Patrick Mahomes

Patrick Mahomes, Chiefs honor Hall of Famer Len Dawson during Kansas City’s final preseason game – CBS Sports

Prior to Thursday night’s preseason game against the Packers, Patrick Mahomes took the field for pregame warmups donning a hoodie honoring Len Dawson, the Chiefs‘ Hall of Fame quarterback who died earlier this week at the age of 87. Mahomes then took the field for one play in order to further pay homage to the quarterback who led Kansas City to the franchise’s first Super Bowl win.

Before the Chiefs’ first offensive snap, Mahomes faced his teammates in the “choir huddle,” the huddle Dawson used throughout his Hall of Fame career. Mahomes then left the field, waving his arms up and down as Chiefs fans responded to the tribute.

Each member of the Chiefs wore a decal Thursday night with Dawson’s number 16. Dawson spent 14 of his 19 year pro career with Kansas City. He then enjoyed a lengthy broadcasting career that included over 40 years at KMBC.

“Len was such a special person,” Chiefs CEO Clark Hunt said Thursday night during a visit to the Chiefs’ broadcast booth. “Truly, truly a Kansas City icon.”

One of pro football’s best quarterbacks during the 1960s, Dawson led the AFL in completion percentage seven times over an eight-year span. He also paced the league in touchdown passes four times over a five-year period. Dawson’s success translated to wins for Kansas City, who moved cities after the 1962 season. The Chiefs captured the AFL title in 1966 while punching their ticket to the first Super Bowl. Dawson threw a first half touchdown pass, but the Chiefs ultimately fell to Vince Lombardi’s Packers, who won five NFL titles during the decade. A picture taken of Dawson smoking a cigarette at halftime became one of the most iconic images in pro football history.

Three years later, the Chiefs made it back to the Super Bowl after defeating the previous two AFL champions — the New York Jets and Oakland Raiders — in the playoffs. Kansas City would face the heavily favored Vikings in the final game played before the AFL-NFL merger. Despite the Vikings‘ formidable defense and a muddy playing field, Dawson completed nearly 71% of his passes while throwing the game-clinching touchdown pass to Otis Taylor, who caught Dawson’s quick pass and ran 40 yards to pay dirt. Dawson won MVP honors following Kansas City’s 23-7 victory.

Dawson continued to play at an elite level following the merger. He was named to his seventh Pro Bowl in 1971 while helping lead the Chiefs to a division title. On Christmas Day, 1971, he quarterbacked in the longest game in NFL history, as Kansas City fell to Don Shula’s Dolphins in a divisional round playoff game that lasted nearly 83 minutes.

“Len grew up only a few miles from where the Pro Football Hall of Fame later was built, and fans in the area have always taken a special pride in seeing one of the greats from this region enshrined in Canton,” Hall of Fame president Jim Porter said in a statement. “Fans connected with Len’s story of perseverance, appreciating how he gave the game one more try after five nondescript seasons when many others would have quit.

“The American Football League, and Hall of Fame coach Hank Stram, gave Len a true opportunity, and he made the most of it, building the Chiefs into a Super Bowl contender, and eventually a world champion.

“Our thoughts and prayers extend to his wife, Linda, and to all of Len’s family and friends in Kansas City and in Alliance, Ohio.”