Mark Powell of Raymore, Missouri, was raised a fan of the Kansas City Chiefs by his father, who was stationed at the Fort Sill military base in Lawton, Oklahoma. That was even before his junior high school classmate in Lawton, Will Shields, went off to play college football at Nebraska and later had a 14-year Pro Football Hall of Fame career with the Chiefs.
Being accustomed to the military life, Powell found it easy to get up before dawn Sunday and says he arrived at the Arrowhead Stadium parking lot for the AFC Championship game at 4:45 a.m.
Kickoff is 2:05 p.m. for the game against Tennessee, which will determine one of the berths to Super Bowl LIV. The Green Bay Packers and San Francisco 49ers will play in the NFC Championship later today in San Francisco.
"I did 15 years in the military, so I'm used to getting up at 4 in the morning," said Powell, who is disabled as a result of injuries he suffered in Iraq and Afghanistan.
For the second straight year, the Chiefs are hosting the AFC Championship game. Last year, Powell and the Chiefs fan base had their hearts broken by the New England Patriots, who eventually won Super Bowl LIII.
"It's unbelievable. Two years in a row," said Powell, 48, who's in his third year as a Chiefs season-ticket holder. "It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I'm blessed to be here and I'm thankful."
As a Chiefs fan, Powell has witnessed the revolving door of quarterbacks through the years, only to see the team fall short of the Super Bowl time and time again in the playoffs. The Chiefs are trying to reach the Super Bowl for the first time since Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback Len Dawson guided the Chiefs to a Super Bowl Championship 50 years ago.
Powell believes current Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes can change that.
"We've been through the ringer for some years," Powell said. "No quarterbacks, but now we've got a good one."
Powell had the coals burning near his vehicle to keep warm on a chilly Sunday morning. Most of all, he and other Chiefs fans hope they’re warming up for a big postgame celebration.
Greg Echlin is a freelance sports reporter for KCUR 89.3. Find him on Twitter at @GregEchlin.