For Stephone Paige, 309 is the Number That Dreams Are Made Of
Stephone Paige made Fresno his home after his playing days at Fresno State in the early 1980s.
Even during his NFL career with Kansas City, Paige lived in Fresno during the off-season. So, he won’t have to travel far for the CVC card show, Saturday and Sunday at the Wyndham Garden Hotel near the Fresno airport (5090 E. Clinton Way).
Paige looks forward to sharing his NFL stories.
“I think that’s the fun part because during my career, some crazy stuff happened,” Paige told GV Wire.
He promises to tell stories about Bo Jackson, Christian Okoye, and the best game of his career, setting the NFL record with 309 receiving yards in a game in 1985.
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The 309 Yard Game
In his nine-year career, one game and one number stand out — 309.
“I like that number. I like to talk about that,” Paige said.
And, he did it with only eight catches!
While Paige had a solid career, it was lean times for the Chiefs in the 1980s. In Paige’s first seven years, the team appeared in the playoffs once.
The final game of 1985 was one of those blah years for a team that won six games.
“We had nothing to play for,” Paige said about that home game versus the Chargers.
The night before, however, Paige was restless.
“It was a lot of tossing and turning. I just couldn’t sleep because I just kept thinking something big was going to happen, but I didn’t know what that thing was,” he said.
Big Record, Small Crowd
The crowd at Arrowhead Stadium was sparse, 18,000.
“It’s a great day for Christmas shopping,” NBC broadcaster Charlie Jones said.
Paige’s first catch was a 56-yard TD pass along the left sideline, when the cornerback tripped. Catch No. 2 was for 51 yards deep in Charger territory.
The fifth catch, in the second quarter, was a wide-open 84-yard touchdown. Paige was slow to get up after his next catch with bruised ribs. The TV announcers began to talk about the single-game record, which was 303 yards.
“This is what that dream was last night,” Paige said. “I just believe that coach probably, said guys, he’s got to that point now. Let’s get the record. I thought he was going to pull me out the game.”
Paige stayed in the game, wearing a flak jacket. A third-quarter 39-yarder put him 7 yards from the record, but he wasn’t playing every down.
Finally, late in the fourth quarter, Paige caught his eighth and final pass, a 12-yarder from quarterback Bill Kenney for the record.
“It was a route that was enough yards to break the record. It was phenomenal. It was a dream come true,” Paige said.
That big finale enabled Paige to lead the NFL with an average of 21.9 yards per catch in 1985.
Flipper Anderson broke Paige’s record in 1989, and Calvin Johnson exceeded that mark in 2013. But, Anderson’s 336 yards were accumulated in an overtime game.
“Calvin legitimately got it in four quarters. If you really look at the record books, the way it should go is … Calvin should be one, I should be two, and Flipper should have an asterisk by number three,” Paige said, maybe in jest.
After his career ended, Paige worked as a spokesman for carmaker Acura. He then started his own business.
“I was such a car buff that I ended up opening up a detailing company for over 20 years,” says Paige, who is nearing 61 and is now fully retired.
He still watches football today. His favorite receivers include new Raider Davante Adams, Tampa Bays’ Mike Evans, Arizona’s DeAndre Hopkins, and Cooper Kupp of the Rams.
“The receiver position is a bit stronger every year,” Paige said.
He is also excited for the return of Jeff Tedford at Fresno State, his former quarterback from the early 1980s.
“He’s a phenomenal coach. He was a phenomenal player and I’m not surprised at what he’s doing. I’m glad he’s back,” Paige said. “Kids just want to play for him.”
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Paige on the Need for Coaching Diversity
When it comes to the number of coaches of color in the NFL, Paige says the numbers are “a little off.”
“I think it’s always been something that’s been behind. And I just didn’t see it when I played,” Paige said. “It would’ve been great to have (coaches of color) in my era, but it wasn’t time yet. It’s time now.”