is “just like a dream come true for me,” says Pinkston, who was a wide receiver for the Philadelphia Eagles when Andy Reid was that team's head coach.

Over the last year, Todd Pinkston’s career took him from coaching a high school football team to coaching the Kansas City Chiefs at the Super Bowl.

“It’s been a journey,” conceded Pinkston, a former NFL wide receiver who is now the Chiefs’ running backs coach.

“Everything kind of worked out for me,” said Pinkston, who until the fall of 2022 was associate head coach at Stockbridge High School in Stockbridge, Georgia, an Atlanta suburb of about 30,000 people. “When I think about it, it’s just like a dream come true for me.”

Pinkston knew Chiefs Coach Andy Reid, having played for five seasons for the Philadelphia Eagles when Reid coached there from 1999 to 2012, until a torn Achilles tendon derailed Pinkston’s playing career.

He was accustomed to being around a successful football team.

In four of his last five years as a pro, Pinkston played in four straight NFC Championship games and, during his final season, the Super Bowl when the Eagles lost to New England. That made the Patriots the last back-to-back Super Bowl champions, a feat the Chiefs seek to match on Sunday.

The Chiefs take on the San Francisco 49ers (5:30 p.m., KCTV, Channel 5 in Kansas City) in hopes of winning the fourth Super Bowl championship in franchise history.

Sports A guide to Super Bowl 2024: What to know about the Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers Greg Echlin

Reid said he’d seen Pinkston’s potential as a coach all along.

“He’s always been — and I saw this when he was a player — willing to teach the young guys that were coming up below him at the wide receiver position,” said Reid. “He just had a good way about it and I thought, ‘Man, he’d be a really good football coach if he ever chose to go that route.’”

Pinkston said he believes his work habits as a player caught Reid’s attention.

“I would try to learn and not just be a part of the team,” he said. “I would just try to find a smaller detail to make me better, and I think that’s gotten me to where I’m at now.”

Pinkston succeeded former Chiefs running backs coach Greg Lewis (also a former Eagles wide receiver under Reid), who moved on with Eric Bieniemy to become an assistant coach with the Washington Commanders for the 2023 season.

“Todd and Greg were different personality-wise, but their fundamentals were the same and I think that’s healthy for the running backs,” said Reid.

Chiefs running back Isiah Pacheco said Pinkston brings fun into the Chiefs' meeting room.

“You just need to have fun. That’s what you forget to do at the end of the day,” said Pacheco. “There’s a lot of pressure if you lose or you win. At the end of the day, it’s a game.”

“I just let them be themselves,” Pinkston said of the fun factor. “I have to make sure those guys know what they’re doing first, but to have fun doing it. I joke around with them.”

Pacheco said he finds it funny that his two running backs coaches in his two years with the Chiefs are former NFL wide receivers. But it was beneficial to the Chiefs this season when Pacheco, in addition to his 935 rushing yards, caught a career-high 44 passes for 244 yards.

“Catching the ball is fun for a running back,” he said, adding that players in that position don’t get many of those opportunities. “You’ve got to love catching the ball out of the backfield.”

Mike Sielski, a columnist for The Philadelphia Inquirer, said it wasn’t always fun for Pinkston, who fell short of Eagles fans’ expectations as a second-round draft choice out of Southern Mississippi University.

“There was the assumption, I think, among people in the fan base that, ‘OK, if you’re a second-round pick, you’re supposed to come in and play right away and contribute right away.’”

Pinkston had only ten pass receptions in 2000, his rookie season. Though Pinkston’s production improved the next two years, Sielski said Pinkston got a bad rap from the Philly fan base, especially when the frustration of losing three straight NFC championships (2001-’03) settled in.

“I think, in general, they short-changed how much he contributed to those teams,” Sielski said.

Before his position at Stockbridge, Pinkston coached wide receivers at Tennessee's Austin Peay State University from 2017-2019.

Coaching high school, he said, gave him a chance to figure out what he really wanted to do.

In the summer of ‘22, Pinkston got a taste of working with Reid through a coaching internship. It paid off when Reid offered him the assistant coaching job after the Super Bowl last year.

The fun of being in the NFL, and a return trip to the Super Bowl, have returned for Todd Pinkston.

Copyright 2024 KCUR 89.3. To see more, visit KCUR 89.3.

Greg Echlin