Chiefs' first-year players making big impact

Tuesday, September 19th 2000, 12:00 am

By: News On 6

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ One of the greatest draft classes in Kansas City history may have just had its coming-out party.

Leading tacklers in Sunday's 42-10 win over San Diego? Rookie cornerback Patrick Dennis and rookie safety Greg Wesley.

Leading rusher? Rookie Frank Moreau.

Leading pass receiver and emerging star? Rookie Sylvester Morris.

Also making big contributions on special teams were rookie linebacker Andre O'Neal and rookie cornerback William Bartee, who also played a lot of nickel back.

``In my years in the NFL I've never seen so many rookies play on a team that I coached,'' said head coach Gunther Cunningham.

``I've had a lot of younger players as a (defensive) coordinator play for me, but never the total football team. Any team I've been a part of, it's never happened.''

Wesley has started all three games this year while Dennis was making his first start, replacing third-year man Eric Warfield.

Morris, the 21st player drafted in the first round, caught three of Elvis Grbac's five touchdown passes and totaled 112 yards on just six catches.

``Like I said a few weeks ago, he's a guy that has great talent,'' Grbac said. ``He's got the potential and can do a lot of great things. This is something he can grow on and continue in the next couple of weeks.''

Dennis began standing out early in training camp and has done nothing but progress from week to week.

``Patrick Dennis played well,'' Cunningham said. ``He probably played as well as anybody in the secondary.

``My initial feeling was that he may have been the most immature guy. But he's turned around and maybe he's the most mature guy of all the rookies.''

Morris caught touchdown passes of 36, 9 and 20 yards. His last one was his most spectacular, stretching out his full 6-foot-3 frame and leaping into the air to take the ball away from two shorter defensive backs who were helpless to stop him.

``Hey, it's just football,'' said Morris, who exudes the confidence like a six-year veteran. ``I've been catching footballs since I was a little kid.''

Making the rookies even more impressive is the fact they did not come marching off the assembly line from places like Nebraska and Florida State. Only Bartee, a former All-Big 12 star at Oklahoma, hails from a recognized college power.

Morris played at Jackson State. Wesley went to Arkansas-Pine Bluff. Moreau was drafted out of Louisville. The 6-0, 208-pound Dennis was the first player from Louisiana-Monroe to declare early for the draft and taken in the fifth round as the No. 162 overall selection.

O'Neal wasn't even drafted, signing as a rookie free agent out of Marshall.

Moreau ran for 58 yards and scored his first NFL touchdown on a 1-yard run in the closing minutes of the Chiefs' first victory in five regular-season games dating to last year.

``Whenever my number is called, I just want to go and help the team win,'' he said. ``The running backs did a great job.''

Wesley totaled five tackles. Dennis, who admitted to pregame jitters, had six.

``I was all right until 1:15 when I got to the stadium,'' he said. ``I really started to get a couple of butterflies and I went out before the game and ran around a little bit and I felt a little better. When I went out there before the kickoff and when they introduced me, the butterflies came right back.

``Of course, you're going to have butterflies. If you don't when you play football, something's wrong with you.''

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