If you’ve been a Kansas City Chiefs fan for very long, you’re probably familiar with the work of writer Michael MacCambridge, who grew up in Kansas City and has written a number of books about the team and the NFL — including “Lamar Hunt: A Life in Sports” and “‘69 Chiefs: A Team, a Season, and the Birth of Modern Kansas City”
On Monday, MacCambridge served as guest writer for NBC Sports writer Peter King’s weekly “Football Morning in America” column. After starting out with a worth-your-time read about how the different ways NFL fans have followed the game have changed over the decades — which included a shout-out to the film reviews here on Arrowhead Pride — MacCambridge pivoted to telling anecdotes about interviews he’s had with NFL players, coaches, executives and owners over the years.
Unsurprisingly, a few Chiefs were among those he mentioned — including franchise founder Lamar Hunt, linebacker Willie Lanier and defensive back Goldie Sellers, who was a reserve player on the 1969 championship team.
MacCambridge also told a tale about trailblazing Chiefs scout Lloyd Wells, who played an oversized role in building the squad that “matriculated the ball down the field” in Super Bowl IV.
(In the famous sideline footage of Stram in that game, Wells is often seen in the background — and in the iconic photo above, he’s underneath Stram’s coattail, helping carry the head coach off the field).
When I took my turn in our Ranking the Chiefs series, I gave Wells — who died in 2005 — an honorable mention to my list of the five greatest Chiefs.
You cannot speak of players like Bobby Bell, Buck Buchanan and Willie Lanier without acknowledging they owed their careers to Chiefs scout Lloyd Wells, who tirelessly combed the historically black colleges of America to find them — and dozens of other great players. The Chiefs weren’t the first professional football team to put black players on the field, but Stram and Wells were among those who finally normalized them. Forever afterward, black players weren’t just tolerated, but embraced. Pro football — and America — would never be the same.
But MacCamridge’s anecdote was about Wells the man, whom he called “one of the most remarkable characters in football history.” In a 2004 encounter with the “raconteur who wore many hats,” MacCambridge ended up out behind Wells’ home.
At the end of the rambling interview, Wells invited me to his backyard. “I’ve got something to show you,” he said. We passed by a hot tub covered in algae and walked between the detritus of rusted relics, and out to a nicely-preserved ’60s-era white Cadillac convertible.
We stood in front of it.
“You know you’re lookin’ at?,” Wells asked.
I didn’t. And said I didn’t.
Wells took a deep breath and said solemnly, “This is it… car JFK was shot in.”
I looked at it for a moment longer.
“Um, Lloyd . . . wasn’t JFK’s limo black?”
He didn’t miss a beat.
“They painted it,” he said confidently.
I wasn’t about to try to argue that point.
Back in 1963, the 35th President of the United States was assassinated while riding in a Lincoln Continental convertible. But I wouldn’t have argued with Wells, either. I simply would have asked him to tell me the story from two years later — the one about sneaking wide receiver Otis Taylor out the back window of a hotel room in order to snatch him away from the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles — just one more time.