Kansas Metropolis Chiefs modified professional soccer in late 1960s

By RJ Younger
FOX Sports activities School Soccer Author

Editor’s Observe: As a part of FOX Sports activities’ sequence of Black Historical past Month Tales, author RJ Younger is inspecting the gamers, groups and moments that modified faculty {and professional} soccer.

Fifty years in the past, the Kansas Metropolis Chiefs had been the Blackest professional soccer crew most white of us had ever seen.

For Black of us, that meant watching gamers they knew on TV and seeing them taking part in professional soccer the way in which we at all times knew they might play. 

No query, the illustration was essential, however so was the success. 

The 1969 Chiefs, an American Soccer League crew with 13 gamers from traditionally Black schools and universities on the roster, went 11-Three within the common season and upset the Minnesota Vikings, 12-point favorites from the mighty NFL, in Tremendous Bowl IV. 

Corridor of Famer Buck Buchanan (86) teamed with fellow defensive deal with Curley Culp to anchor a Chiefs protection that shut down Joe Kapp and the Vikings in Tremendous Bowl IV.

And, sure, we’re going to say each a type of 13 gamers’ names:

That they had Otis Taylor and Jim Kearney from Prairie View A&M, Caesar Belser from Arkansas Pine Bluff and Emmitt Thomas from Bishop School. 

That they had Morris Stroud from Clark Atlanta, Buck Buchanan and Goldie Sellers from Grambling State, and Gloster Richardson from Jackson State. 

Final however not least, that they had Willie Lanier from Morgan State, Frank Pitts and Robert Holmes from Southern College, and Jim Marsalis and Willie Mitchell from Tennessee State. 

Ten years earlier, in 1959, you couldn’t fill out a 53-man roster with Black NFL gamers. There have been simply 50 throughout the league. 
Over the subsequent decade, as HBCU gridiron expertise peaked and faculty soccer underwent its most dramatic interval of integration at predominantly white establishments, groups within the NFL and the fledgling AFL began to embrace Black expertise.

Coach Hank Stram (with trophy) and proprietor Lamar Hunt (left) constructed their 1969 roster with 13 gamers from HBCUs, together with receiver Otis Taylor (second from left). Taylor was the favourite goal for quarterback Len Dawson (proper).

That change was lengthy overdue, and it may need been even longer within the making if not for competitors between the rival professional leagues.
The AFL’s debut in 1960 meant 10 new franchises in skilled soccer and an inflow of 350 obtainable roster spots. That yr, 57 Black gamers suited up for NFL groups, and 46 Black gamers joined the AFL. 

From one season to the subsequent, the variety of Black athletes in professional soccer had greater than doubled. Much more dramatic? The variety of gamers from HBCUs almost tripled, from 10 to 29.  

The AFL was seeking to take a chew out of the NFL’s maintain on American soccer followers, and the upstart league used integration as a aggressive benefit.

Possibly the AFL was extra progressive; perhaps the league simply had frequent sense. Both method, when AFL groups actively recruited Black expertise, NFL groups needed to sustain, and professional soccer as a complete received higher for it. 

Corridor of Fame linebacker Willie Lanier helped lead the Chiefs to 2 of the primary 4 Tremendous Bowls.

No crew in that period rode the winds of change higher than the Kansas Metropolis Chiefs, who threw down a marker choosing Buchanan, a dominant defensive deal with out of Grambling State, with the No. 1 total choose within the 1963 AFL Draft. 

The next yr, NFL franchises drafted 23 gamers from HBCUs.  

The competitors between the leagues didn’t finish with dueling drafts, although. Signing these draftees was one other process totally, and the Chiefs discovered an edge for the AFL throughout their recruitment of Taylor, who would grow to be an All-Professional huge receiver. 

In November 1964, each the Chiefs and the Philadelphia Eagles picked Taylor of their respective drafts. To land Taylor and different HBCU prospects, Kansas Metropolis sought a go-between who knew the gamers and their faculty packages — somebody who might earn their belief. 

Enter Lloyd Wells.  
Wells, a graduate of HBCU Texas Southern, was working as a sportswriter on the Houston Informer, town’s Black weekly newspaper. He’d gotten to know Taylor and his household whereas masking the soccer program at close Prairie View A&M. 

Lloyd Wells, pictured at decrease left carrying Chiefs coach Hank Stram off the sector with Otis Taylor (89), turned the primary full-time Black scout in AFL historical past. Taylor was the Chiefs’ big-play risk, scoring 60 TDs in his profession from 1965 to 1975.​​​​

The Chiefs noticed the worth Wells’ relationships might deliver and employed him as a part-time scout.  
After the ‘64 NFL Draft, the league invited Taylor to a celebration in Dallas for its latest alternatives. The gathering was a ploy to signal draftees earlier than they might negotiate with AFL groups. 

Wells knew this, so he tracked down the resort the place the NFL had stashed Taylor and Prairie View teammate Seth Cartwright.  
Posing as a author from Ebony journal, Wells talked his method inside, discovered Taylor and Cartwright, and snuck them out of the resort late at night time. From there, they drove to an airport in Fort Price and flew to Kansas Metropolis, the place each gamers signed contracts. 

The Vikings had been favored 12 factors in Tremendous Bowl IV, however the Chiefs helped the upstart AFL rating its second consecutive upset of the NFL.

That’s how Wells went from part-time to full-time with the Chiefs and have become the primary full-time Black scout in AFL historical past. It’s additionally how Wells helped Kansas Metropolis construct that period’s Blackest roster in professional soccer.

That’s the squad that spanked the Vikings 23-7 in Tremendous Bowl IV.

That’s the squad with 13 Black gamers from HBCUs that introduced collectively fathers and brothers and sons and cousins, from Grambling to Tennessee State to Southern.
That’s the squad that modified the sport.
RJ Younger is a nationwide faculty soccer author and analyst for FOX Sports activities. Observe him on Twitter at @RJ_Young. Subscribe to The RJ Younger Present on YouTube. He isn’t on a StepMill.  

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