KANSAS CITY, Mo. — For many, Len Dawson was the first big sports celebrity in Kansas City.
It wasn’t just because of his playing career, which spanned 14 seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs and included a Super Bowl title. It was also because of the moments after he retired, working as a broadcaster and with future Chiefs players.
“He gave them a connection with Len Dawson and the Chiefs that I think makes him truly special in the pantheon of truly great players who played for the Chiefs or frankly any Kansas City team,” Hunt said.
Dawson died Wednesday at the age of 87. His impact on the sports world was felt across Kansas City, but especially in the Chiefs organization.
“For most of 87 years, he’s just been a stalwart in the community,” former Chiefs wide receiver Danan Hughes said. “We lost a true icon in sports, not just in football, and he will be sorely missed.”
“When you think Kansas City Chiefs, you think of two people, in my mind: Lamar Hunt and Len Dawson. Two gentlemen with a franchise that was family-owned and run with such class and dignity. And to have someone like Lenny the Cool be in charge of that for so very long is just amazing,” former Chiefs longsnapper Kendall Gammon said.
One habit that always stood out was that Dawson met with new players well after his time on the field was over.
“Every individual who came to the team as a player or a coach or a general manager ended up doing an interview with Len Dawson,” Hunt said. “In a lot of those cases, it was very intimidating. “You’re doing an interview with someone who’s a legend.”
One player who shares the title of Super Bowl MVP with Dawson previously recalled his meeting.
“First time I met him was a rookie dinner that the Chiefs have with our player development and the guys with the alumni with the Chiefs so I got to meet him there,” Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes said in 2018. “And just talking to him and you realize how such a good guy he is and how fun he is. He’s someone you can really relate to.”
And the man poised to break some of Dawson’s franchise records recognized he was a good man and a good player.
“Len has had a ton of success in the NFL and was kind of ahead of his time, throwing all those touchdowns,” Mahomes said in 2018. “I think the record stood for a very long time, so it would be awesome to pass that.”
One thing Chiefs Kingdom can agree on: Dawson was a trend setter and a legend in Kansas City.