It took Isiah Pacheco two months to figure things out during his rookie season. But when he sorted it out, the Kansas City Chiefs' 2022 seventh-round pick took off.
Pacheco led the Chiefs in rushing last season with 830 yards while averaging 4.88 yards per carry and earning five touchdowns. He added 197 yards in the postseason run and a Super Bowl touchdown.
An Energizer Bunny for the K.C. offense, Pacheco brought a different element, adding power and pop at the second level that had been missing. After helping Kansas City hoist another Lombardi Trophy, the 24-year-old isn't spending his offseason resting on his laurels.
"As a seventh-round pick, I always had something to prove, for the doubters," Pacheco said, via ESPN. "If you dream big, you could go get it, go grab it. That's something I always had in mind of being on this stage, on this level. It feels unreal, but it's real and it's here and so I have to embrace it."
Pacheco impressed during training camp last season, turning heads with his relentless style and endless energy. But it took some time for him to settle in -- and for the coaching staff to trust him. The first eight games of his career, he rushed for just 197 yards on 44 attempts with one score. Five of those games, he ran for fewer than 10 yards.
Once he caught on, however, things picked up. In the Chiefs' final nine games, Pacheco rushed for 633 yards on 126 carries (5.02 YPC) with four scores.
The seventh-round pick now enters 2023 as the clear starter, even with Clyde Edwards-Helaire, a former first-round pick, returning healthy.
Pacheco said he wants to develop aspects of his game this offseason, including becoming a more patient runner to set up blocks and a more reliable receiver out of the backfield, and improving his pass protection (his most significant struggle point last season).
"Being able to extend the things I'm able to do, that comes with work in the offseason," Pacheco said. "For me, I still feel like there's more to improve … I'm satisfied with the [Super Bowl] win on my first [appearance], but I'm unsatisfied because I know that there's more that could've been done out there.
"One of the [biggest] things I improved on, [is] eliminating the distractions. I could have a thousand things going on, a lot of people hitting my phone up. I just kind of sit it on silent, sit it to the side. When it's time to work, it's time to work."
Last offseason, when Pacheco was drafted in the final round, he jotted down a few goals in a notebook: make the team, lead the club in rushing, help K.C. win a Super Bowl. All three are already checked off.
"It happened so fast and for me, not expecting it but dreaming of it, putting [in] the work to get here," he said. "I'm not surprised that the hard work got me here. I'm just surprised it happened so fast. It means the absolute world to me. Especially when you write down in your notes what your goals are and then you come back to them. For me, I'm going to come back to them, grab that pen and check them off."
After he checks those off, Pacheco can add a few new goals for 2023 and beyond.