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Chiefs, fans, Mahomes pay tribute to Dawson during preseason finale

Chiefs Mahomes Dawson choir huddle.jpg
Posted at 7:38 PM, Aug 25, 2022

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — One day after legendary Hall of Fame quarterback Len Dawson died, the Kansas City Chiefs paid tribute to the franchise’s first Super Bowl MVP during the preseason finale at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium.

Tributes to Dawson poured in throughout Wednesday after news of his death spread. He had entered hospice on Aug. 12.

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But Thursday’s preseason game represented the first major Chiefs-centric community gathering and provided an opportunity to celebrate Dawson’s life and legacy, including a moment of silence before kickoff against the Green Bay Packers.

On the Chiefs’ opening drive, Patrick Mahomes took the field and set up in a choir huddle to honor Dawson.

Kansas City took a delay of game, which Green Bay declined, before Mahomes and tight end Travis Kelce were replaced by Chad Henne and Noah Gray.

Mahomes and Kelce weren’t expected to play in the game and only took the field to honor Dawson, who wasn’t far from the hearts and minds of Chiefs Kingdom.

"As a person, he was one of the best people that I’ve met, and I got to meet him a couple of times here," Mahomes said. "He always had advice for me on how to embrace this community because it’s such a great community."

Virgil Villarreal, who became a Chiefs fan despite growing up in Michigan, wore a custom Super Bowl LIV jersey with a patch honoring Lamar Hunt and the NFL’s 100-year logo adorned with the No. 16 in Dawson’s honor.

Virgil Villarreal Dawson jersey.jpg
Virgil Villarreal, who became a Chiefs fan despite growing up in Michigan, wore a custom Super Bowl LIV jersey with a patch honoring Lamar Hunt and the NFL’s 100-year logo adorned with the No. 16 in Dawson’s honor.

“I had to wear it today for Len,” Villarreal said. “I love my legends. It’s just a nod to Len. Godspeed, Len. Rest in peace and thank you — thank you for the memories.”

He also bought a Mahomes jersey after the Super Bowl LIV victory.

“Len was the man; he was just amazing,” said Villarreal, who moved to Kansas City in the mid-1990s. “He contributed to the sport, but he also contributed to the community and I watched him on the news. Just around town, you’d see him. He was Kansas City.”

The Chiefs retired that number in 1987, the same year that Dawson was inducted in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Mahomes also paid tribute to Dawson during warmups, wearing a pullover with Dawson’s name and likeness on it. He understands that Dawson set the bar, which he's trying to raise in Kansas City.

"There are only a certain amount of quarterbacks who get to win Super Bowls," Mahomes said. "Len kind of set the standard here in Kansas City, and I’m thankful enough to be able to go up there and win one. It’s hard to do. I think I realize that every year playing. It’s hard to do, to win a Super Bowl. I’m going to try and do my best to get more flags up there and try to win a few more Super Bowls."

Among other game-day tributes, the Chiefs changed the avatar for the team’s official Twitter account to a red No. 16 inside a red circle on a cream-colored background, a nod to Dawson’s now-retired jersey number from his playing days.

That same design was on the decals the Chiefs wore on the back left side of their helmets against the Packers.

Another tribute to Dawson played in the stadium during the fourth quarter.