Former Kansas City Chiefs tight end Fred Arbanas — a key player in three of the franchise’s most historic games and an influential local politician — has died. He was 82.
His death was announced by the Jackson County Democratic Party on Saturday.
We are sad to learn about the passing of longtime Jackson County Legislator and advocate Fred Arbanas. His contributions to the county are too long to list here. He was a great man who will be dearly missed.— Jackson County Dems (@jaxcodemocrats) April 17, 2021
He was a member of the Dallas Texans team that won the AFL championship in 1962 — and the Chiefs teams that appeared in Super Bowl I in 1967 and won Super Bowl IV in 1970. He retired after the subsequent 1970 season, completing a nine-year career in which he had played in every game from 1962 through 1969 — and he started in all but two of them.
And when the Chiefs ran 65 Toss Power Trap in Super Bowl IV — perhaps the team’s most famous play before 2-3 Jet Chip Wasp in their Super Bowl victory 50 years later — it was Arbanas who pancaked Minnesota Vikings middle linebacker Lonnie Warwick, allowing Kansas City running back Mike Garrett to run into the end zone untouched.
Arbanas’ 3,101 career receiving yards on 198 receptions don’t sound like much by today’s standards — but alongside other tight ends of his era, Arbanas was a scoring machine, recording 34 touchdowns on those 198 catches. By comparison, current Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce has 48 touchdowns on 612 career receptions.
His reliability, blocking — and his ability to score — landed Arbanas on the AFL All-Star team five times. He was also a three-time All-Pro selection and was named to the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s All-Time AFL Team. He was named to the Chiefs Hall of Fame in 1973.
Arbanas accomplished most of that while he was legally blind in his left eye — the result of being attacked by two men on a Kansas City street in January 1965.
Like most players of his era, Arbanas held employment outside of football. He managed a concrete company, worked in public relations for the Coca-Cola company — and eventually started an advertising agency.
But in 1973, Jackson County, Missouri — where the city of Kansas City is located — changed its governmental structure, creating a county legislature headed by a county executive. Arbanas was elected to a seat in the inaugural legislature and served 11 terms through 2014. He was elected the body’s Chairman in 1974 and 1988 — and also served as acting County Executive in 2016.
“You want to see the mark Fred Arbanas made on Jackson County, just look at our parks,” said County Executive Mike Sanders in 2014. “Fred was out front, leading the way for the marinas, the beaches, the ball fields, the biking and hiking trails.”
Jackson County now has the nation’s third-largest county parks system — and the golf course at Longview Lake now bears Arbanas’ name.
“I made a lot of friends here, got active in the community, started a business, raised my family,” said Arbanas as his retirement from the legislature approached. “Kansas City and Jackson County have been good to me.”
A native of Detroit — the son of a police officer — Arbanas played college football at Michigan State. There he met his wife Sharon, whom he married in 1960. The couple raised four children and had eight grandchildren before Sharon Arbanas died in July 2019.