— Len Jennings (@lenjenningsKMBC) November 13, 2018
As the clock ticked down to Super Bowl Sunday, Patrick Mahomes remained the oddsmakers’ favorite to win the MVP. Many of the folks watching the game don’t remember watching the last Chiefs player to win one. Len Dawson took home the honors in Super Bowl IV in 1969 when he helped Kansas City defeat the Minnesota Vikings.
Thirty-two quarterbacks have played quarterback for Kansas City since Dawson stepped aside in the 1970s, including an aging Joe Montana. None, however, have brought as much success and excitement to the city than Mahomes. The two Chiefs Super Bowl quarterbacks first met in 2018.
Mahomes’ uncanny ability to make throws under pressure has made him the quarterback to watch in the current NFL. Dawson was also a guy everyone wanted to watch. His flair for the dramatic helped establish Kansas City as one of the iconic NFL franchises even five decades ago.
Dawson was born June 20, 1935 in Alliance, Ohio, the 9th of 11 children and the seventh of seven boys. He would play college football at Purdue, where he led the nation in passing efficiency as a sophomore. In an era when it wasn’t uncommon, Dawson also played defense and handled kicking duties. He was eventually inducted into the Boilermakers’ Hall of Fame.
Drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1957, Dawson’s NFL career didn’t get off the ground and it was off to the Cleveland Browns and eventually the AFL’s Dallas Texans in 1962. The Texans moved to Kansas City and became the Chiefs where Dawson flourished. His previous Kansas City record of 30 TD passes in a season stood until it was shattered by Mahomes in 2018. Dawson passed for 28,711 total yards and accumulated an 82.6 passer rating. He led the NFL in TD passes on four separate occasions. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1987.
Dawson’s post-playing career was just as impressive. He spent decades as the primary sports anchor for KMBC-TV and spent many years on the HBO show Inside The NFL and provided color commentary for Chiefs radio broadcasts. He’s been making appearances on Kansas City media leading up to Super Bowl 54.
1963 Fleer AFL Len Dawson Rookie Card #47
His 1963 Fleer rookie card (#47) is the most valuable. The #47 card from the last of four AFL sets issued by Fleer is one of the keys to the set. Decent copies start at around $300 and go up.
1965 Topps Card #99
From the “tall boys” set, this Dawson card is a single print that is among numerous Hall of Famers in the oversized one-year format utilized by Topps. It’s a single print, so finding a nice copy can be somewhat challenging but relatively solid examples can usually be found on eBay for $60 and up.
1966 Topps Card #67
Dawson led the Chiefs to Super Bowl I in the 1966-67 season. Kansas City and NFL fans will always think of this as a year to remember despite the 35-10 loss to Green Bay. Dawson finished 1966 with a 101.7 passer rating.
The #67 card of the set features Dawson surrounded by the wood panel “TV set” design. Somewhat surprisingly, this is a very affordable card on eBay in all but the highest grades.
1969 Topps Card #20
The Chiefs returned to the Super Bowl and defeated the Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl IV to give the AFL its second win in the series and this was his card from that season. Dawson was named the game’s MVP in the last year for the AFL before the long-awaited merger with the NFL finally went down.
Nice copies of Dawson’s card from the first series of 1969 Topps are usually available for a very small investment.
1971 Topps Card #180
This was the only season Dawson made the NFL Pro Bowl. The low-angle photo is attractive while the yellow lettering and a red border also add to the appeal of this one from the very popular but condition-sensitive ’71 set’s second series. While high-grade examples can be expensive because of that, an ungraded, near mint copy is not pricey.
Dawson retired in May of 1976 but interestingly, he appears in that year’s Topps set. Apparently, the checklist was already in place or perhaps someone at Topps decided to honor him with one last card rather than make a last-minute substitution.
You can find check out all of Dawson’s cards from his playing days and beyond on eBay here.