During the month of June, the Last Word On Sports NFL department will construct a Mount Rushmore for each team. For this series, we will only consider players. Today, we present the Kansas City Chiefs Mount Rushmore.
Kansas City Chiefs Mount Rushmore
For many franchises, the most celebrated players are often the star players: quarterbacks, running backs, linebackers, etc. The positions with the most stats get the most shine under the spotlight. Will Shields didn’t play one of those positions. Instead of racking up touchdowns or completions, he racked up consecutive Pro Bowls. Shields started at guard for the Chiefs in nearly every single game between 1993 and 2006. In 1995, he was selected for the Pro Bowl for the first time and he made that an annual tradition, playing in every Pro Bowl up until his retirement in 2006. Shields was the anchor on offensive lines that created lanes for great Chiefs running backs Priest Holmes and Larry Johnson, and the team manufactured a top five finish in rushing in seven of Shields’ 14 years on the team. He was awarded the NFL Man of the Year award in 2003 for his work with his “Will to Succeed Foundation” which provides assistance to families with little to no available aid. Shields was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame this year, and he will be remembered as one of the greatest, consistent, offensive linemen in NFL history.
As the leader of Kansas City’s only Super Bowl team in 1969, Len Dawson is the team’s most celebrated quarterback. Dawson was the team’s starter from 1963 until 1972, bringing the team to two Super Bowl appearances, with the aforementioned victory being in ’69. He is Kansas City’s all-time leader in passing yardage (28,711), touchdown passes (239), and interceptions (178). Dawson was a great quarterback for a team who has had very few exceptional passers and he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1987. His #16 has since been retired by the Chiefs.
There has been a myriad of great linebackers in Kansas City’s history from Bobby Bell and Willie Lanier in the late 60’s to Tamba Hali and Derrick Johnson today. The greatest of all was Derrick Thomas. From the moment Thomas was drafted in the first round in 1989 until his unfortunate final season in 1999, he was the leader of great defenses. Winning Defensive Rookie of the Year and making the Pro Bowl in his first season, Thomas had 10 sacks and forced three fumbles. He would continue that type of production throughout his career. Thomas was an exceptional pass -rusher, setting the franchise record for sacks with 126.5, including an impressive 20-sack season in 1990. He holds franchise records for sacks, forced fumbles (41), and safeties (3), and still holds the single-game record for sacks with seven. Unfortunately, Thomas never finished his career the way he should have. After a car accident in early 2000, Thomas was paralyzed from the chest down and died of a blood clot in his lower body weeks later. No Chiefs player ever wore #58 after his death and it was formally retired in 2009, which was the same year that Thomas was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Tony Gonzalez is a sure-fire Hall of Famer and stands as one of the best tight ends in NFL history. Gonzalez is fifth all-time in receiving yards, second all-time in receptions (behind only Jerry Rice), and has more touchdowns than any other tight end in NFL history. Gonzalez was part of some great offenses during his career, but also carried the load for a few years at the end of his tenure in Kansas City. In 2004, Gonzalez caught 102 passes, which is an astounding number for a tight end. He was selected for 10 straight Pro Bowls as a Chief, and holds the record for Pro Bowl selections with 14. He is the only tight end to have 15,000 receiving yards. The amount of records that Gonzalez holds is extraordinary. In 2019, when Gonzalez is eligible for the Hall of Fame, his illustrious 17-year career will get him inducted as just the ninth tight end in Canton’s history.