A lot of work went into making Knile Davis

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- He can tell the story now that Knile Davis appears to have established himself as one of the NFL’s better kickoff returners. Dave Toub, the Kansas City Chiefs special teams coordinator, had his doubts during Davis’ rough beginning during the summer of 2013 that it would ever happen.

"He dropped one in a preseason game where I was like, 'I don’t know if he’s ever going to do this,'" Toub said. "But we just kept sticking with him.

"I’m glad we stuck with it. He’s gotten so much better."

Toub has helped develop many outstanding return specialists in his time as an NFL coach, including Devin Hester. Davis might have been his biggest challenge. Davis wasn’t a returner in college at Arkansas. He’s a running back and, for him, catching the ball isn’t a natural skill.

So it was ugly at Davis’ rookie training camp last year. When Davis wasn’t misjudging kicks, he was fumbling them. Through it all, Toub envisioned the payoff if the Chiefs could make this project work.

"He’s able to break tackles and his vision, all of those other intangibles that he had were so strong that we had to try to get him to be a good (returner)," Toub said.

Toub and Davis kept at it with plenty of work before, during and after practices. Davis slowly but surely began to master his new craft. He started to breakthrough last season, when he helped the Chiefs set an NFL record for kickoff return average. He returned one kick 108 yards for a touchdown against the Denver Broncos.

Davis got off to a slow start this season, but had his breakout game last week against the St. Louis Rams. He returned the second half kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown and is now fourth in the league with a 28.2-yard average.

At 227 pounds, Davis doesn’t have the prototypical body for a kickoff returner. He might be the biggest returner in the league.

But he’s fast and Toub prefers a bigger, more powerful kickoff returner.

"We pick one spot to hit the returns," Toub said. "We’re a more downhill, power kind of kick return team so he fits with what we do.

"You have to really want to do it. You have to be courageous. He’s hungry for it. He just wants to touch the ball."