Born: March 2, 1962

All athletes have a mentor or two pushing them to be better. To the Kansas City Chiefs’ Bill Maas, the 70,000 fans who packed Arrowhead Stadium for every game have to be counted among his.

“About 27 years ago, the Denver Broncos came to Arrowhead,” Maas said, recalling a time when the National Football League implemented a new rule in which the home team could be penalized if the home crowd made it too loud for the opposition.

Turned out, Denver quarterback John Elway had to burn two timeouts, and the refs thus warned the crowd.

“The crowd got even louder,” Maas said. “At that time, I felt like, ‘Wow. This place is on fire.’ From there, we got better every single year.’”

Inspired by Chiefs fans, Maas became one of the Chiefs’ most fearsome nose tackles in his nine seasons in Kansas City, and it’s why the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame is proud to induct Maas with the Class of 2017.

Maas played in Kansas City from 1984 to 1992 before finishing his NFL career in 1993 with the Green Bay Packers. Along the way, he helped the Chiefs to playoff berths in 1986, 1990, 1991 and 1992, and the Packers to the 1993 playoffs.

His career featured the 1984 NFL Rookie of the Year Award and 40 quarterback sacks. Plus, he earned Pro Bowl selections in 1986 and 1987.

This from a player whose parents didn’t allow him to join organized football until his freshman year of high school and yet, within seven years, Maas became the Chiefs’ first-round draft pick.

“I was the biggest kid in high school at the time and everybody would say, ‘Why don’t you play?’ It was kind of embarrassing,” said Maas, who played numerous other sports at Marple Newton High School outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. “But it was a natural fit.”

Maas earned All-State as a tight end and linebacker and moved to the defensive line his senior year, when he was recruited by a number of coaches, including Wake Forest’s John Mackovich.

It was Mackovich, hired in 1983 to coach the Chiefs, who eventually urged Kansas City to draft Maas, who had earned First Team All-American honors in 1982 for a University of Pittsburgh Panthers team featuring future NFL QB Dan Marino. That Pitt team was coached by Jackie Sherrill.

“(Sherrill) played a huge role in my life. He was one of those guys who’s kind of like a teacher – they see something in you and they find a way to bring it out in you,” Maas said of Sherrill, noting one-on-three drills his freshmen year. “If I won, the defense didn’t have to run wind sprints. So you felt like your teammates were depending on you. But I hated walking up that hill every day to practice. We always had to do that (drill), and I thought the guy didn’t like me. As a matter of fact, it was just the opposite.”

The tough love set up Maas for a great run in the NFL.

He was part of the 1986 Chiefs that reached the playoffs for the first time since Len Dawson quarterbacked the 1971 team to a 10-win season.

Fortunately for Maas, he had mentors all around, particularly on defense in stalwarts such as Art Still, Gary Spani, Mark Bell and, in the early 1990s, Neil Smith and Derrick Thomas. Maas and Chiefs defenses ranked among the top eight in the NFL between 1989 and 1991, with Deron Cherry, Albert Lewis and Kevin Ross.

“When you’re playing with guys like that, you can feed off each other,” Maas said. “It was always a team effort, not just one guy. If you’re not doing your job, the quarterback can sit back there all day.”

Overall, Maas played in 116 games with the Chiefs, making 114 starts. In essence, he learned the ways to transition from the joy of playing high school to the joy of college and the NFL, despite the higher levels being full-time jobs.

“When I was in college, you want to go to a great place in the NFL,” Maas said. “So when you’re a high-round pick – and fifth overall for me — I said I wanted to go to a place that is winning and competing for titles and is a great part of the community. And that’s what happened.”