The 2019 NFL season figured to be a breakout campaign for former University of Hawaii receiver Marcus Kemp. After shining on special teams for the Kansas City Chiefs, the 6-foot-4 vertical threat was looking to earn a spot on the depth chart at receiver.

But in the second preseason game, Kemp tore his MCL and ACL and needed surgery that would keep him out for the 2019 season. The Chiefs went on to win the 2020 Super Bowl over the San Francisco 49ers in February, and Kemp earned a ring. However, he says not being able to contribute to the win was bittersweet.

Marcus Kemp’s 2020 Super Bowl ring in his baby son’s hand. (Courtesy Marcus Kemp)

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“It’s hard, especially how close we were the year prior when I was playing, being inches away from going to that Super Bowl, playing in that Super Bowl,” Kemp told KHON2 sports director Rob DeMello. “How close we were and then watching the team I wasn’t a part of be involved in that game, that’s the hard part. I’m not happy (the injury) happened but I’m glad I got through it.”

Kemp, who signed with the Chiefs as an undrafted free agent in 2017, had his contract expire following the completion of the Super Bowl run. He was without a team for a chunk of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, it also allowed him to spent more time with his wife and his 1-year-old son.

“That’s a blessing that came with it. Being a new father is hard enough and during the season, being gone from 6 to 6, that’s hard on everybody, including my wife,” he said. “I think that helped a lot going through that whole process, just having him around and not feeling down because I knew I had things to take care of like him so all that time, it makes you value time with your family so much so I think all that time together is valued very greatly.”

The Chiefs brought Kemp back for a tryout last month, who by then was feeling 100 percent healthy. After an impressive showing at the tryout and during camp, he earned one of the coveted spots on the 53-man roster last Saturday.

“When we’re young, we feel like we can live forever, everything will last forever and then when it does get cut short, when that last play could be your last play and so you play that back in your mind and you realize that could be it. It could be the rest of your career. It’s not when you want it to be, I don’t think it is for many people, I mean there’s a rare person that gets to leave on their own accord, especially in the NFL,” Kemp said. “I think that made me so grateful for the opportunities that I have and every day, I think every play could be your last so just enjoy every play while you’re in it.”

Kemp is currently on a one-year deal with the Chiefs, who kick off the 2020 NFL season on Thursday against the Houston Texans at 2:20 p.m. HST on NBC. With a rejuvenated mindset and new lease on his football life, he won’t forget the steps that allowed him to get to where he is today in his career.

“I’m happy for everybody that believed in me,” Kemp said. “Everybody that was pulling for me even through the injury, whether it was my college career, the state of Hawaii, just excited to play again and have that time on the field that I might have taken for granted but for sure now, now knowing that it can be taken away at any moment, I would definitely take a pride in who I get to represent every day. ”