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Sons Of Iconic Kansas City Chiefs Coach Hank Stram Remember His Love of Football, Family And Polkas

Stram family
The Stram family: (l to r) Gary, Marynell, Julia, Henry, Hank, Dale, Phyllis and Stu.

The Kansas City Chiefs are preparing to play in the franchise's first Super Bowl since Pro Football Hall of Fame head coach Hank Stram led the team to a title in Super Bowl IV 50 years ago.

Stram's sons — Dale, now 64; Stu, 62; and Gary, 58 — were three of the six children raised by Phyllis and Hank Stram in Prairie Village in the 1960s and 1970s.

They recall their father's drive, focus and integrity. They also remember him as a devoted husband and father who had celebrity friends and loved Lawrence Welk, Louis Prima and polka music.

Stu, Gary and Dale Stram recently spoke with KCUR’s Laura Ziegler.

They compared this year's Chiefs team to the squad their father coached 50 years ago and noted how much the business and culture of football has changed in the half-century since.

At the same time, they say they know their father would be proud of the team quarterback Patrick Mahomes and coach Andy Reid have led to Super Bowl LIV.

Credit Courtesy photo / Stram family
Stram family
Stu, Gary and Dale Stram today.

STU: In those days there wasn't free agency, so most of those players stayed with the team for most of their careers. It created a sense of family and camaraderie and love and respect for each other that, because of the movement of players now, I don't know the teams can enjoy and appreciate. It's very humbling to think that the offense that the Chiefs have right now, they've got so much talent on that team. My dad was always trying to find better ways to compete and better ways to address issues on (opposing teams). I think dad would be so happy and celebrate the fact that the Chiefs still stand for that creativity and innovation, and knowing that he was really an integral part of the development of the offenses in the NFL and in the early days of the AFL as well.

ZIEGLER: You mention the sense of family your dad felt for the team. Did he bring that home? What kind of dad was he?

GARY: If he was preoccupied with something, we knew when to stay away from him. I just remember before these games sitting in his office and he'd be on that Kodak 16 millimeter projector, watching films. It was fascinating to see how focused he was. If you walked in the room, he wouldn't even know you were in there. When he finished, he'd come out and say, "Gary, I'm sorry, did you need something? What do you need?" So he was very aware, but like any great leader, you have to be focused. And he was an amazing father.

Credit Courtesy photo / Stram family
Stram family

ZIEGLER: Were there things that you guys remember, like rituals or things that he did in his leisure time? Anything that will help us know him better as a human being?

DALE: He loved his music — Bobby Vinton, and he loved Louis Prima. He'd get you get in the car and he'd sing the Louie Prima songs. He actually had a really good voice. As a young kid, he was in the choir, so he had a nice voice. He loved Lawrence Welk, he loved his polkas. I used to ride to the games with dad. Sometimes Stu would go as well, and he had this Imperial and it was like sitting on a cloud. He had this great eight-track tape deck in it with great sound. He'd have that sound up completely blasting and he'd be listening to polkas, (Frankie) Yankovic and others. You know, he was getting up for the game through listening to the polka music.

ZIEGLER: A coach that takes a team to the Super Bowl two times obviously has huge leadership skills. How do you think those successful coaching skills translated to him as a dad?

GARY: As a father, he translated those skills on a day-to-day basis. He applied a lot of what he taught the players and brought that to the family table. He was focused on making sure that we had our "to do" lists, for me personally, this is what I remember. He would sit down with me when I was home and he would apply that laser focus to make sure that we were following some sort of rhyme or reason in our life. And he made it very, very clear. So that outlined for us these roadmaps, the "to do" list, which I really couldn't stand growing up as a kid. But as I look back on those days as an adult, it was all an amazing pillar and foundation, one of the many steps in being a leader.

Credit Courtesy photo / Stram family
Stram family
Gary Stram says his father was loving and attentive, helping the kids learn the same discipline he taught the Chiefs players.

ZIEGLER: We've seen these video tapes of him calling a big play or reacting on the sidelines to a touchdown, how animated and excited he got when the team scored. Did you see that larger than life personality at home? Or was he more subdued?

DALE: He was a funny guy. I mean, he really had a great personality. He was very smart. You know, I think everything that he exuded as a coach was an extension of who he was. The team was very colorful … very disciplined and very organized, all the things that my dad was. I think any great leader is a great salesman and I believe dad was a great salesman. And the great thing about dad is he never deviated from what he believed. No matter what the situation, (even if) it would have been easier for him to go in a different direction. He wouldn't do it. He would just do what he believed.

GARY: About that animation, there were those moments that you saw (it), but I read somewhere that they described dad as "loquacious" — like chatty and talkative. When he was home, he would have those outbursts and joyous (moments) that were infectious, but for the most part, what I saw from dad was his introverted self. I mean, there would be times where I'd be sitting next to him in the car and he'd be talking to himself like he was talking to the team, like he was practicing a speech. He was always thinking of the next game, the next opportunity, the next chance. He'd always say, "There's nothing as old as yesterday's headlines." He lived by that and (was) always moving forward. So to go back to your question about that animated (person), he was that way. But (he was also) I felt, a very quiet, introverted person.

Credit Courtesy photo / Stram family
Stram family
Dale (l) and Henry Stram with their dad, mom and Chiefs player Mike Garrett.

ZIEGLER: Is there anything you guys want to add?

STU: One of the most important aspects of my memories of that time is how we were as a family, and that it was just an extension in our home of how dad always talked about the team. That sense of family is something he cultivated and was so important to him.

DALE: Every year at training camp, after the final cuts, dad would gather the team together and he would say to the guys, "You've been chosen to represent the great city of Kansas City. You're representing now the Hunt Companies and now you're part of the Stram family. So we will not always be a team, but from here out we'll always be a family." And we always have been and still remain. Stu and I, in particular, still talk to some of the guys, you know, in their mid-70s, early 80s. I (talk) to Jan (Stenerud), Bobby Bell, Willie Lanier, Johnny Robinson, Ed Budde once in a while.

GARY: I just want to reiterate the love, respect and admiration for our beautiful mother Phyllis, who was such an integral part of dad's success. They were an amazing team she was such an integral part of the story of the Kansas City Chiefs and their success.

Laura Ziegler is a community engagement reporter at KCUR 89.3. You can reach her on twitter @laurazig or by email at lauraz@kcur.org

I partner with communities to uncover the ignored or misrepresented stories by listening and letting communities help identify and shape a narrative. My work brings new voices, sounds, and an authentic sense of place to our coverage of the Kansas City region. My goal is to tell stories on the radio, online, on social media and through face to face conversations that enhance civic dialogue and provide solutions. Email me at lauraz@kcur.org and follow me on Twitter @laurazig.
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