PORTLAND, Ore. -- Willie Cauley-Stein was in a confident mood Monday afternoon.
Fewer than 24 hours after his Kansas City Chiefs clinched their third Super Bowl appearance in franchise history, setting up a date with the 49ers in Super Bowl LIV in Miami on Feb. 2, Cauley-Stein said he never doubted the Chiefs' path out of the AFC.
"I already knew they were going," Cauley-Stein told NBC Sports Bay Area. "As soon as the [New England] Patriots were out we were good. We were great."
Cauley-Stein's fandom can be traced to his childhood. A native of Spearville, Kansas -- more than 300 miles away from Arrowhead Stadium -- he loved the Chiefs from an early age. But it would be his scholastic struggles that brought him closer to the franchise.
As a prep prospect in Spearville, his grades dwindled, putting a potential college career in peril. In an effort to improve his grades, the 7-footer was sent 300 miles to live with AAU teammate Shavon Shields, son of then-Chiefs offensive lineman Will Shields. Cauley-Stein transferred to Olathe Northwest High School in a Kansas City suburb. Cauley-Stein's grades began to improve under the elder Shields' tutelage, helping him become eligible for a scholarship to Kentucky.
"He was really like a straightforward, smart, really intelligent dude," Cauley-Stein said. "I see how he was living and how much he was saving. I think that was the biggest thing about him. How intelligent he was about is money."
The current iteration of Cauley-Stein's football team has become an offensive juggernaut. During a 12-4 regular season, the Chiefs ranked sixth in total offense (379.2 yards per game) and fifth in passing offense (281.2 yards).
The biggest reason is quarterback Patrick Mahones, whom observers have compared to Cauley-Stein's current teammate Stephen Curry for their shared propensity for solo offensive displays. In a 51-31 win over the Houston Texans two weeks ago, the Chiefs erased a 24-0 deficit, out-scoring the Texans 28-3 in the second quarter.
When broached with the cross-sport comparison between MVPs, Curry and Cauley-Stein each had a unique response.
"'Cause we're both light-skinned?" Curry jokingly asked.
"If you want to break it down football to basketball," Cauley-Stein followed up, "they're pretty similar."
"The beauty is in the eye of the beholder," Curry added.
The Warriors are slated to be in a Washington, D.C. hotel during the NFL's finale. Cauley-Stein believes the Chiefs can win their first Super Bowl in half a century.
"If we come in ready," he said. "The only way I feel like San Francisco can beat us is if we don't come in ready to play -- if we come in there cooling. It's going to be a good game. It's definitely going to be who has the better gameplan."