Here’s how Chiefs ‘choir huddle’ tribute to Len Dawson came to be

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The Kansas City Chiefs honored the late Len Dawson in a number of ways during their preseason Week 3 game against the Green Bay Packers.

The most fitting tribute came on the opening play of the game. Patrick Mahomes ran out to the field to lead the offense in a “choir huddle.” The huddle type is named as such because the players line up as if they were in a choir. It was popularized by Hank Stram and Len Dawson’s early Chiefs teams and it almost became synonymous with them.

The Chiefs were called for a delay of game penalty on the play. The penalty was called on No. 16 (Len Dawson) as announced by official Craig Wrolstad, who was told to do so by Mahomes. The penalty was declined by the Packers out of respect for the tribute to Dawson.

It was a fitting tribute in every way and it came to be because of the entire team’s respect for the tradition and history of the franchise. It started at the top, with owner Clark Hunt signing off on the idea, from there it trickled down and manifested into something special.

“Yeah, that was (Chiefs Chairman and CEO) Clark’s (Hunt) suggestion,” Reid told reporters after the game. “The players completely bought into it and wanted to do it. And then, we added just the little wrinkle at the end there where the official, Craig (Wrolstad), did an amazing job of mentioning Len (Dawson).”

Reid said that all of the players wanted to be involved — Patrick Mahomes and Travis Kelce in particular, even though they weren’t scheduled to play in the preseason finale. He also said that the defensive players and the coaching staff were eager to see it happen.

“Yeah, we all wanted to do something,” Mahomes told Kimmi Chex during the game’s broadcast. “I think (Chairman and CEO) Clark (Hunt) and (Head) Coach (Andy) Reid talked about it, and they came up with the idea. 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.”

Mahomes understood just how important Dawson was to the franchise, not just as a player, but as a broadcaster too. He was responsible for connecting generations of fans to the Chiefs.

“Yeah, first of all as a player, I mean he was kind of the guy that got the Kansas City Chiefs going,” Mahomes said. “It was the Dallas Texans that came to Kansas City, joined the NFL (National Football League) and the AFL (American Football League) and he won those games. He was a part of that great group made the Chiefs who we are today. 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.”

Mahomes is the only player in franchise history to have accomplished a few of the feats that Dawson had during the course of his playing career. In 2018, Mahomes set the single-season passing touchdown record (50), previously set and held by Dawson (30) for 54 years.

In Super Bowl LIV, Mahomes became the only other quarterback in franchise history to lead the team to victory in a Super Bowl. He also became the only other player in team history to win Super Bowl MVP.

“Yeah, it’s special,” Mahomes said. “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.”

Ultimately, the tribute was a smashing success for the team. It’s something that will be remembered for decades — binding generations of Chiefs fans together just as Dawson did through his playing and broadcasting career.

It wasn’t the first time the team had done the “choir huddle” as an homage. They did it for Hank Stram in a 2003  regular-season game against the Pittsburgh Steelers and it didn’t go quite as smoothly. This time, they ensured they got it right to honor the legacy of one of the pillars of the organization’s illustrious history.

“It’s a tribute to a great person, a great player and then all he did in (the media) there,” Reid said. “Very solemn, a Hall of Famer in two things, that’s – he lived a wonderful life. (He) really took advantage of every day he had on Earth here.”

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Story originally appeared on Chiefs Wire