RIVER FALLS, WIS. For a big, fast and talented guy, Marc Boerigter had a strange habit of melting into the crowd.
Coming out of high school, the native of little Hastings, Neb., entirely escaped the attention of major-college recruiters -- even the ones who scour the Cornhusker State for would-be Huskers.
Then he graduated from a little NAIA college in Hastings and unwittingly ducked beneath the supposedly fool-proof radar of high-tech NFL scouts.
Finally, after catching 111 passes for 2,023 yards and 19 TDs in two seasons in the Canadian Football League, Boerigter did catch the attention of the Kansas City Chiefs and signed a free agent contract.
But when his rookie season began last year, the 6-foot-2, 220-pounder was flat on his back after undergoing an emergency appendectomy.
The Chiefs, however, had figured out what so many other scouts and coaches had missed and put him on the roster as soon as got back on his feet. In the entire season, he caught only 20 passes for the talented offense that included Pro Bowl tight end Tony Gonzalez and running back Priest Holmes.
But he turned those mere 20 catches into eight touchdowns, including an NFL record-tying 99-yard pass play.
Finally, nobody will ever again overlook Marc Boerigter. The Chiefs have every intention of making him an even bigger part of their offense this season.
"We know what he can do a little bit more," offensive coordinator Al Saunders said. "Last year, who was Marc Boerigter? We really didn't know."
It's not that Boerigter ever lost faith in himself. Whether he was catching passes for little Hastings College or the CFL's Calvary Stampeders, he was doing exactly what he wanted.
"The stuff I did last year may have been a surprise to some people, but it's something I've done my whole career," he said. "It wasn't a surprise to me."
Nevertheless, it does seem amazing that NFL scouts who pride themselves on taking a microscope to every big- and small-college roster could have missed him completely.
"That's what happens when you go to a small school with 1,100 students and you don't play the type of competition everybody else does," Boerigter said.
"That's one thing that hurt me. I had all the size and speed and tools to do it. It just wasn't the route that was planned for me to take. I had a good time going up to Canada for two years. I was able to get a lot better and hone my skills and take it to the spot I wanted, which is here."
Tall and fast, Boerigter is particularly good on crossing routes. In the red zone within the 20-yard line, he provides quarterback Trent Green a second big target along with the 6-5 Gonzalez.
Also crowding his way onto the wide receiver scene is 5-8 Dante Hall, who went to the Pro Bowl a year ago as a kick-return specialist, but also had a 75-yard touchdown play as a pass-catcher.
During the first week of training camp, Hall and Boerigter are sharing time almost equally with last year's two starters, Johnnie Morton and Eddie Kennison.
Green, who threw for 3,690 yards and 26 touchdowns last year, could be throwing to as talented a group of wide receivers as any Chiefs quarterback since Hall-of-Famer Len Dawson was taking Kansas City to two Super Bowls.
"That's a huge advantage when you look at our first four guys," Green said. "It's really nice to see them rotating around instead of just having one or two guys and wearing them out. Now, all of a sudden, you can rotate the four guys around with Bo and Dante and Eddie and Johnnie."
What a contrast this year's camp is from last year's for Boerigter.
"Last year I was feeling comfortable, then the setback hurt me and I was really fighting to hang on," he said. "This year I'm a lot more comfortable in my role, and we're looking to expand it."
Despite his success, nobody who fought as hard as Marc Boerigter for his one shot at the big time would ever feel smug.
"You're always on edge because there's never any real job security. Somebody's always looking to take your job," he said. "But at the same time, it's a different feeling for me out here."