Pro Football Hall of Fame (Canton, OH)
July 29, 1972
WILLIAM H. SULLIVAN: Thank you very much, Jim (Muzzy, the emcee), Ladies and gentlemen. It might be that there is a happier person in the world today than I but I don't know what his name would be. So, today we salute a man who can neither kick, nor pass, nor block nor punt. The AFL's first enshrinee – the incomparable Lamar Hunt.
It was just 13 years ago today when he launched the AFL on its incredible way. And, you know, they all laughed when Lamar sat down at that sparsely attended press conference in Harry Wismer's apartment and noted that he was commencing a new league which some day would be an appendage with the established NFL. The laughter was subdued and has changed to applause only seven years later when he sat along side Commissioner Pete Rozelle and Tex Schramm d announced the concelebrating of a marriage between the fastidious tradition-laden old NFL and the brash upstart new American Football League. Now that mirth wasn't confined to the press conference room alone. From coast to coast, the new concept was ridiculed, downgraded, derided, - worst of all - ignored.
But, since that time, a lot has happened; disbelievers became converts, agnostics became devoted American Football League fanatics. And the reasons were numerous for I humbly submit that the man who is being honored here today served more than any one individual in our time to rewrite the pages of sports history to indicate that where there is a will there is still a way. To show that those who are willing to pay the price can achieve success and the price today as yesterday and as tomorrow is hard work. It took a stern man to shrug his shoulder at the barbs, the scorn, the snobs and the rebuffs, the scoffing and jeering, the taunting and the batter which were the handmaidens of the American Football League in its early days and such a man are we honoring today.
We saw him at league meetings time after time after time when Plan A would help his team and Plan B would help professional football and as the night would follow the day you could always be sure that our honoree would vote for what was in the best interest of the game.
And soon the youngest man among our owners gained the greatest respect of all. Unfortunately, that respect was not confined to the new upstart league. The old wise heads in the National Football League – men like Carroll Rosenbloom who is here today, a man like the Commissioner (Rozelle) recognized that when a man with the character of Lamar Hunt was involved, it was insurable and inevit¬able that the day of the merger would come. So it seems entirely appropriate, therefore, that he was the first American Football League man to enter the Hall of Fame. He brought the first team that won the final Super Bowl game before the realignment took place; it was he who suggested names on the backs of the uniforms; it was he who chose the title Super Bowl; it was also he who recom¬mended and wisely so, that the trophy given to the winner of the Super Bowl be named in honor of one of the great figures of the game, the late and revered – Vince Lombardi.
Truly the great stars of the game will see the days when more passes will be thrown, more touchdowns scored, more ground gained. History has a habit of repeating itself. But, I submit that there will never be a 27-year old young man who will more effectively rewrite the story of sports in our times or in the time of anyone to come. So, there is a little word that I would like to use today. It is “duenday.” That is a Spanish word. It means not just charisma, but it is charisma to the enth degree. It is something a little bit above a superstar. It is a man of abounding charm, a man of great character. And, I say that Lamar Hunt is all duenday and now it is my distinct privilege to present to this audience the architect and designer, the builder of the sports version of the impossible dream. A truly gentle gentlemen, a modest person who has let his actions speak more loudly than his words, an individual who does the common things uncommonly well and who in his self styled manner still indicates that when the going gets tough - ¬indeed the tough get going. I'm sure that the selection of no man in the history of this great shrine past, present, or future will be more widely applauded than his peers than that of our great founding Father, our guiding light, our pleasant leader – the indomitable Texan – Lamar Hunt.
LAMAR HUNT: Thank you. Thank you very much. Thank you, Bill. I'm especially pleased that you could be here and I certainly appreciate the kind words. Everyone’s life takes funny bounces and funny turns and it has been my privilege to be associated in football with men such as Bill Sullivan, Wayne Valley, Bud Adams and Ralph Wilson. They had a dream on which we worked together and it was a very tough fight this American Football League, and we were able to achieve a degree of success and I consider them to be among my very closest friends on earth.
It's been remarkable luck for me to be involved in which some people call the game of our times. It's been exciting to see pro football grow and develop. It is really an understatement for me to say that I’m proud to share this stage with this illustrious group that is up here with me today. No one ever really benefited, I don't suppose from association with others as much as I have, and first of all it would not be possible for me to begin to name everyone who has been of help to me and who I'm grateful to who have contributed to the success of the AFL and to this day.
I want to mention a few and I hope that I am choosing them as being symbolic of many. My father – from my father I have received the basic desire to invest and build in business and that was the key part of my being here today. I am sure. My wife and children have proved to be very patient sounding boards for ideas and I've come up with all kinds of crazy ones in the middle of the night. But they are always willing to listen.
Aside from the direct AFL associates I mention and, of course, many others, the personnel of the Kansas City Chiefs have been very dedicated to being the best both on and off the field. When I say personnel, I refer to the front office staff, coaching staff and players. And, it is obviously not possible to mention all who have come and gone through our organization but I would like to symbolically mention four gentlemen who have given of the last twelve years of their life to the Kansas City Chiefs. Wayne Rudy, Hank Stram, Jack Steadman, and Bill Walsh. Players would probably even be tougher to mention all, but I will name three today – Stone Johnson, Mack Lee Hill, and Johnny Robinson. Johnny, today for the first time will not be on the field for the Kansas City Chiefs and he, of course, has been with us for 12 years. And, the only player to play with us for 12 years. We hope that the legacy of the dedication to excellence that Johnny represented will always remain for future generations of Chiefs' players. I'm very proud today that fate as I talked about it being a little bit fickle earlier and you never know what turns it will take and I'm very happy that the scheduling fate, just a quirk of scheduling, saw to it that today's game involved the Kansas City Chiefs and that our entire team could be here for this ceremony.
Pleased also that there could be a representation of the Wolf Pack. The Wolf Pack for those of you who don’t know, was the Kansas City Chiefs' Booster Club and they are great. Kansas City seems to have had an unique brand of fan and Ray Evans who has been my friend for 10 years in Kansa s City personifies that group and what they have meant to the Chiefs and I want to salute him as representative of the 70,000 Kansas City Chiefs' season ticket holders.
Basically, I just consider myself a fan. I'm extremely grateful as I stand here before you. I know very clearly that the basic reason that I'm here is because the AFL achieved a degree of success. Pro football belongs to the fans and I want to acknowledge this honor in the name of all who contributed to the growth of the AFL and also in the name of the pro football fans of America. Thank you.
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