The final piece is now in place. All four members of what most consider to be the best defensive backfield in Chiefs history have been enshrined as Chiefs Hall of Famers.
Kevin Ross, known as “Rock” by fans and his former teammates, was officially added as the 41st member to the Chiefs Hall of Fame Sunday evening at the team's Alumni Dinner.
Ross’ voice filled with emotion as he approached a podium inside Arrowhead’s North Club and addressed a packed house that featured over five decades of players, coaches and front office personnel.
Before he began his enshrinement speech, Ross asked “The Interceptors” to join him on stage. Deron Cherry (Chiefs HOF Class of 1996), Lloyd Burruss (Class of 1999) and Albert Lewis (Class of 2007) were each in attendance to witness the final piece of an elite secondary get proper recognition.
“I’ll always love this place and I’ll always have a special place in my heart for you guys,” Ross told his former teammates. “I feel so special right now because all of you came back.”
In addition to being joined by family members, former teammates and coaches, Ross also saw numerous trainers, doctors, equipment staffers and front office executives return for his enshrinement ceremony.
“The man who drafted me, Jim Schaaf, is here,” Ross said. “My agent is here. All of the former players, teammates and the Super Bowl winners that are here…I don’t have words for you. I’m just stunned. I didn’t know that I was going to feel like this.”
For 10 seasons, Ross paired with Lewis to form what many consider the most dominate cornerback tandem in franchise history. The duo went to two Pro Bowls with one another (1989-90) and helped Kansas City lead the league in turnover differential in both 1990 (26) and 1992 (18).
Heading into the 2011 season, the Chiefs still owned the NFL’s best turnover ratio dating back to the 1990 season with a plus 169 mark, ranking 66 turnovers better than Pittsburgh’s second-place showing of 103.
“He really completed us in the secondary,” Lewis said. “We always trusted him to do his job no matter what. He didn’t like to talk trash, but like all of us in the secondary back then, he loved to beat up on the trash talkers.”
Burruss and Cherry manned the safety positions behind Ross and Lewis for eight seasons (1984-91) to complete the dominant secondary.
“On and off the field I learned something from each and everyone one of them,” Ross said. “This is a home guy of mine from New Jersey (Cherry). This is by compadre on the outside (Lewis). Finally, this is my roommate, Lloyd.”
“I love you guys.”
Under Coach Marty Schottenheimer, who was last season’s Hall of Fame inductee and in attendance Sunday night, Ross was part of teams that tallied 20 Pro Bowl invitations from 1989-93.
“I played on the best defense in the history of the Kansas City Chiefs that never won a Super Bowl,” Ross said. “We had eight Pro Bowlers on that defense. Bill Maas, Dan Saleaumua, Neil Smith, Derrick Thomas, these guys…I do hope the Chiefs win another Super Bowl, just not against me.”
Ross is currently serving as defensive backs coach in Oakland.
“Coach Schottenheimer said that there was no way I could stand up here and induct a current member of the Oakland Raiders coaching staff into the Chiefs Hall of Fame without at least mentioning last week’s game,” Chiefs Chairman and CEO Clark Hunt joked. “I apologize, but you know how Marty feels about the Raiders.”
Kansas City’s secondary posted six interceptions in last week’s 28-0 win at Oakland. It was the first time the team had tallied that many interceptions in a single game since December 9, 1984 against Seattle.
Ross, who was then a rookie with the Chiefs, picked off one of former Chiefs QB Dave Krieg’s five interceptions that day. The sixth interception was thrown by current Chiefs quarterbacks coach Jim Zorn.
“Even though Kevin is now coaching the defensive backs with the Raiders, to our family and to our fans, he’ll be a Chief for life,” Hunt said. “Kevin, we are honored that you would take time during the Raiders’ bye week to be here with us and take part in the celebration.”
Overall, Ross played in 156 regular season games (144 starts) during an 11-year career with Kansas City (’84-93, ’97). He produced 826 tackles (620 solo), 4.0 sacks, 30 INTs for 551 yards with two touchdowns, 12 fumble recoveries and 12 forced fumbles. He also scored five career TDs with his first coming against the Raiders.
Ross is also one of only three players in franchise history to score a touchdown in at least four different ways (two INTs, two blocked field goal returns, one fumble recovery and one blocked punt). Fellow Chiefs Hall of Famers Johnny Robinson and Abner Haynes are the other two players who have done so.
“Kevin is now a permanent ‘Rock’ in the Chiefs Hall of Fame,” Hunt said.