Now Mostly Forgotten, This Chiefs Star Celebrated 1970 Super Bowl By Pouring Champagne On Lamar Hunt
It turns out, Patrick Mahomes isn’t the first Chiefs player from Texas Tech University to star in a Super Bowl.
That honor goes to E.J. Holub, who is the only player in NFL history to start a Super Bowl on offense and defense. In Super Bowl IV, he snapped the football to the game’s Most Valuable Player, Len Dawson, as the Chiefs’ starting center.
Four years earlier, he started at linebacker in the very first Super Bowl against the Green Bay Packers.
Holub died last September in his hometown of Lubbock, Texas, at the age of 81, just as Mahomes and his teammates were starting this season, which culminated with the Chiefs’ first trip to the Super Bowl in 50 years.
Holub was the first Texas Tech player ever to play for the franchise, starting when it was the Dallas Texans in 1961. He also played linebacker for the Texans team that won the AFL championship in 1962, a year before the team moved to Kansas City and became the Chiefs.
When asked, in 1999 on a return trip to Kansas City, about the Super Bowl IV championship, Holub said in his Texas drawl, “We were a little more mature. What made any team lose was mistakes, and we didn’t make as many mistakes in that one. We were confident of our situation.”
For a 30-year anniversary celebration of the 1969-70 championship season, the Super Bowl IV trophy was placed on the 50-yard line during halftime of a game at Arrowhead Stadium. Holub was among those who came to Kansas City for the weekend.
Then-Chiefs coach Gunther Cunningham talked about his admiration for that title-winning team and for Holub, especially.
“E.J. (Holub) came into the locker room before the game and looked me up,” he said to reporters with Holub in the room. “Heck, I was just a ditch-digger in the NFL, a young kid in college watching him play.”
During his career, football took a toll on Holub. He said he underwent 20 operations, several on his knees. In fact, he made the switch from defense to offense in order to help relieve the pounding his knees absorbed as a linebacker trying to make tackles.
Holub credited Chiefs management, including owner Lamar Hunt and Pro Football Hall of Fame coach Hank Stram, with allowing him to prolong his career and be a key, if unsung, part of the Super Bowl-winning team in 1970.
“There’s not many coaches or owners who would have let a guy with so many surgeries to continue to play like they did,” said Holub, after he retired.
Remembered not only for his toughness on the field, Holub was also known for holding nothing back during postgame celebrations.
After the Chiefs beat the Raiders in Oakland to advance to Super Bowl IV, Stram wrote in his book, “They’re Playing My Game” that Holub “emptied a whole bottle of champagne over Lamar Hunt that night on the plane ride home.”
And before playing the Green Bay Packers in Super Bowl I, the Chiefs won the AFL Championship against the Buffalo Bills. Holub said he cut off Lamar Hunt’s tie with scissors in that celebration.
“I was very jubilant about the whole occasion,” said Holub. “I cut off his tie and turned right around and our offensive line coach, Bill Walsh, had a tie on. He says, ‘You’re not cutting my tie off.’ He put his hand up there to defend his tie, and I stabbed him in the hand and cut his tie off.”
Holub’s name is now in the Ring of Honor at Arrowhead Stadium.
Greg Echlin is a freelance sports reporter for KCUR.