Fifty years ago, the nation was in turmoil. The year 1969 was known for a number of watershed moments: widespread student protests, the moon landing, the introduction of the draft lottery, the Manson family murders, Woodstock.
It was also the last time the Kansas City Chiefs appeared in — and won — the Super Bowl.
On July 21, 1969, Chiefs coach Hank Stram convened training camp at William Jewell College in Liberty, Missouri. Even with so much swirling around them, Stram united
The dapper, chipper son of a pro wrestler, whose gift of gab led to a long and successful broadcast career, gathered his players in the team meeting room for a legendary performance.
“We will lift weights after every practice session and we will start this morning,” reads a document detailing his remarks, which was provided to 435 by Chiefs team historian Robert Moore.
Stram addressed his team as a “football family,” instructing the players not to talk about family business, such as star defensive tackle Ernie Ladd showing up late to camp.
“I don’t want this in the papers,” Stram said. “This is our business. This is family talk.”
Although he was a clever tactician who designed schemes to confuse the opposition — he’s credited with inventing the two-tight-end alignment on offense and the 3-4 defense — Stram’s biggest gift was his salesmanship, according to Hall of Fame Chiefs quarterback Len Dawson.
“He was a great salesman,” Dawson once said of Stram. “He could sell the players on what they were doing and the fans on what they were doing.”
And perhaps his best sale of all was the opening of the 1969 season.
At a time when so many kids the age of his players were occupying various administration buildings, smoking a lot of Thai sticks and breaking into the ROTC, Stram successfully instituted a ban on long hair, sideburns, mustaches and beards. (The only player to disobey the rule, wide receiver Otis Taylor, was fined $500.)
No Chiefs player could avoid doing wind sprints, and all were required to autograph footballs — “your responsibility as a pro,” Stram told them.
Stram’s no-nonsense approach worked with his players: The Chiefs had the best season of their history, compiling an 11-3 record and winning Super Bowl IV over the heavily favored Minnesota Vikings by a score of 23-7.
And it all started with a speech.
“One last thing,” Stram told his team before they split off to lift weights. “Just remember that everything we do here, we do because I believe in it very strongly. Nothing happens on this team without me first permitting it to happen.”