Donald Stephenson (left) and Jeff Allen try Plowboys' Royal Crown.
Donald Stephenson didn't realize how powerful he was.
For his senior year, the future Oklahoma Sooners and Kansas City Chiefs offensive lineman had transferred to Blue Springs High School. During the school's annual spring scrimmage, the offense ran a play called "power." The 282-pound Stephenson aimed for the tackle, swung off him and picked up the linebacker.
"I guess I broke his arm or something like that," Stephenson says. "He missed the rest of his senior year. Coach [Kelly] Donohoe was like, 'In practice, just kind of lay off our guys.' "
Stephenson tells this story because he has just collided again with the linebacker - who now works for two-month-old Plowboys Barbeque (3111 Southwest Missouri 7, Blue Springs, 816-228-7569). The restaurant was cooking at the American Royal barbecue contest, and Stephenson was eating.
"When I saw his face, I was like, 'Oh, shit. I did do that to you,' " Stephenson says. "He was cool about it. I just remember, all senior year he walked around with that cast. I ended up getting hurt, too." (Stephenson broke his big toe and missed seven games.)
The man asked Stephenson to drop by Plowboys. So Stephenson, teammate Jeff Allen and I are here to sample the barbecue joint, run by 2009 American Royal Invitational Grand Champion Todd Johns.
Allen has shown up with bandages on some of his fingers and over his right wrist. His fingers may have been broken in the win over the Tennessee Titans. He insists he's fine.
"I woke up the next day, and it looked like I got stung by a bunch of bees," he says.
Johns greets the players and tells us that the best way to sample his food is with the "Royal Crown," a platter of ribs, burnt ends and pulled pork (with a couple of side orders). We order three.
Plowboys' Royal Crown
Neither Stephenson nor Allen is a big fan of pulled pork, but they give it a try.
"It's real good," Stephenson says. "It's got a lot of flavor to it. I like the hot sauce on it." (Johns' Sweet 180 sauce earned him a perfect score at the Royal, hence the name.)
"I like the sweetness of it," Chicagoan Allen says. "It reminds me of Sweet Baby Ray's."
The men dig into the meaty ribs. Allen, fingers taped, guts it out and eats through the pain.
"I think they're cooked perfect," Stephenson says.
Before I can ask Allen about the burnt ends, he has almost finished his. "I like the tenderness of them, the flavor of them," he says. "They have the best burnt ends that I've had."
"They're crispy on the outside, and they're real tender on the inside," Stephenson says. "I like the way that they cut them, too. Most people have them diced up."
Stephenson goes for a refill of the lemonade. The sides - beans, crispy barbecue-seasoned fries, cheesy potatoes - all earn praise, too. "I really like the fries," Stephenson says. "The beans are good."
"I love the cheesy potatoes," Allen adds.
How does Plowboys stack up against Allen's and Stephenson's favorites (Oklahoma Joe's and Gates, respectively)?
"Ribs, I'm still going Oklahoma Joe's," Allen says. "These are close. I'd definitely call this a successful meal."
"Ribs, Gates," Stephenson says. "I like these burnt ends."
On the way out, Johns asks for himself.
"This could be dangerous," Allen tells him. "You might see me a lot more than you thought."
Stephenson and Allen finish up.
Ribs cleaned to the bone. Every burnt end eaten. Two bowls of beans. Four cups of lemonade finished. Pulled pork picked over. Fries mostly finished.
Cost (for two 300-pound NFL offensive linemen and one skinny ginger)
: Definitely in the rotation. Order burnt ends, fries, beans and lemonade. Don't even think about a big meal later.