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 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 sports broadcaster. “He was a wonderful husband, father, brother and friend. Len was always grateful and often overwhelmed by the countless bonds he formed throughout his football and broadcasting careers.
“He loved Kansas City and wherever his travels took him, he couldn’t wait to return home.”
Dawson, who had entered hospice care in Kansas City on Aug. 12, spent nearly half a century with the Chiefs: 14 years as a quarterback and 33 as a television analyst.
He spent the first five years of his 19-season professional career as a sparingly used backup for the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cleveland Browns, but his career took off after he signed to play for the AFL’s Dallas Texans in 1962. (soon to be the Kansas City Chiefs) to play under Hank Stram, who had been an assistant to Purdue during Dawson’s stellar collegiate career.
The man who once called Stram “the most accurate passer in professional football” immediately showed he was worthy of being a team’s No. 1 quarterback, leading the AFL in percentage completion (61.0) and earning 1962 Player of the Year honors as he takes the Texans to the league title.
After moving to Kansas City the following year, the team’s success continued under Dawson, who was an All-Star/Pro Bowler seven times and a first-team All-Pro twice.
In 1966, he took the Chiefs to another AFL title, which first marked 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 outdone by Vince Lombardi’s Green Bay Packers in a 35-10 loss.
The Chiefs were back three seasons later to take on the Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl IV. Despite Joe Namath and the New York Jets upsetting the Baltimore Colts last year, the NFL was still seen as superior and the Vikings came in as 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 win.
Dawson was selected as the second-team quarterback, behind Namath, on the AFL’s all-time squad in 1970.
He was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame as a player in 1987 and as a broadcaster in 2012, after a TV and radio career that began as a sports host on Kansas City TV in 1966, while still playing frequently for the Chiefs after training for KMBC. to broadcast that evening’s sports report. Dawson became a games analyst on NBC as well as a longtime host of HBO’s “Inside the NFL.”
After a series of health problems, including prostate cancer and quadruple bypass surgery, Dawson retired from broadcasting in 2017, after 33 years as a radio color analyst for the Chiefs.
Dawson remained a much-loved figure in Kansas City, even though he cut back on public appearances several years ago when his health was failing him. But he always had time for fans, be it a photo or autograph, the latter often in an iconic black-and-white photo from the halftime of that first Super Bowl: the exhausted quarterback, white uniform caked in mud, sitting on a folding table chair. with a cigarette in his mouth and a bottle of Fresca at his feet.
It captured a time and place perfectly. And it perfectly captured a man who embodied poise and self-assurance.
Dawson was born on June 20, 1935, the ninth of 11 children to fill the home of James and Annie Dawson in the factory town of Alliance, Ohio. He was a three-sport athlete at Alliance High School, setting records in football and basketball, and turning his success on the roster into a scholarship offer from Purdue.
There, Dawson led the NCAA in passing efficiency as a sophomore while also playing defensive and kicking, and he helped lead a memorable disruption to Notre Dame during the 1954 season. By the end of his college career, Dawson had thrown more than 3,000 yards, despite playing in an era that favored ground-and-pound football, and was chosen by the Steelers in the first round of the draft. 1957.
He eventually found success with the Chiefs, and when he hung up his helmet after the 1975 season, Dawson retired with 28,711 passing yards and 239 touchdowns. All but 204 yards and two touchdowns came with the Chiefs franchise.
Dawson was married to his high school sweetheart, Jackie, from 1954 until her death in 1978, and they had two children together. His second wife, Linda, stayed by his side even when Dawson was forced into a hospice.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.