Len Dawson, the legendary Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback who led the Kansas City Chiefs to their first Super Bowl victory, has died, his family and the Chiefs announced on Wednesday. He was 87.
“With wife Linda at his side, it is with much sadness that we inform you of the passing of our beloved Len Dawson,” the Dawson family said in a statement to CNN affiliate KMBC. “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. 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.”
Dawson guided the Chiefs to a surprise 23-7 win over the heavily favored Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl IV in 1970. He was 12-17 for 142 yards in the game and was named the Most Valuable Player.
Drafted in the first round by the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1957, the Alliance, Ohio native threw for 28,711 yards and 239 touchdowns during his 19-year career with the Steelers, Cleveland Browns and the Dallas Texans who later became the Chiefs. He was selected to six AFL All-Star games and one Pro Bowl. In 1962, he was named AFL Player of the Year.
Dawson won the AFL passing title four times and still holds the franchise’s career records for pass attempts (3,696), completions (2,115), passing yards (28,507) and touchdowns (237).
In 1987, Dawson was enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
“Len Dawson is synonymous with the Kansas City Chiefs,” Clark Hunt, Chiefs Chairman and CEO said in a statement. “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.
“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.”
In 1966, Dawson started his broadcasting career while he was still playing quarterback for the Chiefs for a local Kansas City radio and television station. After retiring in 1975, he became an NBC color analyst. While working for the NBC network, Dawson also hosted HBO’s “Inside the NFL,” the first NFL-related show to air on cable, for 24 years.
For his “long-time exceptional contributions to radio and television in professional football,” Dawson was awarded the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Pete Rozelle Radio-Television Award in 2012, becoming the third person in professional football history to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame as a player and a broadcaster, joining Dan Dierdorf and Frank Gifford.
In college, Dawson was a three-year starter for the Purdue Boilermakers where he ended his career as the school’s leader in passing yards and touchdown passes.