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Chiefs owner Clark Hunt: Late QB Len Dawson had ‘it’ factor, was ‘my 1st sports hero’

Obit Dawson Football
Obit Dawson Football
Posted at 4:46 PM, Aug 24, 2022

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Growing up, the Kansas City Chiefs were giants to Clark Hunt.

As a child, Hunt, the son of late Chiefs founder Lamar Hunt, occasionally would roam the field pregame. He was a month shy of his fifth birthday when the Kansas City Chiefs won Super Bowl IV — a 23-7 win over the Minnesota Vikings on Jan. 11, 1970, at Tulane Stadium in New Orleans.

Given his stature, Hunt couldn’t help but look up to the Chiefs players, but there was no player who he looked up to more than Len Dawson.

“He was the one that had the ‘it’ factor,” said Hunt, who took over as the Chiefs’ chairman and CEO after his father’s death. “He was the one that was the leader of the team, and I remember looking at him like that.”

Hunt spoke with reporters for 15 minutes Wednesday to discuss Dawson’s passing, which was announced earlier in the day.

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“The Chiefs and the city of Kansas City have truly lost an icon,” Hunt said. “Len Dawson has been associated with the Chiefs organization for 60 years and his impact, both on and off the field, will be remembered by generations of pro football fans.”

On behalf of the Chiefs and his family, Hunt extended his condolences to Dawson’s wife, Linda, and two children, Len Jr. and Lisa.

“Len was my first sports hero and he remained somebody I admired and respected his entire life,” Hunt said. “... His impact on the Kansas City Chiefs and everyone who has ever worked for the organization cannot be overstated.”

Dawson led the Dallas Texans to the 1962 AFL championship.

The Hunt family relocated the team to Kansas City the next season and Dawson led the Chiefs to another AFL title in 1966.

That victory also ensured a berth in Super Bowl I against the NFL champion Green Bay Packers.

Kansas City lost the inaugural Super Bowl, but returned three years later and thumped the Vikings — a game that helped usher in the eventual AFL-NFL merger, which created the modern NFL.

“He was really synonymous with those early Texans and Chiefs teams that won three AFL Championship and Super Bowl IV, so it was pretty easy for a 6- or 7-year-old kid to look up to Len and say, ‘Hey, that’s one of my heroes,’” Hunt said. “That feeling really stayed with me my entire life.”

Even when he’d head to the radio booth for a chat with Dawson during preseason games after taking over the team, a surreal feeling remained.

“Len was really the first big sports celebrity in Kansas City,” Hunt said. “He’s certainly up there in the top two or three or four to ever have played for teams in Kansas City. Anybody who grew up during that era, grew up cheering for Len Dawson. He was the undisputed leader of the Chiefs team that went to the Super Bowl and eventually won the Super Bowl.”

Dawson became famous to several new generations of Chiefs fans as a host of HBO’s “Inside the NFL” and as the long-time sports director at KMBC-TV in Kansas City.

“Through that, he stayed attached to the Chiefs and also the city of Kansas City,” Hunt said, “so that gave future generations, generations that weren’t necessarily alive when he was winning Super Bowls, a connection with Len Dawson and the Chiefs that I think makes him truly special in the pantheon of great players to have ever played for the Chiefs or, frankly, any Kansas City team.”

Hunt also lauded Dawson’s efforts and impact in the community — including the Len Dawson Scholarship, which Hunt helped present for a decade.

He also mentioned Dawson winning the 1973 NFL Man of the Year, which has since been renamed the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award, as evidence of his generous nature.

Dawson also was a vocal supporter of prostate cancer outreach after his own battle with the disease in 1991.

“I hope that everybody in Kansas City will remember him as someone who embraced the city and spent his entire life trying to make Kansas City a better place to live, work and play,” Hunt said. “... When you step back and think about him in terms of Kansas City, I think he’s synonymous with somebody who cared about the community and was really focused on finding ways to give back.”

The team is still discussing plans with the family to honor Dawson during the upcoming season.

“We want to be respectful of what the family would like to do,” Hunt said. “Certainly, we’ll do some things during the game tomorrow night and then hopefully something later on at GEHA Field at Arrowhead that would be open to the fans.”