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Friendship emerges in Chiefs kicker battle between Cairo Santos, Ryan Succop

Aug 7, 2014; Kansas City, MO; Chiefs kicker Cairo Santos (5) boots  a field goal while punter Dustin Colquitt (2) holds against the Cincinnati Bengals at Arrowhead Stadium. Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sport

Aug 7, 2014; Kansas City, MO; Chiefs kicker Cairo Santos (5) boots a field goal while punter Dustin Colquitt (2) holds against the Cincinnati Bengals at Arrowhead Stadium. Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sport

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – It’s often said competition brings out the best in a person.

But in the case of kickers Ryan Succop and rookie Cairo Santos, their preseason battle showed the best of both individuals, personally and professionally.

Succop and Santos went head-to-head for the starting job during the summer. And the Chiefs declared Santos the winner after releasing Succop during Saturday’s roster cuts to reach the initial 53-man roster.

Don’t expect Santos to gloat because he emerged victorious.

“Not only is he a great dude,” Santos said of Succop on Monday, “I felt like I became close friends with him. Having that great friendship here, it kind of made the process easier.

“I didn’t think about, ‘Are these guys going to like me or not?’ He’s a good professional and a great kicker, so he taught me routines for game day, how to read the wind here in Arrowhead and other places we play. So it was a great experience to have him here and I’m going to miss him, having that kind of friend and kicker to look up to.”

The competition proved tight, as both kickers went 3-of-3 on preseason field goal attempts and were perfect on PATs.

So how close was the battle between the Succop, the Chiefs’ seventh-round pick in 2009, and Santos, who signed as an undrafted free agent in May?

“Santos beat him by a hair and so we went that direction with it,” coach Andy Reid said. “We could’ve gone either way. He’s (Succop) going to hook on with somebody and kick in this league for a long time.”

Indeed, it didn’t take long for Succop to find a new team.

The sixth-year pro signed a one-year deal Monday afternoon with the Tennessee Titans and returns to Arrowhead Stadium for the season opener.

Seeing Succop on the opposing sideline could prove bittersweet for punter Dustin Colquitt, whose locker was next to Succop’s locker for as long as both were on the team.

“Ryan’s a great dude,” Colquitt said. “He’s definitely like a brother to me here. Our wives were really close. He’s definitely going to be missed. He set a bunch of records here, but this is Cairo’s gig now. He’s going to do a great job for us, too.”

Meanwhile, Santos said he received encouragement from Succop throughout the competition.

And the mentoring Succop selflessly provided apparently came without a second thought even as both kickers knew one would emerge the victor and cost the other a roster spot.

The lessons learned from Succop helped shape Santos in recent months.

“He said I was kicking like a veteran,” Santos said, “making my kicks consistently. He said, ‘You belong in here, if it’s on this team or another team. Just know that you’re a great kicker.’ To learn that and hear that from a guy like him meant a lot. I’m just thankful that he was really nice to me and was very helpful in this process.”

Santos said he spoke to Succop after both learned the news Saturday, and they reinforced the bond gained from the competition before parting ways.

While both will be opponents on Sunday, the players will always be friends.

“We felt like we got pretty close to each other,” Santos said. “It was never unhealthy competition or relationship. We just wished each other the best. I knew he was going to get picked up and still have a long career. He just wished the best for me.”