The 300: #32 Lamar Hunt

For our last entry before the holidays, we feature a man who can rightly lay claim to be the founder of the modern NFL.

 

NFL CAREER

Dallas Texans (1959-1962)

Kansas City Chiefs (1963-2006)

 

POSITION

Owner

 

WHY IS HE IMPORTANT?

It is no exaggeration to say that, without Lamar Hunt, the NFL as we know it would simply not exist. He was a key figure in the founding of the breakaway American Football League in 1959 and in the unifying of the leagues which followed. The Superbowl was pretty much his idea, too.

The third son of an oil baron, Hunt was a sports nut. The difference was, of course, that he was wealthy enough not to just support teams, but to own them. Over his lifetime he also founded Major League Soccer, but owned soccer teams, basketball teams and was heavily involved in tennis. Football, though, was his first love.

Refused permission to set up an expansion franchise, and denied the opportunity to buy the (then) Chicago Cardinals, Hunt decided to do the next best thing and set up his own league. He found a number of other businessmen who had also been turned down by the NFL and founded the AFL.

Whilst the rival league proved popular in some quarters, the NFL decided to take Hunt on head-to-head by placing their own franchise (the Dallas Cowboys) to compete with Hunt’s own Dallas Texans. Hunt quickly realised that the market in one city wasn’t big enough for two teams and so moved the entire franchise to Kansas, where they became the Chiefs.

Within three years the NFL and the AFL had agreed to eventually merge and for a championship game to be played between the two organisations’ respective winners. Hunt dubbed the game the ‘Super Bowl’ (he said that he was sure it was a name that could be improved upon!) and, whilst the name was not formally adopted by the merged league at the time, the press began using it as a handy shorthand for the match-up.

The Chiefs played in the first of those games, losing to the Green Bay Packers, but won Superbowl IV, the last before the complete merger of the two leagues. Hunt himself was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1972, the first former AFL member to be awarded the honour and the AFC championship trophy bears his name. He died in 2006 and ownership of the Chiefs passed to his children.

Richard O’Hagan

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Richard O'Hagan
Writer on such diverse topics as sport, music, theatre, law and politics. Author of 'Eddie the Sheep'. Supporter of underachieving teams, including the Chicago Bears from before that brief, heady, period in the mid-1980s when they were actually any good. All I want for Christmas is a Jim McMahon away shirt.
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    For our last entry before the holidays, we feature a man who can rightly lay claim to be the founder of the modern NFL.   NFL CAREER Dallas Texan
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