TOFN podcast: HOF MLB Willie Lanier revisits Super Bowl IV

Willie Lanier photo courtesy of the Kansas City Chiefs

The Talk of Fame Network introduces another in our “5 Games” series of podcasts this week with Hall of Fame middle linebacker Willie Lanier of the Kansas City Chiefs.

The concept of the podcast is to visit with an historic football figure about five significant games in his career. We’ll visit with Lanier this week about a couple games between the Chiefs and their bitter AFL-rival the Oakland Raiders, a Super Bowl, the longest pro football game ever played plus, interestingly enough, an exhibition game.

On this podcast we’ll discuss with Lanier one of the biggest upsets in Super Bowl history, that 23-7 victory by his Chiefs over the Minnesota Vikings in 1970. The Vikings were 14-point favorite but the Chiefs dominated from the start, proving that the AFL’s victory by the Jets over the NFL champion Colts in Super Bowl III was no fluke. The AFL was now the equal of the NFL.
Lanier talked about attending Super Bowl III as a spectator – and what that game meant to him, the Chiefs and the AFL.

“Buck, Emmitt and myself went to the hotel where the Jets were staying after the game,” Lanier said. “As the Jets were getting off their bus, Joe Namath looked over and saw Emmitt (Thomas), Buck (Buchanan) and I in the parking lot. He came over and all of us gave each other hugs. It was a way of thanking them for achieving something that was very important to the American Football League.”

The Jets were 16-point underdogs in Super Bowl III. But the oddsmakers were not impressed and made the Chiefs a heavy underdog in Super Bowl IV. But they Chiefs didn’t consider themselves underdogs.

“We were pretty confident because we had played the Vikings in preseason,” Lanier said. “That gave us a chance to see their talent and we had a chance to decide how we could play them. We really thought they would only score if our offense threw an interception or fumbled. That was our belief going into the game.”

But there was more at stake in that Super Bowl than AFL pride and the chance to show the world that the Kansas City Chiefs had assembled one of the greatest defenses ever – in fact, the last Super Bowl championship defense to lead the league across the board in all four the major statistical categories – run, pass, total and scoring defense.

“Many of us on the defense – Emmitt, Buck, myself (Jim) Kearney, (James) Marsalis — attended historically black colleges,” Lanier said. “So there was an intersection of not only those who were from the AFL, but guys from the historically black colleges (who) had something to prove to everybody, that we had the skill and ability to play at the same level or higher than anybody playing.

“If anybody wanted to question whether your skill set was equal to not just the white players but the black players from the majority schools… The American Football League opened the door for African-Americans from any school, then opening the door for those from historically black schools, and then our being able to have every statistic that any defense could have… We made sure that any time we stepped on the field all you saw was quality play.”

In the next episode, we’ll talk to Lanier about a 1970 regular-season game against the Raiders that featured a bench-clearing brawl — a 17-17 tie that cost the Chiefs a division title and a playoff spot. Subscribe to our podcast and listen for free at @ iTunes or

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