'It's a blessing': Ja'Marr Chase on his popularity among the Bengals' youngest fans
It's no surprise Joe Burrow's jersey is the Bengals' top seller, but if you look at the team's pint-sized fans, you'll find a lot more No. 1s than any other number.
It seems, at least to the untrained eye, that while fans buzz about Burrow's groundbreaking contract and leadership ability, it's the younger set that's obsessed with the flash, the fun and the crazy catches of Ja'Marr Chase.
At a preseason practice, Chase jerseys outnumbered any other on the sidelines. When asked why they like Chase, young boys and girls offer up plenty of reasons:
"I like him because he's humble."
"The best receiver in the league."
"He gets a lot of touchdowns."
The superstar wide receiver knows the kids love the touchdowns and one-handed catches, but he truly believes it's "because they like the dance."
It doesn't take much prodding to get Chase's youngest fans to break into the Griddy, the now-famous touchdown dance he's been doing since the LSU days.
"They love seeing the dance and they always tell me 'Do it!' like every time they see me," Chase said.
No matter the reason, Chase said being beloved by kids and adults alike feels great.
"It's something that you always dreamed about, having little kids looking up to you," Chase said. "God gave me a gift, you know what I'm saying. I use it to a certain ability."
Chase may have dreamed of this kind of fame as a child, but said he never had an opportunity when he was younger to meet his favorite players or get a signed jersey.
"I never had opportunities to get the advantage to come to the practice and watch them practice," Chase said.
So when he has a chance, he heads to the sidelines to find those kids and make their day with a swipe of a Sharpie. And when he does, the screaming and chanting for Chase is a sight to see. Crowds form, sometimes with adults pushing to get to the front, but Chase focuses on the kids — signing their hats, helmets or whatever they thrust in front of him.
"Here you go little bro," Chase said to a kid less than half his size, craning his neck in awe at the wide receiver as he talked to him.
"It's cool. It's fun, you know what I'm saying? Giving back, it's the best part," Chase said.
Even the smallest interactions, like saying "You're welcome" or complimenting their clothes, light up the kids' faces.
"He's the best," one child said after meeting Chase. "He's awesome. He's really nice too."
"It's a blessing," said Chase. "I came to the right city, right organization picked me ... and me, Joe and the rest of those guys making it better for the kids. I mean, the kids like seeing the Griddy, so gotta give them a show."