Chiefs CEO Clark Hunt Talks, Reflects About Len Dawson

Chiefs CEO Clark Hunt Talks, Reflects About Len Dawson

Chiefs Chairman & CEO Clark Hunt Quotes

August 24, 2022


OPENING STATEMENT: “I’d like to start by expressing my condolences to Len’s Wife, Linda (Dawson) and his children Len (Dawson) Jr. and Lisa (Anne Dawson). My family’s thoughts and prayers are with his family during this very challenging time. The Chiefs and the city of Kansas City have truly lost an icon. Len Dawson has been associated with the Chiefs organization for over 60 years and his impact both on and off the field will be remembered by generations of pro football fans. Len was my first sports hero, and he remains somebody I admired and respected his entire life. His impact on the Kansas City Chiefs and everyone who has ever worked for the organization cannot be overstated. With that, I’m happy to open it up to questions.”

Q: Can you share what plans the team has on honoring Len Dawson whether it’s tomorrow night or later on in the season or some other thing the team might have planned?

HUNT: “Yeah, we’re in discussions right now with the family on that. We want to be respectful of what the family would like to do. Certainly we’ll do some things during the game tomorrow night and then hopefully something later on at GEHA Field at Arrowhead (Stadium) that would be open to the fans.”

Q: You mentioned Len Dawson being your first sports hero, what made him that? Did that stay with you all your life, the feeling of when you first saw him?

HUNT: “Yeah, it sure did. I think it was, to a large degree, a coincidence of my age and when Len was having so much success on the field for the Chiefs he was really synonymous with those early Texans and Chiefs teams that won three AFL (American Football League) Championships and Super Bowl IV. So it was pretty easy for a six or seven year old kid to look up to Len and say ‘hey, that’s one of my heroes.’ You’re exactly right; that feeling really stayed with me my entire life. I think back to 10 or 11 years ago, shortly after I’d taken over leadership of the Chiefs, sitting down and doing and interview with him and just how surreal that was. I was doing an interview about my leadership of the Chiefs with somebody I literally idolized as a kid. So, it did stay with me, and I think that was true (for) really everybody that came to work for the Chiefs. I remember Scott Pioli telling me he had a very similar experience when he did his first interview with Len and just how awestruck he was to be doing an interview with a Pro Football Hall of Famer and somebody who had accomplished so much off the field as well as on.”

Q: What do you remember most about the relationship that Len (Dawson) had with your dad (Lamar Hunt) and (Former Kansas City Chiefs Head Coach) Hank Stram?

HUNT: “Well there were a lot of things that were unique about the relationships that that group of men (Len Dawson, Lamar Hunt and Hank Stram) had because the battle that they had been through with the NFL. When the two leagues were battling against each other and literally the survival of the AFL (American Football League) was not certain, and I think that gave that group a very special bond. Of course, Len and Hank and the Chiefs were a key to the AFL (American Football League) succeeding. The success they had on the field, even though they didn’t win Super Bowl I, I think they showed that they had the capacity to come back, which they did three years later, and win the Super Bowl. So my dad (Lamar Hunt), Hank and Len were very close. Len was obviously the leader of the team with Hank the leader of the football team as the head coach and so the three of them really had a special relationship.”

Q: What was your relationship like with Len when you were a kid? Can you describe the magnitude of the impact he had on the city?

HUNT: “Well I think Len was really the first big sports celebrity in Kansas City and he certainly is up there in the top two and three or four to ever have played for teams in Kansas City. I think really anybody who grew up during that era grew up cheering for Len Dawson. He was the undisputed leader of the Chiefs team. The Chiefs team that went to the Super Bowl and eventually won the Super Bowl. So, I think not only me but anybody who was cheering for the team during that era has a very fond memory and a very special bond with him. The thing of course that makes Len so unique is his career didn’t stop when his playing days were done in 1975. He went on to this amazing broadcast career both in tv and radio and through that he stayed attached to the Chiefs and also the city of Kansas City. So that gave future generations, generations that weren’t necessarily alive when he was winning Super Bowls, but it gave them 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.”

Q: Do you have any specific memories of Dawson as a player when you were a kid? Do you have any specific memories of Dawson when you took over the team and he was still doing some broadcast work?

HUNT: “Well as a child, I just remember being on the Chiefs field and looking up to Len. Of course as a child, all the players were huge and he (Dawson) was actually one of the smaller ones of the group. But he was the one who had the ‘it’ factor. He was the one who was the leader of the team and I remember looking at him like that. I have so many memories of Len as a broadcaster doing the Chiefs games from the radio booth. I would go up there periodically during the preseason and be a part of the broadcast with he and (Voice of the Kansas City Chiefs) Mitch (Holthus). But something that I also had the pleasure of doing with him for many, many years was the Len Dawson Scholarship which goes to a deserving high school student to help them with their college tuition. He and I, for about a decade, presented that award each year. I know that was something that was really important to him and it was just a small sample of the way he gave back to the community of Kansas City, but it was something I really enjoyed doing with him. I should also mention in that same vein that of course he won the NFL Man of the Year Award back in 1973 before it was renamed after Walter Payton. He was the first Chiefs player to win that award. (He) was very deserving and, again, just showed how much he cared about giving back.”

Q: Throughout time, how did you see Len Dawson help the new generations of Chiefs players get acclimated to the culture of the Chiefs and everything involved? What did you see from him that he was able to express so greatly what the Chiefs organization meant to him to the future generations?

HUNT: “Well because of his unique role in the media, everyone who came to the team as a player, or a coach or general manager ended up doing an interview with Len Dawson. I think in a lot of those cases it was very intimidating – you’re doing an interview with someone who’s a legend, someone who accomplished so much on the field, a Pro Football Hall of Famer. But he had this unique ability to make everybody feel comfortable and feel welcomed and feel important being a part of the Kansas City Chiefs. So, he was a great asset to us even though he wasn’t per-say working directly for the organization. He was an ambassador who helped welcome generations of football players, coaches and GMs to the Kansas City Chiefs.”

Q: How would you like Dawson to be remembered by the city of Kansas City?

HUNT: “Well, I think some people are going to remember him as a player, others will remember him as a broadcaster. But 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.”

Q: When you think of Dawson, what do you think sums him up in a sense of how he stands for this city?

HUNT: “As I mentioned earlier, he’s synonymous with the success of the early Chiefs organization and those early teams that really helped establish the Chiefs and the American Football League. But I think 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.”

Q: On Dawson being iconic around the nation before he even started the broadcast work. Did you have some sense of how Dawson was a national figure during his playing days?

HUNT: “Yeah, I probably didn’t appreciate it as much at the time because I was fairly young, but I’ve certainly come to appreciate it over the last 20 or 30 years. When I run into someone who’s not from Kansas City, but they’re a fan of pro football, they’ll frequently bring up Len Dawson’s name because that’s who they remember from those early Chiefs teams. So, I do have a sense for his impact. I’ve had people from around the country reach out to me today and say, ‘hey, I cheered for the Chiefs because of Len Dawson when I was a little kid, even though I didn’t live in Kansas City.’”