Dawson left the NFL to become a star. By the time he returned, he wasn’t only a star – he was a Super Bowl MVP. Drafted No. 5 overall by the Steelers in 1957, Dawson didn’t excel until he joined the AFL’s Dallas Texans in 1962. Dawson led the Texans/Kansas City Chiefs franchise to three AFL titles and its only two Super Bowls. The Chiefs lost Super Bowl I, but the poised, accurate Dawson was MVP of KC’s victory in Super Bowl IV – the final Super Bowl before the AFL-NFL merger. Dawson played 19 seasons and was selected for six AFL All-Star Games and one Pro Bowl. The Hall of Fame called his name in 1987.
The Chiefs took a flyer on Bell in the seventh round of the 1963 AFL draft, fully expecting him to sign with the Vikings, who’d taken him in the NFL draft’s second round. Best. Gamble. Ever. The Outland Trophy winner from the University of Minnesota surprised the football world when he signed with KC. And, boy, did the Chiefs prosper from that decision. Bell made his first AFL All-Star Game in 1964 as a defensive end, and then proceeded to make five more and three Pro Bowls as a ferocious, fast and physical outside linebacker. He played 12 seasons and was the first Chiefs player elected to the Hall of Fame, in 1983.
Last-minute field-goal attempt with the game on the line? That wouldn’t scare Stenerud. After all, he grew up in Norway flying down mountains off a ski-jumping ramp. The only pure place kicker in the Hall of Fame, Stenerud was on a skiing scholarship when he was discovered at Montana State. The Chiefs drafted him in 1966, and the consistent kicker delivered in KC’s Super Bowl IV victory, making all three field goals he attempted – including a then-Super-Bowl-record 48-yarder. He went on to make 373 career field goals and score 100 points or more in seven seasons – both NFL records when he retired after 19 seasons.
If 11-time Pro Bowler Gonzalez isn’t the first tight end to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer, the election was rigged. Gonzalez, a football and basketball player at Cal, not only holds every major receiving record for tight ends – by a wide margin – he’s near the top among all receivers in career catches (1,069), yards (12,463) and touchdowns (88). A matchup nightmare for opposing defenses, Gonzalez set the single-season record for receptions by a tight end in 2004 with 102 for the Chiefs – that total that also led the NFL. And talk about consistent: Gonzalez has missed just two regular-season games in his 14-year career.
One of the NFL’s consummate sack masters, Thomas’ stellar career was cut short tragically in 2000 when he died less than a month after being paralyzed in a car accident. The nine-time Pro Bowler, who helped the Chiefs make the playoffs seven times in his 11-year career, holds the NFL record with seven sacks in a game. His outrageous total of 126.5 sacks in 169 games only begins to describe the fear Thomas put into opposing offenses. Teams could game plan for him, but they just couldn’t stop him from getting to the quarterback. Thomas, a member of the NFL’s All-Decade Team of the 1990s, entered the Hall of Fame in 2009.