Kevin Ross Headed For Chiefs Hall of Fame

It was down in Mobile, Alabama back in January that I last saw Kevin Ross.

He was at the Senior Bowl, wearing a Raiders sweat suit and scouting the players like assistant coaches for all the other teams in the NFL. Ross coaches defensive backs in Oakland.

He looked so out of place wearing the silver and black. But it was the Raiders that offered him a job, not the Chiefs, and when you are struggling to make your way up the coaching ladder, a job offered is a job taken, so the man we knew as “Rock” went to the dark side.

We sat in the end zone stands at Ladd-Pebbles Stadium and chatted for awhile. I pointed out a smallish cornerback from North Carolina named Kendric Burney who reminded me of Ross when he was playing for the Chiefs. Small, powerful and fearless was how the 5-9 Burney handled himself in practice.

“I noticed him the first day,” Ross said. “I always notice the little guys.”

The only thing little about Kevin Ross the football player was the number listed for him under height – 5-9. In every other category that makes up a professional athlete, Ross was one of the biggest players on the field. If intelligence, heart, guts, determination are important parts of a pro football player then Ross maxed out on all the scales.

The first year I covered the Kansas City Chiefs was 1981, and I’ve seen probably 95 percent of the team’s games since that season. There is no doubt in my mind the name of the toughest player that wore a red jersey in the last 30 seasons, despite the fact he was one of the smallest players on the field each week.

That was Kevin Lesley Ross and he’ll be honored in 2011 as the 41st person inducted into the Chiefs Hall of Fame. The team announced that Ross was this year’s inductee on Thursday, and they’ll honor him Saturday evening at the annual 101 Banquet and again at some point during the ’11 season.

Home for Ross is Paulsboro, New Jersey, just across the river from Philadelphia, where he went to Temple to play college football. But even though he would go on to play in Atlanta and San Diego, and coach in San Diego, Minnesota and now Oakland, there’s no question that Kansas City is his football home.

“We had some players back then,” Ross said in Mobile. “You don’t see too many defenses that had the kind of players that the Chiefs put on the field back in the 1980s and 90s. We had some great coaches and we had those great fans.”

Ross was part of the best post-Super Bowl IV secondary in franchise history with Albert Lewis, Deron Cherry and Lloyd Burruss. Then there were Pro Bowlers up front like Art Still, Bill Maas, Dino Hackett, Derrick Thomas and Neil Smith, along with coaches like Bud Carson, Walt Corey and Bill Cowher.

He played in 156 games at cornerback and then finally at safety in his final season. He started 144 games, including the first game of his rookie season in 1984. It’s now part of Chiefs legend how Ross was badly burned by Pittsburgh receivers Louis Lipps and John Stallworth; he gave up over 300 receiving yards in one-on-one coverage. He vowed after that game that a similar performance would never happen again.

The next weekend in Cincinnati, Ross ended up breaking the jaw of Bengals receiver Isaac Curtis with one of his hits and established himself as a hard-hitting, ball-hawking cornerback. Ross finished with 826 total tackles and four sacks. He made the Pro Bowl twice (1989-90), finished with 30 career interceptions, including two that he returned for touchdowns. Ross also returned a fumble, blocked punt and blocked field goal for touchdowns.

Kevin Ross is without a doubt a worthy member of the Chiefs Hall of Fame.

3 Responses to “Kevin Ross Headed For Chiefs Hall of Fame”

  • March 4, 2011  - Tracy says:

    Kevin Ross exemplified NFL attitude. In one of his first games he was badly burned by some great receivers, on the Steelers if memory serves, but John Mackovic kept him in the game and expressed confidence in his ability to compete. That might have been the best judgment call ever shown by any coach.

    Yeah, it sucks to see him wearing black and grey but Emmitt Thomas is here now so hope springs eternal.

  • March 4, 2011  - brent says:

    Just imagine if the ESPN “Jacked Up” segment was around while Rock was playing. He would have been a nearly weekly contributor! I have to admit, he is my favorite all-time Chief (DB at least)!

    Let’s hope that some day, he will rejoin the red & gold after Emmitt retires.

  • March 5, 2011  - Michael says:

    Albert Lewis, Kevin Ross, Deron Cherry and Lloyd Burruss formed one of the all-time great secondaries, and certianly one of the top two for the Chiefs. Any young undersized, not so fast corner should be given tapes of Ross’play for instruction. Great to see him inducted to the Chiefs hall.

    With the coaching of Emmitt Thomas and Romeo Crennel, KC’s new young secondary of Flowers, Carr, Berry and K.Lewis has a chance to be as highly regarded as the group Ross played in all those great years. Of course, KC’s front seven in the 90′s had something to do with it, too, and the current secondary will need similarly effective play in front of them.

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