Contributor / Contributor
Class of 1972
In 1959, a young man, totally frustrated in his repeated attempts to gain a franchise in the National Football League, hit upon an idea. The young man was Lamar Hunt, a 26-year-old sports-minded, civic-minded individual who called Dallas home, and his idea, simply, was to form a new professional football league to rival the NFL.
Lamar quickly approached other people who might be interested in owning franchises in a new league and, within seven months, the American Football League was born. The new league was the subject of many a joke in the early days of its existence but its eventual David-and-Goliath-like success in its costly survival battle with the established NFL did more to permanently change the pro football scene than any other event in a half-century of organized pro football activity.
It would be incorrect to say that everything good that happened to the AFL before, during and after the bitter fight with the NFL was Hunt's doing. He was, however, a leader in many of the forceful and daring moves his league made. Once merger talks were under way, Lamar eventually played a significant role in bringing about the agreement that gave the AFL totally equality in the pro football world. By the example of having a solid team and a solid organization right from the start, Lamar gave the AFL additional strength.
His original Dallas Texans team had to battle head-to-head with the newly established Cowboys and, even though the battle was a dead-even affair, Hunt, after three years, wisely moved his team to Kansas City. There the Chiefs became known as one of pro football's finest organizations, both off and on the field. The eventual merger between the AFL-NFL and the resulting successes of pro football are more than even Lamar himself could have thought possible.
Birthdate: Aug. 2, 1932
Birthplace: El Dorado, Ark.
Died: Dec. 13, 2006 at the age of 74
High School: Hill School (Pottstown, Pa.)
Elected to Pro Football Hall of Fame: January 15, 1972
Enshrined into Pro Football Hall of Fame: July 29, 1972
Presenter: William H. Sullivan Jr., president of the New England Patriots
Other Members of Class of 1972: Gino Marchetti, Ollie Matson, Clarence "Ace" Parker
Lamar Hunt Enshrinement Speech 1972
Presenter: William H. Sullivan
Thank you very much, Jim. 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, no 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 in creditable 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 someday would be an appanage with the established NFL.
The laughter was subdued and has changed to applause only seven years later when he sat alongside Commissioner Pete Rozelle and Tex Schram and announced the concelebration of a marriage between the fastidious tradition-ladden 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 devout American League Football League fanatics. And the reasons for numerous for I humbly submit that the man who is being honored here today search more than anyone 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.