Former Notre Dame standout Drue Tranquill, in his first year as linebacker with the Kansas City Chiefs, is capping off a whirlwind season with an appearance in Super Bowl LVIII in Las Vegas. On a defense spearheaded by defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, Tranquill has played a substantial role in contributing to the unit’s success.
The foundation Tranquill received at Notre Dame has served him well in adapting to Spagnuolo’s defensive schemes. Playing on a one-year $3 million contract, Tranquill was thrust into a starting role this season with the Chiefs when starter Nick Bolton missed a chunk of games during the 2023-24 season due to various injuries. With Bolton out, Tranquill, a fifth-year pro, filled the void. Week in and week out, he has consistently been a key contributor to the success of the Chiefs’ defense.
“He’s developed a great relationship and rapport with the linebackers and that room,” said Chiefs head coach Andy Reid of Tranquill during media availability on Feb. 1. “They’ve all worked on, and Drue had to want this, to get him up to par on the defense. Thank goodness he’s a real smart guy. He put that Notre Dame education to use in learning this whole thing and did it quickly.”
Drue Tranquill: A Quiet Name, Roaring Game
Acquired by Kansas City in March of 2023, Tranquill played in 16 games this year, logging 577 snaps. He recorded 54 solo tackles this season, including 4.5 sacks. He also forced two fumbles. With Bolton back in the lineup for the Chiefs, Tranquill has seen his workload diminished somewhat in the postseason. His on-field presence has still hovered 70 percent of the defensive snaps in the divisional playoff and the AFC Championship Game. Even in playing fewer snaps, Tranquill recorded eight solo tackles to lead Kansas City in the Chiefs’ 17-10 victory over the Baltimore Ravens on Jan. 28.
“It’s been a whirlwind,” Tranquill said in a press conference this week ahead of the Super Bowl. “You dream of this as a kid. You want to play in this game. This is the pinnacle of the football world. It’s the biggest game in the biggest league in the world. It’s been a long 10 months. We’ve put a lot of hard work in, and we’re excited for this opportunity.”
Tranquill originally entered the NFL as a fourth-round pick (130th overall) by the Los Angeles Chargers in the 2019 NFL Draft. In his first professional season, Tranquill was named to the Pro Football Writers of America All-Rookie Team as a special teamer. Before joining the Chiefs as a free agent, Tranquill recorded a career-high 146 tackles for the Chargers, ranking 12th among all defenders in 2022. He also had five sacks and one interception.
Notre Dame Foundation
A Notre Dame team captain in 2018 and 2017, Tranquill initially committed to Purdue University. The Fort Wayne, Indiana, native decommitted when he received an offer from Notre Dame. It didn’t take Tranquill long to make an impression. As a true freshman in 2014, he played in 11 games for the Irish, including three starts. He made 33 tackles, grabbed an interception, recovered a fumble, and blocked a punt.
During his senior season in 2017, Tranquill started all 13 games at linebacker after converting from safety. He totaled 85 tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss, and 1.5 sacks. He also had three fumble recoveries, four passes defended, one interception, and one forced fumble. He was third on the team in solo tackles (44). In his graduate season in 2018, Tranquill ranked third on the team with 75 tackles. He had 3.5 sacks, three pass breakups, and a pair of quarterback hurries. He started 11 of 12 games that year. He did not start against Northwestern due to an ankle injury.
Tranquill racked up the accolades during his accomplished collegiate career in South Bend. He was the Wuerffel Trophy recipient in 2018. He was on the Butkus Award Watch List (2018), and the Lott Trophy Watch List (2018). He won the National Football Foundation National Scholar-Athlete Award in 2018 and was a second-team Academic All-American in 2018 and a first-team Academic All-American in 2016.
More History Awaits
In playing in Super Bowl LVIII, Tranquill will become the first-ever player from Carroll High School in Indiana to play on football’s biggest stage. Undoubtedly, Tranquill is likely to run into his former two-year Notre Dame teammate (2017-2018) and San Francisco 49ers left guard Aaron Banks on Sunday. Drafted by the 49ers in the second round of the 2021 NFL Draft, Banks is among the unsung heroes of a star-studded 49ers team. He has battled a toe turf injury this season, but has played at a high level and is a crucial element to the success of the 49ers’ potent offensive attack.
As he prepares for the Super Bowl, Tranquill will look once again to his alter-ego for success on the field.
“I feel like I am a family man first,” Tranquill said. “I got married to my high school sweetheart and we have three kids. There’s a little more of a gentle spirit you have to take in the house, but that spirit doesn’t work when you’re between the white lines. So, we say, ‘I’m Clark Kent, but I have to play like Superman.’ It’s football, the greatest sport in the world. I try to have fun with it.”