Hall of Fame quarterback Len Dawson, who led the Kansas City Chiefs to an upset victory in Super Bowl IV, has died, according to his family. He was 87.
In a statement to KMBC in Kansas City, where Dawson worked as a broadcaster, family members said Dawson died with his wife, Linda, at his side.
“He was a wonderful husband, father, brother and friend. Len was always grateful and many times overwhelmed by the countless bonds he made during his football and broadcast careers,” the statement said, according to KMBC. “He loved Kansas City and no matter where his travels took him, he could not wait to return home. Linda wants to acknowledge and thank the wonderful team of doctors, nurses and support staff at KU Med who showed tremendous amounts of love and compassion for Len.”
No cause of death was immediately given.
Dawson entered hospice care on Aug. 12, The Kansas City Star reported.
Inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1987, Dawson played 19 seasons in the AFL and NFL, completing 3,741 passes for 28,711 yards and 239 touchdowns, according to according to Pro-Football-Reference.com.
His Chiefs won Super Bowl IV in January 1970, and it took 50 years before Kansas City would hoist another Vince Lombardi Trophy. Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs ended that drought in February 2020 by winning Super Bowl LIV.
After retiring from pro football in 1975, Dawson joined the cast of HBO’s “Inside the NFL” and served as a co-host for 24 years. He also worked for six seasons as an NFL analyst for NBC and was an analyst on the Chiefs’ radio network from 1984 to 2017, the Star reported.
Dawson became a starter for the franchise in 1962 when it was known as the Dallas Texans. Under Dawson’s leadership, the Texans defeated the Houston Oilers 20-17 in double overtime to win the ‘62 AFL crown.
The AFL franchise shifted to Kansas City in 1963, and Dawson led the Chiefs to AFL titles in 1966 and 1969.
Kansas City was the AFL’s representative in the first Super Bowl, losing 35-10 to the Green Bay Packers. At the time, the game was known as the AFL-NFL World Championship. Regardless of the name, the Chiefs were blown out in the second half after trailing only 14-10 at the intermission.
“In our society, whether we like it or not, it’s the winner who gets the recognition,” Dawson said.
Dawson got plenty of recognition in Super Bowl IV.
On Jan. 11, 1970, Dawson led the Chiefs to a 23-7 victory against the heavily favored Minnesota Vikings in the final title game pitting the AFL and NFL champions before the leagues merged for the 1970 season. Minnesota was favored by as much as 13 1/2 points going into the Super Bowl at Tulane Stadium in New Orleans, but Dawson turned in an MVP performance, completing 12 of 17 passes for 142 yards and one touchdown. His 46-yard scoring strike to Otis Taylor in the third quarter iced the game after the Chiefs had taken a 16-0 halftime lead.
“Some people thought we shouldn’t have been in the Super Bowl because we lost two games to Oakland,” Dawson said after the game. “But we beat the New York Jets, Oakland and Minnesota in three weeks. So I think we earned the right to be Super Bowl champions.
“We didn’t come in the back door.”
That ended a stressful week for Dawson, who had come under scrutiny during the days leading up to Super Bowl IV.
NBC News linked Dawson to a Detroit gambling investigation and a gambler named Don “Dice” Dawson, who was not related to the quarterback, The New York Times reported. However, an investigation did not turn up any information linking the quarterback to the gambler.
Donald Dawson later pleaded guilty after the investigation and went to prison for a year, according to Action Network.
“This was the toughest week of my life,” Len Dawson said after the game.
Leonard Ray Dawson was born on June 20, 1935, in Alliance, Ohio, and attended high school in Stark County. He played college football at Purdue University in 1956.
Dawson was a first-round pick of the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 1957 NFL draft and the fifth player taken overall. Dawson played three seasons in Pittsburgh and two with the Cleveland Browns before joining the Texans in 1962 and reuniting with Hank Stram, who was an assistant coach at Purdue when Dawson played for the Boilermakers.
Dawson won the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Pete Rozelle Radio-Television Award in 2012.
“Looking back on my career, I’ve been blessed for what I had the opportunity to do,” he said in 2017.
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