Hall of Fame QB Len Dawson, who led Kansas City Chiefs to Super Bowl IV victory, dies at 87

Len Dawson, who led the Kansas City Chiefs to victory in Super Bowl IV and was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame as a player and broadcaster, has died at the age of 87, according to his family.

“With his wife Linda by his side, it is with great sadness that we inform you of the passing of our beloved Len Dawson,” the family said in a statement to KMBC in Kansas City, where Lawson previously worked as a broadcaster. jock. “He was a wonderful husband, father, brother and friend. Len was always grateful and many times overwhelmed by the countless bonds he forged during his football and broadcasting career.

“He loved Kansas City and wherever his travels took him, he couldn’t wait to get home.”

Dawson, who had entered palliative care in Kansas City on Aug. 12, worked for the Chiefs for nearly half a century: 14 years as a quarterback and 33 as a broadcast analyst.

Chiefs president Clark Hunt said he was “heartbroken” by Dawson’s death.

“Len Dawson is synonymous with the Kansas City Chiefs. Len embraced and came to embody Kansas City and the people who call it home. organization as we know it today as Len Dawson,” Hunt said in a statement. “I’ve looked up to Len all my life – first as a Hall of Famer in the field, and later as he transitioned into a successful career in broadcasting. Throughout his career remarkable, Len made it a priority to give back to the community he loved. . The franchise has lost a true legend. Our thoughts and prayers are with Linda and her family.”

Dawson spent the first five years of his 19-season professional career as a little-used substitute for the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cleveland Brownsbut his career took off after he signed in 1962 to play for the AFL’s Dallas Texans (soon Kansas City Chiefs) to play under Hank Stram, who had been an assistant to Purdue during Dawson’s distinguished college career.

The man Stram once called “pro football’s most accurate passer” immediately showed he deserved to be a team’s No. 1 quarterback, leading the AFL in completion percentage (61 ,0) and earning 1962 Player of the Year honors while carrying the Texans to the league title.

After moving to Kansas City the following year, the team’s success continued under Dawson, who was a seven-time All-Star/Pro Bowler and two-time first-team All-Pro.

In 1966, he took the Chiefs to another AFL title, which for the first time meant a trip to what would come to be known as the Super Bowl. Dawson played well (16 of 27, 211 yards), but the Chiefs were outplayed by Vince Lombardi Green Bay Packers in a 35-10 loss.

The Chiefs were back three seasons later to face Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl IV. Despite Joe Namath and the New York Jets upsetting the Baltimore Colts the previous year, the NFL was still considered superior and the Vikings became a double-digit favorite.

But the Kansas City defense dominated, and Dawson played a typically strong game (12 of 17, 142 yards), including a 46-yard touchdown pass to Otis Taylor in the third quarter that sealed the 23-7 victory.

Dawson was selected as the second-team quarterback, behind Namath, in the 1970 AFL All-Time Team.

He was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame as a player in 1987 and as a broadcaster in 2012, following a television and radio career that began as a sportscaster on Kansas City TV in 1966 when he still played for the Chiefs, often. go to KMBC after practice to broadcast the sports report of the evening. Dawson later became an analyst for NBC games as well as a longtime host of HBO’s “Inside the NFL.”

After a series of health issues, including prostate cancer and quadruple heart bypass surgery, Dawson retired from broadcasting in 2017 after 33 years as the Chiefs’ radio color analyst.

Dawson has remained a beloved figure in Kansas City, even though he scaled back his public appearances several years ago when his health began failing him. But he always had time for fans, whether it was a photograph or a signature, the latter often in an iconic black-and-white halftime photo of that first Super Bowl: the exhausted quarterback, white uniform covered in mud, sitting on a folding chair with a cigarette in his mouth and a bottle of Fresca at his feet.

He perfectly captured a moment and a place. And it perfectly captured a man who embodied poise and self-confidence.

Dawson was born on June 20, 1935, the ninth of 11 children who filled the home of James and Annie Dawson in the working-class industrial town of Alliance, Ohio. He was a three-sport athlete at Alliance High School, setting football and basketball records, and turned his success on the gridiron into a scholarship offer from Purdue.

There, Dawson led the NCAA in passing efficiency as a sophomore while playing defense and kicking, and he helped lead a memorable upset from Our Lady during the 1954 season. By the end of his college career, Dawson had thrown for over 3,000 yards despite playing in an era that favored rush-and-pound football, and was picked by the Steelers in the first round of the 1957 draft.

He eventually found success with the Chiefs, and when he hung up his helmet after the 1975 season, Dawson retired with 28,711 career passing yards and 239 touchdowns. All but 204 yards and two touchdowns have come with the Chiefs franchise.

Dawson was married to his high school girlfriend, Jackie, from 1954 until her death in 1978, and together they had two children. His second wife, Linda, stayed by his side even when Dawson was forced into hospice care.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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