NFL: Hall of Fame QB Len Dawson dies at 87

Hall of Fame quarterback Len Dawson, a Super Bowl MVP and later well-known NFL broadcaster, has died at age 87.

Dawson was the Player of the Year in the AFL in 1962 and spent 60 years as part of the Kansas City Chiefs’ family, including guiding the franchise to its first Super Bowl victory. He also played for the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cleveland Browns.

“With wife Linda at his side, it is with much sadness that we inform you of the passing of our beloved Len Dawson,” Dawson’s family said in a statement issued by Channel 9 (KMBC-TV) in Kansas City. “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. He loved Kansas City and no matter where his travels took him, he could not wait to return home.””

He had been in hospice care since Aug. 12.

On the field, Dawson was known as “Lenny the Cool” and started in Super Bowl I and Super Bowl IV as part of his 14-year run as the team’s No. 1 quarterback.

In 19 seasons as a pro, Dawson passed for 28,711 yards with 239 TD passes. He had nine touchdown runs and 1,293 rushing yards in his career.

Dawson led the NFL in completion percentage eight times and in touchdown passes four times. He still holds the franchise career records for pass attempts (3,696), completions (2,115), passing yards (28,507) and touchdowns (237) for the Chiefs.

“My family and I are heartbroken. Len Dawson is synonymous with the Kansas City Chiefs. Len embraced and came to embody Kansas City and the people that call it home. You would be hard-pressed to find a player who had a bigger impact in shaping the organization as we know it today than Len Dawson did,” Chiefs chairman and CEO Clark Hunt said.

“I admired Len my entire life — first as a Hall of Fame player on the field, and later as he transitioned into a successful broadcasting career. Throughout his remarkable career, Len made it a priority to give back to the community that he loved. The franchise has lost a true legend. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Linda and his family.”

Dawson also set a then-franchise record with 30 touchdown passes in 1964, and it held up for 54 years until Patrick Mahomes threw for 50 scores in 2018.

“RIP to the legend Len Dawson,” Mahomes wrote on Twitter. “The legacy and impact you made on Kansas City will live on forever. Prayers to his family”

Dawson became a broadcaster with the Chiefs and had national roles with NBC and HBO’s “Inside the NFL” behind the microphone.

In January 1970, Dawson led the Chiefs to a 23-7 win over the favored Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl IV and was the game’s MVP, capping the victory with a 46-yard touchdown pass.

The Chiefs lost Super Bowl I to the Green Bay Packers, 35-10.

Dawson was born into a large family in Alliance, Ohio, and had 10 siblings. He attended Purdue University and debuted as the Boilermakers starter in 1954, playing for a coaching staff that included assistant coach Hank Stram.

He was the fifth overall pick in 1957 to the Steelers, who selected Dawson one spot ahead of Syracuse running back Jim Brown. After toiling as a backup with the Steelers and Browns, Dawson requested his release. In June 1962, the Browns let him go.

He’d reunite with Stram, then the AFL Dallas Texans’ coach, thanks to their strong ties at Purdue.

Dawson not only won the starting job and proved Stram’s hunch that he could succeed in pro football was accurate, the Texans won the AFL title in 1962 and Dawson was named Player of the Year. In 1963, the franchise moved to Kansas City with Dawson as a centerpiece.

Dawson was named the 1973 NFL Man of the Year and retired on May 1, 1976. He was enshrined into the Chiefs Hall of Fame in 1979 and into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, in 1987.

–Field Level Media

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