Len Dawson dies at 87; Hall of Fame quarterback led Chiefs to Super Bowl IV win

A man in a windbreaker cocks his arm to throw a football
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Len Dawson runs through passing drills ahead of Super Bowl IV in January 1970.
(Associated Press)

Hall of Fame quarterback Len Dawson, whose unmistakable swagger in helping the Kansas City Chiefs to their first Super Bowl title earned him the nickname “Lenny the Cool,” died Wednesday. He was 87.

Dawson’s family announced his death in a statement through KMBC-TV, the Kansas City station where he starred in his second career as a broadcaster. No cause was given, though Dawson had been in declining health for years. He entered hospice care on Aug. 12.

“With wife Linda at his side, it is with much sadness that we inform you of the passing of our beloved Len Dawson,” the family’s statement read. “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.”


Dawson was named most valuable player of the Chiefs’ 23-7 Super Bowl victory over the Minnesota Vikings in January 1970.

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“Len Dawson is synonymous with the Kansas City Chiefs,” team owner Clark Hunt said in a statement on Wednesday. “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.”

Dawson personified the Chiefs almost from the start, when the suave standout from Purdue lost out on starting jobs in Pittsburgh and Cleveland and landed with the nascent franchise, then located in Dallas. There, Dawson reunited with Hank Stram, who had been an assistant with the Boilermakers, and together they changed the franchise.

The coach and quarterback won the AFL championship together in 1962, their first year together, and became bona fide stars the following year, when club founder Lamar Hunt moved the team to Kansas City and rechristened it the Chiefs.

They proceeded to win two more AFL titles, one in 1966 when they lost to the Green Bay Packers in the first Super Bowl, and the other in 1969, when Dawson returned from an injury to help beat the Vikings at Tulane Stadium in New Orleans.


“Looking back on my career, I’ve been blessed for what I had the opportunity to do,” Dawson told the Associated Press in 2017, shortly after he announced his retirement as a Hall of Fame broadcaster. “I could not have accomplished so much without my teammates and colleagues, and I’m grateful for each of them.”