Memories of Len Dawson, football and otherwise

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WIth the news of Lenny’s passing today, the flood of great memories started. As an older fan, I am lucky in that I actually remember watching him play. I was 11 when the Chiefs won SB IV, so I vividly remember the game, the lead up with the gambling accusations, the way he handled it all. I still hate Ben Davidson for spearing him and love Otis Taylor for defending him. I remember him being not just my quarterback, but my favorite newscaster, as well.

I was also lucky enough to have two interactions with the man, one personally and one for me, that I treasure even more than the memories of watching him play. They both bring a smile to my face, and I hope they do for you as well.


Back in the late 80s, I was working as a Flight Attendant for USAir, who you young people probably know as American now. My trip had a KC turn, so we flew to KC, sat around for an hour or so, and flew back to NY. In between flights, I’m sitting up in the front row, feet up on the wall, reading the sports section of the USAToday. The agent comes down with some guy, boarding him early. I’m a little peeved, since this is still MY time, so I don’t bother to get up yet. The two of them are talking Chiefs, and without even looking up from the paper, I loudly chime in “The CHIEFS?! They make me SICK! They win when they should lose, they lose when they should win, they haven’t been GOOD in years…they make me crazy!”

The agent and guy stand there, looking at me as I finish my rant, and the clearly flustered agent says “But you love them”, to which I respond “Of course I love them! If I didn’t love them I wouldn’t care”. I laugh, because I am so funny, get up to take the guy’s valet bag to hang up, and when I do I notice this BIG HONKING RING on his hand. I look at him, he goes to sit in the first row, I take the agent outside the plane and said “Is that…?” “Yep” “Well, shit”. My boyhood idol in the flesh, and I came off sounding like a crazed fool.

He was absolutely wonderful on the flight. Polite, signed a few autographs for people, talked some Chiefs with me, but for the most part I let him be and tried to make sure he had some peace on the flight.

I cherished that day, and figured it was my one chance to interact with Lenny the Cool, but no…

This day I know exactly. Oct 5th, 1998, the day AFTER the “Rain Game”. My fiance, my brother, and I had traveled from DC to see the game and it was 6am, and we were waiting to catch our flight home. As we’re all sitting there, half asleep, my brother says “Well, look who it is”. My Fiance, Michele, who is only a fan because I am, says “Who?” “You know that guy I keep talking about? That quarterback I keep saying I wish our guy could play like? The one who’s jersey I wore last night? That’s him at the counter. Len Dawson”.

She says “Get him to sign your jersey!” I think “Yeah!”, but it’s 6am, I don’t want to cause a fuss since I’m pass-riding for free, and I still remember making a dope of myself last time I talked to him, so I say no. She won’t accept that and says give her the jersey. I pull it out, still wet from the rain, hand it to her, and she walks right up to him, still at the counter, and says “Mr Dawson? I’m sorry to bother you so early, but I was hoping I could get you to sign my jersey. I’ve been a huge fan of yours for years. I was at the game last night, so it’s still wet.”

I’m not sure he bought it, because he said “You’ve been a fan for years, huh? Ok, who do I sign it to?”

And she says, and I still love her for this, “My name is Samantha, but everyone calls me Sam”. MY name is Sam. So I have, hanging in a shadowbox in my basement, my prized, personally signed “To Sam, Len Dawson”, Len Dawson throwback jersey. I smiled all the way home.

I’m sure others have similar stories of Lenny, and I’d love to hear them. Post them in the comments, if you want to share.

Thank you, Lenny, for all the memories you gave to this little boy, cheering for you until the end.


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08/25/2022 12:29 pm

Good stuff, NOVA.

08/25/2022 7:28 am

“To you from failing hands we throw The torch; be yours to hold it high.” – from In Flanders Fields, a WW1 poem by Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae These words seem appropriate as we lament the passing of Mr. Len Dawson, and that shopped image of Patrick Mahomes with his arm around Lenny’s shoulder adds poignancy to the moment and to those words. I was ten years old in Montreal when #16 and the Chiefs won the Super Bowl. The Montreal Alouettes of the CFL were my pro football team then but while playing high school football I started paying more and more attention to the NFL. I had no favorite team until Coach Marty Schottenheimer’s Chiefs teams caught my attention and slowly I grew to learn the history and the culture of the Chiefs. One thing I learned was that Coach Marv Levy went from being a two-time Grey Cup winning head coach of the Alouettes to being hired as head coach of the Chiefs in 1977. This cemented my connection to the Chiefs. Later, someone at Another Place was kind enough to direct my attention to a book called Winning It All by Joe McGuff and they connected me to a copy available on EBay which I bought and read a couple of times. It is a brilliant work of sports writing detailing that season when the Chiefs defeated the Vikings to win the Super Bowl. This book added to my growing love for the Chiefs. Having a place like ArrowheadGuys to hang out with fellow Chiefs fans is invaluable to me, it is a place to share this love. I have no memories of #16, no meetings or shared experiences, but it feels like I have lost a cherished family member. Sports fandom will do this to you. It felt the same when Jean Belliveau passed away, a revered captain of the Montreal Canadiens of the NHL. Those words quoted above are displayed on the Canadiens’ locker room wall in their hometown arena. They speak to the passing of generations and to the call for upholding a tradition… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by larch
Reply to  larch
08/25/2022 10:18 am

* Jean Béliveau, #4, considered one of the all-time greats.

08/25/2022 5:42 am

THE KC MVP – Len Dawson

Reply to  EAFOX
08/25/2022 10:03 am

Great times Nova, great memories……
Thx for sharing…

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