Deron Cherry 5'11" 185 Safety Kansas City Chiefs 1981 - 1991 11 Seasons 148 Games Played 50 Interceptions 688 Yards 3.5 Sacks 1 Touchdown 7 Pro Bowls
Deron Leigh Cherry was undrafted in 1981. He was a safety and punter at Rutgers University. In 1979 he was named the Scarlet Knights MVP. In 1979 and 1980, Cherry earned AP All-East honors. Cherry recorded nine career interceptions and punted for a then-record 39.4 career average. In 1981, he signed by the Kansas City Chiefs as a free agent punter, but was cut at the conclusion of the pre-season. Cherry was signed by the Chiefs in late September as a safety after injuries hit the position.
Cherry has been often called one of the top free safeties in NFL history. He was a 7 time All-Pro in his 11 year career. Cherry's 15 career fumble recoveries place him in a three-way tie for the Chiefs record. He ranks third on the Chiefs list of most interceptions, and is only the 26th player in the history of the NFL to reach the 50 interception plateau. In 1987, he was selected to the Chiefs 25 year All-Time Team, and named the Chiefs NFL Man of the Year. In 1988, Cherry won the Byron White Humanitarian Award. When the NFL named the 1980 All Decade Team, Cherry was amongst those selected.
Cherry picked off a pass early into his rookie year, then waited until his 3rd season to get another. That year he picked off 7 passes. He would pick off 7 passes in each of his next 2 seasons as well. He scored the only touchdown of his career in his 5th season. Cherry then picked off 9 passes in his 6th year, which led the entire NFL that year. He followed that up with 3 interceptions in the strike shortened season of 1987. He picked off 7 passes, once again, the following season. Cherry would go on and pick off 5 passes over the next 2 seasons, which were marred by injury. His final NFL season saw him pick off 4 passes. Though he was never asked to punt in the NFL, Cherry did return 7 kick offs for 145 yards in his first 4 seasons. Cherry topped 100 tackles 6 times in his career and accumulated 927 tackles in his career. Cherry led Chiefs in tackles four times and in interceptions on six occasions.
When Cherry joined the Chiefs, they had an exceptional defense. The secondary was led by Gary Barbaro, who played Cherrys position. Lloyd Burris was a newly drafted Strong Safety who started right away. Teamed with Cornerbacks Eric Harris and Gary Green, the Chiefs often picked off passes. Barbaro, a 3 time Pro Bowler in his 7 seasons, bolted for the USFL in 1983. Cherry and Burress would form one of the NFL's best safety tandems until they both retired together in 1991. The tandem picked off 72 passes for 5 touchdowns, recovered 24 fumbles, and went to 8 Pro Bowls in the 145 games they played together.
Deron Cherry is a class act. His play on the gridiron was spectacular, but he never was one to blow his own horn. He preferred to donate his free time to charities and is still active with many organizations. He became a part owner of the Jacksonville Jaguars in their 1995 expansion year also. When you look at his career, it can be lauded for several areas of excellence. If you just stick to his gridiron play, you see him on the 1980 All Decade team, as well as 7 Pro Bowls, to go with 50 interceptions. Whatever the hold up for his induction has been, there can be no excuses nor reasoning. He should have been given his bronze bust and induction ceremony by now. Deron Cherry epitomizes the definition of what a football player should strive to attain to be in the NFL Hall of Fame.
Notable Players Drafted in 1981 (* Denotes Hall Of Fame Inductee)
1. George Rogers, RB, New Orleans 2. Lawrence Taylor, LB, NY Giants * 3. Freeman McNeil, RB, NY Jets 4. Kenny Easley, S, Seattle 7. Hugh Green, LB, Tampa Bay 8. Ronnie Lott, CB, San Francisco * 11. Keith Van Horne, OT, Chicago 20. Mark May, OL, Washington 22. Hanford Dixon, CB, Cleveland 24. James Brooks, RB, San Diego 25. Bobby Butler, CB, Atlanta 33. Neil Lomax, QB, Saint Louis Cardinals 34. James Wilder, RB, Tampa Bay 37. Cris Collinsworth, WR, Cincinnati 38. Mike Singletary, LB, Chicago * 40. Eric Wright, CB, San Francisco 41. Joe Delaney, RB, Kansas City 48. Howie Long, DT, Oakland * 51. Rickey Jackson, LB, New Orleans 57. Frank Warren, DE, New Orleans 65. Carlton Williamson, DB, San Francisco 69. Russ Grimm, C, Washington 71. Hoby Brenner, TE, New Orleans 74. Tim Irwin, OT, Minnesota 78. Lloyd Burress, S, Kansas City 98. Mark Herrmann, QB, Denver 119. Dexter Manley, DE, Washington 125. Ken Lanier, OL, Denver 156. Bryan Hinkle, LB, Pittsburgh 177. Jeff Fisher, S, Chicago 201. Charlie Brown, WR, Washington 208. William Judson, DB, Miami 210. Wade Wilson, QB, Minnesota 226. Stump Mitchell, RB, Saint Louis 231. Darryl Grant, G, Washington 305. Jim Wilks, DT, New Orleans 314. Clint Didier, TE, Washington