It has been a difficult week for the Hunt family and the Kansas City Chiefs, given the death of legendary quarterback Len Dawson on Wednesday. The team’s first game following Dawson’s death took place on Thursday night — the final preseason matchup of the year, with the Chiefs hosting the Green Bay Packers.
Before the game began, the club announced players would wear a No. 16 decal on their helmets all season. And on the team’s first offensive possession, quarterback Patrick Mahomes orchestrated his own special way to honor Dawson.
Just amazing for No. 16 ❤️ pic.twitter.com/bNQxnjYFoc— Arrowhead Pride (@ArrowheadPride) August 26, 2022
Since Mahomes was not expected to play much, it was a bit of a surprise to see him march out onto the field with the offense. But it was with no intention to snap the football; Mahomes instead gathered his unit in just the fashion Dawson would done in the 1960s: in a “choir” huddle.
“That was Clark [Hunt’s] suggestion and players completely bought into it and wanted to do it — and then we added just the little wrinkle at the end there,” said Chiefs head coach Andy Reid after the team’s 17-10 win.
Referee Craig Wrolstad called the delay-of-game penalty on “Kansas City, No. 16.”
“The official did an amazing job of mentioning Len,” continued Reid. “It’s a tribute to a great person, a great player and then all he did in [broadcast journalism] there. Very seldom are you a Hall of Famer in two different things. He had a wonderful life and really took advantage of every day he had on Earth here.”
Mahomes, who developed a relationship with Dawson over the past six years, explained that he and his teammates wanted to figure out a special way to honor him.
“I think Clark and coach Reid talked about it, and they came up with the idea,” said Mahomes on the KSHB-TV broadcast. “And obviously, we’re praying for his family, but he did so much to impact the Kansas City community and this organization. We wanted to do something, a little token to show our appreciation and I’m glad we got to do it out here at GEHA Field at Arrowhead.”
The Chiefs have had many starting quarterbacks over the years, but none as successful as Mahomes and Dawson.
“He was a part of that great group that made the Chiefs who we are today,” said Mahomes. “So, he started off there and a broadcaster, calling the games. I think a lot of people grew up listening to Len talking and broadcasting those games. And as a person, he was one of the best people that I’ve met, and I got to meet him a couple of times here. He always had advice for me on how to embrace this community because it’s such a great community.”
Reid added that tight end Travis Kelce, like Mahomes, was not scheduled to play. But Kelce insisted that he should be on the field for the tribute.
“He wanted to jump in there,” said Reid of Kelce. “And then the defense couldn’t wait to see it. It was crazy, the way it worked out. [Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo], he missed it. And he was the guy who was most excited about it, and he missed it over there talking to his guys. But he’ll see it on tape there. It was a neat deal. Again, for a great person.”
After the delay of game call, Mahomes jogged off the field to an ovation from those in the stands. It is likely a moment he won’t soon forget.
“It’s special,” said Mahomes. “I mean there is only a certain amount of quarterbacks who get to win Super Bowls. Len kind of set the standard here in Kansas City, and I’m thankful enough to be able to go up there and win one. It’s hard to do.
“I think I realize that every year playing. It’s hard to do, to win a Super Bowl. I’m going to try and do my best to get more flags up there and try to win a few more Super Bowls.”