Best CFAs In Chiefs History … Morning Cup O’Chiefs

It is the hardest road a player can travel to the National Football League.

When a player finishes his college career and is not selected in the NFL Draft that does not mean his football playing career is over. It does mean that he will have to overcome the longest odds on the board to make it in pro football. A draft choice has an advantage because football capital was used to acquire him in the form of a draft pick. A UFA has an edge because another form of football capital was spent on them – money. Even street free agents have an edge, because they’ve been with at least one other team and have an idea of the lay of the land.

A college free agent or CFA has none of that. If there are 80 players on the pre-season roster, the CFAs will take up the bottom spots on the roster ladder. If there are eight players at a position, then the CFA will be No. 8. To make the roster, he will have to jump over at least five or six of the other players.

What it all means is this – a CFA that enjoys a successful NFL career is one tough hombre. Over the years, the Chiefs have had a number of CFAs that rank among the best players to wear the red and gold uniform. In fact, they have the rarest of rare pro football gems – a CFA that ended up in the HOF, the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. CB Emmitt Thomas (above) ranks among the game’s defensive greats, and it mattered not to any of the Chiefs coaches he played for or the teammates he played with that he was not drafted.

Along with Thomas, here are the best CFAs in club history.


#1 – Emmitt Thomas/Cornerback

Entered the NFL – He signed with the Chiefs in 1966 after he was not selected in the AFL or NFL Drafts coming out of Bishop College as a quarterback.

Highlights – Thomas spent his entire 13-year career (1966-78) with the Chiefs, appearing in 181 games while playing for Hank Stram, Paul Wiggin and Marv Levy; he had 58 career interceptions, including a league leading 12 for 214 yards in the 1974 season; he returned five interceptions for touchdowns over his career; he led the AFL in interceptions with nine, including one he returned for a TD; Thomas made five Pro Bowls (1968, 71-72, 74-75); he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2008.

#2 – Deron Cherry/Safety

Entered the NFL – He signed with the Chiefs after the 1981 NFL Draft, coming out of Rutgers University as a punter.

Highlights – After he was told he would not make the team as a punter, Cherry asked head coach Marv Levy for the chance to make the team as a safety. He was released at the end of training camp, but was resigned a few weeks later because of injuries to veteran defensive backs; Cherry played in 148 games with 124 starts over 11 seasons (1981-91) with the Chiefs; he was the team’s starting free safety for 9 seasons and earned 6 trips to the Pro Bowl (1983-88) and 3 seasons where he was named All-Pro (1984, ’86, ’88); finished his career with 50 interceptions, with one returned for a TD; Cherry recovered 14 fumbles; his most productive season was 1986, when he had 9 interceptions, 1 sack and 2 recovered fumbles.


#3 – Stephone Paige/Wide Receiver

Entered the NFL – After not being selected in the 1983 NFL Draft coming out of Fresno State, he signed with the Chiefs.

Highlights – Paige played in 128 games with 81 starts with the Chiefs over nine seasons (1983-91); he was a starter in five of those years (1986-90); he finished his career with 377 catches for 6,341 yards and 49 TD catches; he led the league in 1985 with an average catch of 21.9 yards; his best season came in ’90 when he caught 65 passes for 1,021 yards and 5 TDs, including an 86-yard score; Paige held the team record for most consecutive games with a catch at 83 before it was broken in 2006 by TE Tony Gonzalez; in the final game of the 1985 season, Paige caught an NFL record 309 receiving yards. That snapped a record that was over 40 years old. He held the mark until 1989 when it was broken by Flipper Anderson with 336 yards.

#4 – Eric Hicks/Defensive End

Entered the NFL – He signed with the Chiefs after the 1998 NFL Draft coming out of the University of Maryland.

Highlights – Hicks played in 128 games with the Chiefs over nine seasons (1998-2006), with the last eight seasons including 104 starts at left defensive end; he had 44.5 career sacks, including 14 in the 2000 season; Hicks forced six fumbles and recovered six loose balls, including one that he returned for a TD in 1999; he was credited with 322 total tackles with the Chiefs; Hicks finished his career appearing in 11 games with the New York Jets in the 2007 season.

#5 – Willie Davis/Wide Receiver

Entered the NFL – He signed after the 1991 NFL Draft with the Chiefs coming out of the University of Central Arkansas.

Highlights – Davis played in 63 games with the Chiefs over five seasons (1991-95), and spent four years as a starting wide receiver (1992-95); caught 172 passes for 3,014 yards and 20 TDs; he ranks No. 10 in receiving yardage on the team’s all-time list; Davis led the league in average yards per catch at 21 yards in ’92; his best season was 1993 when he became the favorite target of QB Joe Montana, catching 52 passes for 909 yards and 7 TDs.

Others considered – RB Mack Lee Hill (1964-65), LB Tim Cofield (1986-88), TE Ed Beckman (1977-84),

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