It’s a sunny Tuesday afternoon in early June and the Chargers have just wrapped up their seventh practice of organized team activities (OTAs). Although Tuesday’s practice is voluntary it feels like more than that, especially for a team that has had a busy offseason like the Bolts.
You can feel the energy and hear the communication as veteran players like Joey Bosa, Derwin James and Khalil Mack sub on and off the field. Amongst the proven NFL players are promising young stars like OLB Chris Rumph II who is as eager as anyone to take the field with the Bolts’ new-look defense.
Heading into his second year as a pro, Rumph has set big goals for himself and is using every tool available to accomplish them.
As rookies get drafted to their respective teams, there is a lot of information to process at once. Many players are balancing getting used to a new city and meeting a plethora of new faces all while focusing on performing well on the practice field, weight room, and in the meeting rooms.
This was the reality Rumph faced last season.
“Last year, you have so much stuff to deal with and as soon as you get drafted, I mean you’re thrown into the fire,” Rumph said.
In 2021, Rumph appeared in 16 games, registered 19 tackles, and got his first career sack in a win over the Cincinnati Bengals.
Now as he heads into year two and his first full offseason as a Charger, Rumph explained what his sophomore offseason has allowed him to do and how resources like his father, Minnesota Vikings defensive line coach Chris Rumph, are invaluable .
“I’m just focusing on what my job is, football,” he said. “So, that was very important to me. Also being able to talk to my pops, try and pick his mind [and] everybody’s mind. This is the time where you figure out what you’re going to do heading into next year, what things you did good last year and what things you can carry into the next year.”
As the pressure and time commitment of an 18-week NFL season fades and the Bolts transition into the offseason, players like Rumph are given more opportunities to give back to the Los Angeles community and the Chargers fan base.
Since getting drafted by the Bolts in 2021, Rumph has made an effort to give back to those in need and has put thousands of smiles on football fans and Chargers fans alike. He’s taken full advantage of that time as he’s participated in numerous events like a beach cleanup, helped co-host the Chargers first-ever Draft Fest at SoFi Stadium, and played in the Chargers’ third annual golf tournament that benefitted the Chargers Impact Fund. For him, a chance to make someone’s day is part of his inspiration for giving back.
“Just knowing the position I’m in [and] my parents raised me well.” Rumph said. “We are a God-fearing house. I’m a believer in Jesus. Any chance I get to give back and knowing I’m blessed, if I can show up and make a kid smile for five minutes, I mean that makes my day, I know it will make theirs. Just having a heart, being a great human being and following Christ.”
What stands out when you get a chance to meet Rumph in person or see him at SoFi is his outgoing personality, his passion for the game of football and his penchant for giving back. Going back to his childhood, Rumph credits his dad’s profession for helping build his personality and get used to life in the NFL.
“Being a coach’s kid, you have to have that type of personality just to be able to move around a lot and make friends in different places and different environments.
“I look back on it now and I’m very gracious for it and appreciative because that attributes why I’m always happy, why I’m always smiling. I always talk to everybody making sure they’re having a great day. I try to be that guy in the locker room, you know any time you feel like you’ve got to talk about something serious you can come to me you know I listen and really feel involved.”
Being live at SoFi while the Bolts selected guard Zion Johnson out of Boston College was a full circle moment for Rumph, who played at fellow ACC school Duke. Rumph and Johnson played against each other in 2020, and two years later the two ACC rivals now join up on the other side of the country.
Rumph, who was just in Johnson’s shoes a year ago, talked about the importance of being a mentor to the rookie class.
“[The rookies] already know they can come to me with any questions, and I’ll answer them, I don’t care how many.” Rumph said. “I was talking to Khalil [Mack] and he told me, ‘As an older guy, you’ve got to give what you learned from the older guys back to the younger guys and give back.’ That’s the thing about the community of the NFL, everybody’s just giving back from stuff they were told from the older guys so I’m just trying to do my part.”
The Chargers created quite the buzz across the NFL when they traded for All-Pro outside linebacker Mack back in mid-March.
Rumph used one of those tools and wasted no time reaching out to his dad, who was the Bears’ defensive line coach last season, to find a way to welcome his new teammate.
“I was excited! Once I saw that news, I texted my dad and I was like, ‘Let me get his number and tell him congratulations.’ I texted him, ‘Can’t wait to work with you and we’re going to do some big things here.’ I mean I was really excited when I saw that and I’m looking forward to see what we can do with these sack numbers this year.”
A few months later, the Chargers added another OLB in two-time Super Bowl champion Kyle Van Noy. Rumph talked about how ‘invaluable’ it is to have veteran outside linebackers like Mack, Van Noy and Joey Bosa in just his second year and what it’s like to practice alongside the veteran trio.
“It’s a lot of listening for me,” Rumph said. “I mean you’ve got guys who have played shoot, 20-plus years combined in the NFL and I’m going into my second season. Just being able to be around them, hear them talk football, see what they see, see what moves they like, and try and take bits and pieces from their game and see if I can apply them to my game. I mean it’s invaluable, especially as a young player, so I just soak in everything I can take in and at the same time, try to compete with them and be on their level or even better.”
Chargers defensive coordinator Renaldo Hill talked about how good Rumph has looked with the added weight he’s put on during the offseason and how beneficial it is for him to have Bosa, Mack and Van Noy as mentors.
“There are a lot of tidbits that he can gain from being in that room,” Hill said. “Just how to be a pro. He’ll continue to watch those guys and see how they do things on and off of the field. It’s going to be a benefit for the young guy … He’s been doing everything that we’ve asked him to do. I know that he is going to have a huge jump, just by having those guys in the room ahead of him giving him some nuggets there.”
When looking at the Bolts’ OLB room, it’s easy to get excited about the potential for the 2022 season. Ask Rumph, and he’ll tell you why he feels they can be the top OLB group in the league this season.
“[We can be] the best. I mean if you don’t think you’re the best, why are we out here? I think we are going to be one of the best groups in the NFL, but at the end of the day, a lot of talk is cheap, so you’ve got to do it.”
Despite all the new additions through free agency and the draft, Rumph has his eyes on the prize for 2022. He showed flashes of his potential during the 2021 season, but with a year under his belt, the 23-year-old is looking to do much more than that this year.
“[I’m looking to be an] impact player, I’m looking to make plays next year. I’m looking to be somebody they can count on to make big plays in big, crunch time situations. So, it starts in training camp and just keeping my head down working, keep learning the playbook and just trusting my coaching.”
When it comes to working with head coach Brandon Staley and Hill, Rumph will directly learn from outside linebackers coach Giff Smith. Smith makes the switch to the OLB room after serving as the defensive line coach last year. Rumph detailed how he personally sets goals to be a better athlete and teammate each season.
“Me personally, I want to be the best, that’s the goal heading into every year. I want to be top in every category, tackles, TFLs, sacks. In the NFL, I know it’s harder, but I’m very confident in my abilities. I know what I can do. I have a year under my belt, I kind of know what the feel of the NFL is like and I know for sure that I’m capable of doing that.”
With OTAs and minicamp in the books, the Chargers now shift their focus to training camp and the preseason. Training camp gives the chance for the Chargers’ best players on defense to face the best players on offense.
As the old saying goes, iron sharpens iron, and the Chargers have a lot of iron in their arsenal.
“I’m really excited, I mean I love football, this is what I want to do for the rest of my life, so any time you head into training camp you know that’s another opportunity. At the end of the day, you can’t take any of this for granted. Being in the NFL is an honor and a privilege. I’ve worked very hard to get here and I’m going to work even harder to stay here.”
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