The countdown to the NFL kickoff has already began all over the internet. September 12th is not that far off, Kingdom, so in the meantime…
Let’s take a look at the punt or kick returner position in Kansas City. Who made an impact at this position in the Chiefs’ history?
Well, obviously, the first name that comes to mind when we talk about a returner is Dante Hall, better known by his nicknames “X Factor” or “The Human Joystick,” who spent seven years at the beginning of the 2000s captivating fans at Arrowhead Stadium with his skills and speed.
Hall is the Kansas City Chiefs career leader in kickoff return yards with 8,644. Additionally, the six kickoff and five punts Hall returned for touchdowns during his time with the Chiefs are still both franchise records.
In recent history though, the second name that comes to mind is Tyreek Hill.
The franchise record for best punt return average in a season is 16.28, which was set by Hall during his amazing 2003 season, where he went four straight games with a touchdown return and made the Pro Bowl.
With Hill’s punt return average being 11.7 overall his career, he flirted some time with Hall’s record but never really come closer to it. He was then used more exclusively as a wide receiver by the Chiefs, his mad speed being one of his greatest assets in the offensive game.
Hill also widely commented on Hall’s game when he arrived in Kansas city, saying he looked up at him as a teenager and tried making plays just like him at school.
But Hill is right behind. Hill’s career averages: 27.4 per kick return, 11.7 on punt returns.
Tamarick Vanover was drafted by the Kansas City Chiefs back in 1995. He played five years for the Red and Gold, playing a total of 70 games. Over his career at the Chiefs, he returned 181 punts for 1,930 yards (10.2 average) ending in four touchdowns, and returned 226 kickoffs for 5,422 yards (a 24.0 average) ending in four touchdowns.
His last season in Kansas City in 1999 was very successful on the field, as he became the league leader in punt return yardage and touchdowns, but he unfortunately had many troubles off the field, which led to his release by the Chiefs.
Have you heard the nickname “Super Gnat”? Well. Back in the sixties, that is how they called Noland Smith. Smith was the wide receiver/return specialist for the Kansas City Chiefs from 1967 to 1969.
Smith was already a great punt returner from his college days at Tennessee State University, where he set numerous school records.
He was known as “Super Gnat” for his short stature and light weight, he was actually the smallest-sized player in the AFL or NFL at the time. Smith was drafted by the Kansas City Chiefs in the sixth round of the 1967 AFL Draft. In his rookie season with the Chiefs in 1967, Smith led the American Football League in kickoff return yardage with 1,360 yards. On December 17, 1967, Smith returned a kickoff 106 yards for a touchdown, still the longest kickoff return in Kansas City Chiefs history. Smith currently ranks 18th on the NFL’s all-time kick return average list with 26.06 yards per return. Not bad at all!
And finally, our fifth contender at the best returner in the history of the Kansas City Chiefs is Knile Davis.
Davis was selected in the third round by the Kansas City Chiefs in the 2013 NFL Draft. His speed impressed many observers as he competed as a sprinter and was a state-qualifier in the 200-meters and relays.
Davis scored a 108-yard kick return touchdown in Week 13 against the Denver Broncos. The return tied for the longest return in NFL history. Obviously he played as a rookie behind the great Jamaal Charles but he managed to make an impact as a return specialist anyway during his time in Kansas City. Davis finished his rookie year with 312 kick return yards and another touchdown on 10 returns.
I guess he will be remembered widely for his long return touchdowns, which were pretty impressive.
In the last few years, the Chiefs had Mecole Hardman mostly as a returner. But as Hardman will face pressure to measure up as a better wide receiver during the next season, will he remain the main returner of the team? Let’s wait and see.