Clemons signs with Chiefs as undrafted free agent

Former Taylor High star and SMU standout Rodney Clemons was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Kansas City Chiefs on Saturday. (PHOTO COURTESY OF SMU ATHLETICS)

BY DENNIS SILVA II | densilva2@gmail.com

Former Taylor High star and SMU standout Rodney Clemons was signed by the Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs as an undrafted free agent late Saturday evening.

The 6-foot, 209-pound safety was projected to go anywhere from the fifth round to undrafted during this weekend’s NFL Draft. Clemons had a strong 2019 senior season for the 10-3 Mustangs as a team captain, compiling 78 total tackles and a team-high four interceptions and nine pass breakups. But his 4.71 40-yard dash time at February’s NFL Scouting Combine, to go with questions about his quickness and instincts, hampered his chances of being drafted.

Clemons joins a Chiefs team that returns 20 of 22 starters. Returning veterans at safety are Daniel Sorensen and Armani Watts at free safety and Tyrann Mathieu at strong safety. In this year’s draft, Kansas City selected a running back, linebacker, cornerback, defensive end and cornerback. The Chiefs added five more defensive backs in free agency, including Clemons. Three of those were cornerbacks.

Prior to the draft, Clemons said earlier this week in a feature story on 281SportsUnlimited that he desired a situation where he could compete for a starting position and have the chance to play right away.

Clemons is a strong technician as a safety, an aggressive hitter and smart player.

Clemons is a unique story. He did not play much as a receiver his sophomore and junior seasons of high school at Taylor and was on the verge of quitting football before new head coach Trey Herrmann convinced him to come out for the team and try playing safety.

Until then, Clemons had never played on the defensive side of the ball. But Herrmann, a former safety himself, saw an explosiveness about Clemons that he knew he had to have on his team. That senior year, Clemons was an all-state defensive back and punter, totaling 111 tackles, six pass breakups and five interceptions while playing every snap—offense, defense and special teams.

“I went out there my senior year, got a few awards, accolades, and ended up getting a scholarship to SMU,” Clemons told me in October of 2019. “I give a lot of credit to coach Trey Herrmann. I was skeptical at first about playing defense; I considered myself an offensive player. I like to score touchdowns. But he showed me I could have a future in the game playing defense.”

Whenever NFL training camps should begin, Clemons will be one of 90 players on the Chiefs’ roster. Once the regular season starts, the roster has to be trimmed to 53 players. Forty-six players may be active on any particular game day. Clemons’ journey to a roster spot will be a trying one. Players drafted in the sixth and seventh rounds of the draft, and especially those undrafted and signed as free agents, are considered long shots, though it’s not impossible. Second-year fullback and former Taylor Mustang Cullen Gillaspia made the Texans as a seventh-round draft pick in 2019.

If Clemons, who has a high ceiling considering he just started playing safety five years ago, can make the Chiefs, he will become the sixth Katy ISD product in the NFL.

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