Purdue is one of just two schools that has had three different quarterbacks win Super Bowls. Of those, Len Dawson was the first, and was one of the earliest members of the Cradle of quarterbacks. Sadly, last night Dawson passed away at age 87.
He was the No. 5 overall pick in the 1957 NFL Draft and he won his MVP award in Super Bowl IV as he led the Chiefs to their first title. This was after he chose Purdue over Ohio State out of high school as one of the most sought after players in the Midwest. In three years as Purdue’s starter he led the conference in passing. he finished with 3,325 yards passing in his career. Those are modest numbers by today’s standards, but in that era it was pretty much a wide open run and shoot. He also threw for 29 touchdowns. Overall, he started 24 games from 1954-56 and Purdue went 13-10-4 in that span.
He was originally drafted by the Steelers in 1957, but played very little. After three seasons there he spent two with the Cleveland Browns, but again struggled to find playing time. He only completed 21 passes for 204 yards and two touchdowns in his first five years as a pro.
Eventually, he would be reunited with Hank Stram, a Purdue alum who was an assistant at Purdue during Dawson’s time there. He was signed by the AFL’s Dallas Texas and immediately led the league in passing under Stram. They would go on to win three AFL championships after the franchise moved to Kansas City and Super Bowl IV, the last Super Bowl before the AFL-NFL merger. He would played for the Chiefs through the 1975 season and completed 2,136 of 3,741 passes for 28,711 yards and 239 touchdowns. In 1987 he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
He would spend much of his retirement as a broadcaster, hosting HBO’s Inside the NFL from 1977 to 2001. He was also the Chiefs’ color commentator on their radio broadcasts from 1985 until 2017.
Dawson is, quite simply, a Purdue legend. He was one of the first NFL stars from West Lafayette and had a legendary career. Our condolences to his family and friends.