Kansas City Chiefs rookie free agent safety Devon Key turning heads at training camp

Undrafted free agent has impressed coaches in camp

Herbie Teope
The Kansas City Star (TNS)
Kansas City Chiefs rookie safety Devon Key (24), an undrafted free agent, has impressed coaches early in training camp at Missouri Western State University.

ST. JOSEPH, Mo. — Undrafted free agents typically endure the hardest path to making an initial 53-player NFL roster.

Chiefs rookie Devon Key, however, is doing his best to make the journey easy.

Through three days of padded training camp practices at Missouri Western, the 6-foot-1, 210-pound Key has stood out to the point that he's rotating with the first-team defense alongside Tyrann Mathieu, Juan Thornhill and Daniel Sorensen.

More important, Key is impressing the coaching staff.

"Smart, that's the first thing," Chiefs head coach Andy Reid said Thursday on what stands out about Key. "Smart, can make the calls on the back end (of coverage), has enough skill to get off the hash and do some things or out in the middle of the field where he can do some things outside. And good instincts to go with the smarts."

Chiefs defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo agreed.

"I'll tell you what, Devon Key, I think Brett Veach and his guys did an excellent job identifying him — he's an undrafted free agent," Spagnuolo said. "I think he's an instinctive guy. He's in tune to everything. We've got him playing a couple spots just to find out what he's all about, and I'm really impressed right now."

What Key has done in training camp shouldn't come as a big surprise when considering what he accomplished in college.

In four seasons at Western Kentucky, he posted prolific numbers, totaling 344 tackles, including 10 for a loss, six interceptions and 19 passes defensed. Key also scored two defensive touchdowns as a versatile safety capable of playing multiple defensive back positions, a skill set that translates well in the NFL.

"Just being able to play as a high safety, being able to play as an in the box safety," Key said after Thursday's practice. "I feel like my time at Western kind of prepared me for being able to see speed at the safety position or be able to take on a lineman when I do play in the box."

But for all the production and his play-making skills, Key didn't hear his name called on live television during the 2021 NFL Draft.

"I've always said that God has a plan for everybody and that was just his plan for me," Key said after Thursday's practice. "So, I'm just going to come out here — an undrafted guy — I'm just going to come out here every day and be ready to work."

The rest of the NFL's loss, though, became the Chiefs' gain.

As an undrafted free agent, Key found himself in position to pick the team he wanted to sign for and he wasn't short of suitors.

But the Chiefs became the ideal fit based on the communication process, which made Key feel wanted, as the draft concluded.

"Coach Reid called and just that kind of made an impression on me having the head coach call me," Key explained. "I thought that was pretty nice. A winning culture, decided to come here and try to help the team as best as I could."

There's a while to go before the Chiefs start trimming the roster to reach the initial 53-player roster for the 2021 regular season.

The Chiefs also have a few more weeks of training camp along with three preseason games to play before any decision is made.

But so far, so good for Key, who has more opportunities to further prove he belongs.

"We'll see what he does in a game," Spagnuolo said. "We preface all of these comments by the fact that we can't do anything live really and it's not a game, but right now I think he's doing a nice job."