KANSAS City, Mo. It only seemed fitting to play one day after Hall of Fame quarterback Len Dawson’s family announced his passing at age 85, and the Kansas City Chiefs played the Green Bay Packers on Thursday evening in a preseason match from the inaugural Super Bowl.
During that championship game that took place on a warm Jan. 1, 1967, most fans first saw “Lenny the Cool.”
Television broadcast simultaneous on CBS as well as NBC at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, the first meeting between the elite teams of the NFL and the nascent AFL was in the close second period. However, Vince Lombardi’s formidable Packers took control and secured an impressive 35-10 win over a tired Dawson and his spirited group of Chiefs.
Dawson would receive a Super Bowl ring, of course. Dawson was the captain of the Chiefs, back to the field three years later when Kansas City would beat the Minnesota Vikings in the final championship game before the NFL and AFL joined forces.
“As an infant, I can only remember sitting in the Chiefs field, looking at Len,” Chiefs chairman Clark Hunt recalled. “Of course, when I was a kid, every player was huge, and Len was among the smallest players in the group. However, he was the only one with the “it” factor. He was the team’s leader. I can remember seeing him as the way he looked at me.”
It’s not surprising that the Chiefs discovered myriad ways to honour Dawson the night of Thursday.
Patrick Mahomes, who became close to Dawson in recent times and wore a hoodie sporting Dawson’s picture on the back. The Chief’s helmets featured his number. 16 on the helmets. Also, on their Chiefs Radio Network, where Dawson excelled in a second career as a broadcaster in the Hall of Fame broadcaster, stories about Dawson were told during a long pregame celebration.
In Kansas City, the fountains in front of the iconic Union Station were specially lit to honour his life.
Perhaps most poignantly, Mahomes trotted onto the field for the sole time throughout the game – on the Chief’s first offensive play and laid out his players in the exact sort of huddle stacked as Dawson utilized.
The Chiefs received an off for delay of the game, Mahomes trotted off the field, and the preseason game continued.