KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - It's hard to believe Brodie Croyle is not nervous.
Not only is Kansas City's second-year quarterback about to make his first NFL start, he's doing it on the road, in a roaring RCA Dome. And he's facing the defending champion Indianapolis Colts, who will be smarting from a second straight loss.
Besides that, he will be competing against one of the game's great quarterbacks. Peyton Manning may be angry after throwing six interceptions Sunday night at San Diego.
And if all that is not enough, the soft-spoken Alabama native will be directing an offense that has struggled all season and is ranked 30th in a 32-team league.
``It's a tough position for him to be in,'' tight end Tony Gonzalez said with a slight grin. ``But he raised his hand to play quarterback.''
Daunting or not, Croyle is keeping that hand high in the air.
``What better stage can you go into?'' he said Wednesday after his first full practice as the starter.
``Going in there and playing one of the best quarterbacks that's ever played, playing a great defense - defending Super Bowl champs. You just go in there and play. I'm anxious. I'm ready to get in there. It's something I've been working for since I was a young kid. It's finally here.''
Chiefs coaches and front office executives are also saying, ``It's finally here.''
They drafted the strong-armed Croyle out of Alabama two years ago hoping to find someone for new coach Herm Edwards to build an offense around.
After Trent Green got traded to Miami, everyone figured Croyle would win the job in training camp. But, turnover-prone, he played himself right back onto the bench and veteran Damon Huard was handed the job. But Huard never found any rhythm behind an aging and ineffective offensive line that seemed to highlight his own shortcomings.
Finally, Croyle was sent into action in the third quarter against Denver on Sunday when Huard was knocked woozy after committing his third turnover.
Now it's time for the young quarterback his teammates call a ``gunslinger'' because of his strong arm to take control.
Surrounded by a veteran offensive line, a three-time Pro Bowler at running back and an eight-time Pro Bowler at tight end, he's not likely to start barking out orders.
``For a guy who's never started a game, for him to come in and try to give a rah-rah speech ... that would probably not go too far or go too well,'' Croyle said. ``I'm just going to go in there, try to play well and win some games. When we do that, leadership kind of comes.''
He does acknowledge having a few butterflies.
``I'm anxious,'' he said. ``I'm ready to get in there.''
Edwards agrees it's not the time or place he would have chosen to break in a young quarterback.
``That's football,'' Edwards said. ``He's going to find out a lot about himself. You want to play quarterback? OK, play quarterback. Would you like a better scenario? Yeah, but it didn't work out that way. He'll get a home game, but right now he's got to go on the road.
``He'll grow from it. Whatever happens to him, he will learn from it.''
The Chiefs (4-5) have been giving Croyle almost as many practice snaps with the first team as Huard.
``That'll be a big help for everybody,'' Gonzalez said. ``It's not like we're seeing something that we haven't seen before. Brodie is prepared. He's been prepared since the beginning of the season. I think he's going to respond well.''
Croyle's NFL debut came in a blowout loss to Pittsburgh last year, and his first pass was intercepted and returned for a touchdown. After coming in for Huard last week, he was 17-for-30 for 162 yards and one interception.
``I think he's going to show what type of guy he is,'' said Gonzalez. ``It's not the end of all things if he doesn't go out there and perform that well. But it's going to show some true character for him to go in there and just play well. And I think he will.''

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