CANTON, Ohio | As if anyone needed a reminder, Lamar Hunt’s legacy as the creator of the Super Bowl was immortalized on Saturday morning with a snip of a scissors. Hunt’s widow, Norma, his four children and five Chiefs Hall of Famers participated in a ribbon cutting ceremony for the newest showplace at the Pro Football Hall of Fame -- the Lamar Hunt Super Bowl Gallery.
“There’s no honor on earth that Lamar would rather have than to have this gallery named for him,” said Norma Hunt, who has attended all 43 Super Bowls. “He really loved the Super Bowl and the Hall of Fame. They were both so important in his life.
“He always thought the success of the Super Bowl was the crowning achievement of the American Football League. And even though he would not take a tiny bit of credit for it because of his humility, he would be thrilled to be associated in such an important way.”
Hunt, who died in December 2006, was the guiding figure behind the formation of the American Football League and Dallas Texans/Kansas City Chiefs 50 years ago; credited with naming the Super Bowl, suggesting the Vince Lombardi Trophy that goes to the NFL champion; and attaching Roman numerals to each Super Bowl game.
Hall of Fame officials approached the Hunt family about nine months ago about their idea of creating a state-of-the-art exhibit featuring the Super Bowl. The Chiefs and the NFL funded the $2.4 million gallery and theatre which is about 40 paces from the room housing the busts of the 253 members of the Hall of Fame, including Hunt’s.
“This is the perfect way to remember my father’s legacy and his contribution to the sport of pro football,” Chiefs chairman Clark Hunt said, speaking on behalf of his siblings Lamar Jr., Sharron and Daniel. “My father would be so pleased we’re celebrating this gallery on this weekend.
“(Today) kicks off the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the American Football League with the Buffalo Bills playing the Tennessee/slash Houston Oilers and Titans. Also, we’re celebrating the induction of Derrick Thomas, longtime Chiefs great, and (Buffalo owner) Ralph Wilson, one of my father’s partners in the AFL.
“My dad was always very big on stats, and he would consider this weekend a great quadruple-header.”
The ribbon-cutting ceremony included NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, Chiefs Hall of Famers Bobby Bell, Willie Lanier, Len Dawson, Jan Stenerud and Emmitt Thomas; Tennessee Titans owner Bud Adams; Pittsburgh Steelers president Art Rooney II; and Hall of Fame and former Super Bowl MVPs Bart Starr and Troy Aikman.
The Super Bowl exhibits in the gallery are grouped by decades with jerseys and memorabilia from every game, including halftime shows and a display of super bowl rings.
The display case of the Chiefs’ 23-7 win over Minnesota in Super Bowl IV includes Dawson’s jersey and helmet and several photos, including one of Otis Taylor catching the short hitch pass that he took for a game-breaking touchdown and another of Dawson, with Hunt standing behind him, taking a congratulatory phone call from President Richard Nixon. Also included is Stenerud’s shoe that kicked three field goals and two extra points and a spot for Willie Lanier’s famous over-sized helmet.
A replica of a Vince Lombardi Trophy sits in a glass case in the middle of its own room. The Super Bowl Theatre shows NFL Films footage of past games.
“My father was an incredible visionary,” Clark Hunt said “and I think he had very high expectations for what the Super Bowl could become, but I don’t even think he understood how important the game would become to America’s culture.
“He was always shocked that the halftime show and the commercials became almost as important as the game. But given what a true sportsman he was, what he appreciated the most about the Super Bowl was how important it was to the players, the coaches, and administrators of the teams that played in the game. It gave him a great deal of pleasure to understand how important it was to not only make it to the Super Bowl but to be champion of the NFL.”
Norma Hunt’s favorite memory was the Chiefs’ victory in Super Bowl IV over Minnesota, mainly because Vikings owner Max Winter had committed to an original AFL franchise for Minneapolis-St. Paul in 1959 before bolting to the NFL.
“Both Lamar and I were extremely nervous about that game,” Norma Hunt said. “It was important to the history of the Chiefs and the history of the American Football League, and having lost in Super Bowl I, we knew how devastating it was to get to that game and to lose it. So the heat was really on the Chiefs, and they were tremendous underdogs.
“As we were leaving the hotel, on the elevator, lo and behold, Max Winter and his only wife were the only other people on it. ... It was an extremely awkward moment, and I felt there was terror in our hearts
“As we went our separate ways, Lamar said, “You know, they’re more scared than we are.’ He predicted right then and there that the Chiefs would win, which they certainly did in grand fashion.”