(EDITOR'S NOTE: To access the Emmitt Thomas interview, fast-forward to 1:06:20 of the attachment above)
Hall-of-Fame cornerback Emmitt Thomas faced dozens of outstanding receivers in his 13-year career with the Kansas City Chiefs and coached hundreds more in his 38 years as an NFL assistant coach.
So we asked him: Who was the toughest guy to cover?
“I’m going to say Paul Warfield and Fred Biletnikoff,” he said on a recent Talk of Fame Network broadcast. “Two different guys with the respect that Warfield was quicker and faster, where Biletnikoff was real crafty. Those two guys were tough duty on Sunday afternoon.”
Both are in the Hall, with Warfield a first-ballot choice in 1983 and Biletnikoff elected on his fourth try as a finalist in 1988.
Warfield was an eight-time Pro Bowler, a seven-time All-Pro, two-time Super Bowl champion, NFL champ, 1970s’ all-decade choice and two-time receiving touchdowns leader. He’s also in the Browns’ Ring of Honor and the Miami Dolphins’ Honor Roll.
Biletnikoff was a two-time AFL all-star with the Oakland Raiders, a four-time Pro Bowler, 1972 first-team All-Pro, 1971 NFL receptions leader, AFL champion, Super Bowl champion and Super Bowl MVP.
When he left the NFL after the 1978 season, he was the league’s all-time leader in playoff receptions, yards receiving and touchdown catches and was so unforgettable that the NCAA annually gives its most outstanding Division I receiver the Biletnikoff Award in honor of the former Raiders' great.
Thomas played in the same division both in the AFL and NFL as Biletnikoff, so he knows plenty about him. But, as he conceded on the Talk of Fame Network interview, he didn’t cover him as much as the Chiefs’ other cornerback, Jim Marsalis.
Nevertheless, what he saw of Biletnikoff he never forgot. And that went double for Warfield.
“I look at these guys now,” said Thomas, “and the guy that really kind of looks like him a little bit -- body-wise (and) size -- is the receiver from the Denver Broncos -- No. 10 (Emmanuel Sanders).
"Warfield was crafty. He was tough. Quick. Athletic. Freddie wasn’t as fast but he was a route running machine. Those two guys kept you busy on Sunday afternoon.”
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