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Chiefs look for unique athletes, even if they’re not football players

Kansas City Chiefs v Oakland Raiders

OAKLAND, CA - DECEMBER 16: Detailed view of Kansas City Chiefs helmets on the sidelines before the game against the Oakland Raiders at Coliseum on December 16, 2012 in Oakland, California. The Oakland Raiders defeated the Kansas City Chiefs 15-0. Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images)

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Last month, the Chiefs signed Tautvydas Kieras to an NFL contract even though Kieras has never played football at any level in his life -- which is usually a prerequisite to playing in the NFL. Kieras is a Lithuanian discus thrower who made his way to Mississippi State on a track and field scholarship and will now try to make his way in the NFL.

For the Chiefs, it’s not the first time they’ve signed a non-football player. In 2013 they signed former college basketball player Demetrius Harris even though he had no football experience, and Harris is now a solid contributor for them at tight end. They’ve also signed linebacker Efe Obada, whose only experience is playing for the London Warriors of the British American Football Association, and their starting right guard is Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, whom they drafted from McGill University in Canada, not a place that usually produces NFL draft picks.

Chiefs G.M. John Dorsey says that he’ll look anywhere for athletes, even if they don’t have the kind of experience an NFL team usually wants.

“I think what they have is they have a degree of athleticism that you look for in that particular position,” Dorsey told Adam Teicher of ESPN. “And those were very unique traits. We have coaches that can develop these. And I think what you’re doing is you’re going into [offseason practice] and training camp now, and you’re trying to see if there’s a steady degree of improvement as we move along here. It’s a chance. You may be able to hit one. We’ll just see what happens as they develop. I said, ‘Why not take a shot and see where these guys stand?’ I’m kind of curious to see, once they get into [offseason practice], how they progress.”

Dorsey added that there’s no way to build a whole roster with such athletes.

“I’d say statistically, it’s about 87 percent of the players that play in the National Football League are from Division I schools,” Dorsey said. “I don’t think you can line your roster with a lot of these different projects.”

But even if athletes without football experience only improve the roster at the margins, it’s a little risk for potentially significant reward. NFL teams should leave no stone unturned in the search for great athletes.