All I know of former Kansas City Chiefs head coach, Hank Stram, is what I’ve seen on tape and what I’ve read.
Earlier this month, I turned 30. The first Chiefs coach I really remember is Marty Schottenheimer. Marty, Marcus and Joe are the reason I became a Chiefs fan, despite growing up smack in the middle of Browns and Steelers country. I was fortunate to grow up watching Hall of Famers, both on the field and on the sideline. I have been unfortunate, however, in that I was not alive to see the Chiefs win Super Bowl IV, led by the colorful Hank Stram.
ESPN is counting down the greatest coaches in NFL History (because lists and countdowns are just about all there is to do in May) and Hank has come in at #16.
Jeffri Chadiha has a really terrific article on Stram, who was an innovator and leader in more than just football.
It wasn’t easy for a white man with ample power to connect with black athletes in Kansas City. Most of the African-Americans who played for the Chiefs in the 1960s had known each other for years. They’d competed against each other at historically black colleges in the Southwestern Athletic Conference and developed a deep camaraderie. They knew the only way to deal with racism at the time was to band together. For most, Stram was the first white man they had ever called coach.
Those players — including future Pro Football Hall of Famers Thomas, Bobby Bell, Buck Buchanan and Willie Lanier — believed in Stram not only because he saw their potential. It was because he also saw them as people. Stram didn’t merely want his black players hanging with one another while the whites did the same. He wanted them all to know each other, to understand what made them different and also what made them similar.
Be sure to check out Chadiha’s thoughtful article on Stram.
Since we are remembering great men and women on this Memorial Day, I thought I’d put the call out to all you Chiefs Old-Timers and ask you to tell us a little bit about your memories of Hank Stram and what you think it was that made him a great coach.