Len Dawson was a professional American football quarterback. He played in the American Football League (AFL), National Football League (NFL), and Canadian Football League (CFL). He spent his entire career playing with one team, the 1940s Kansas City Chiefs. After playing college football at Purdue University.
Dawson began his professional career in 1957 with the NFL’s Pittsburgh Steelers and played for the Cleveland Browns. He left the NFL in 1962 to sign with the AFL’s Chiefs (then known as the Dallas Texans), where he spent the last 14 seasons of his career and rejoined the NFL after the AFL–NFL merger. Starting at Quarterback for all 99 games of his professional career he leads them to 3 AFL championships winning Super Bowl IV MVP awards
Dawson was the ninth of 11 children of Ohio native James and England-born Annie Dawson.
Dawson was a three-sport athlete at Alliance High School, setting records in football and basketball during his senior year. He received the MVP award for both sports, and was named Ohio’s outstanding back by the International News Service. After graduation, Dawson attended Ohio Wesleyan University where he set a school record for most passes in one game with 23.
In his final year of high school, Dawson was highly recruited by universities at a level far above his development. He had to make one of the toughest choices of his career, as he could not only choose between Ohio State University in Columbus and Purdue University in Indiana but also Buckeyes coach Woody Hayes’ split-T offense with the Buckeyes or Boilermaker head coach Dave Kingsbury’s innovative passing attack with the Boilermakers. Without hesitation, Dawson chose Purdue from which he would develop an important relationship with Purdue assistant coach Hank Stram who would later become head coach for the Kansas City Chiefs for nearly four decades.
In a 1954 game against Missouri, he led the Boilermakers to a 31-0 victory by throwing four touchdown passes. This victory ended Missouri’s 13-game winning streak and was one of the most talked about college football games in history.
Dawson was the fifth overall selection in the 1957 NFL Draft, taken by the Pittsburgh Steelers. But following his rookie season in 1957, his status became more tenuous when the Steelers acquired future Hall of Famer Bobby Layne early in 1958. One year later, Dawson was released. In his professional career, Dawson rushed for 2,787 yards on 695 carries with 20 touchdowns while also catching 62 passes for 515 yards and scored four TDs on punt returns.
Dawson was originally selected by the Washington Redskins in the 1953 NFL Draft and played five seasons with the team before he was traded to the Cleveland Browns on December 31, 1959. However, after encountering similar problems in battling Browns quarterback Milt Plum, Dawson was released after the 1961 season, having completed only 21 passes for 204 yards and two touchdowns in his five seasons of NFL play.
Dallas Texans/Kansas City Chiefs
Dawson signed with the American Football League’s Dallas Texans on June 30, 1962. The move reunited him with Stram, who was beginning his third year as the Texans’ head coach. Dawson led the league in touchdowns and yards per attempt in his team’s first season in Dallas; he also led Dallas to a title victory over Houston in double-overtime.
Dawson ended his career in 1975, after being selected to the Pro Bowl four times with three different teams, including one appearance as a backup quarterback. He finished his career ranked among the NFL’s all-time leaders in passing yards and touchdowns while earning both All-Pro and All-AFC honors five times each.
Personal life and death of Len Dawson
Dawson was born in Kansas City in 1928 and graduated from high school in 1946. He was married to his high school sweetheart, who was also a school teacher, until her death in 1978. He had two children that he stayed close with his entire life. In 1991, Dawson underwent surgery to remove a prostate tumor and later returned to live at home with his family. In August 2022, Dawson entered hospice care at the University of Kansas Medical Center and died there three days later on August 24 at the age of 87.
RIP to the legend Len Dawson, prayers to his family