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Otis Taylor, receiver who helped Kansas City Chiefs win their first Super Bowl, dies at 80

Obit Taylor 1966
William P. Straeter
Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Otis Taylor runs with the ball after catching a pass against the Boston Patriots, Sunday, Nov. 23, 1966, in Kansas City, Missouri. Otis Taylor, who formed with quarterback Len Dawson one of the NFL's most dynamic duos, died Thursday, March 9, 2023, after more than a decade of health problems.

Taylor remains one of the franchise's most captivating offensive players. After his career as a player ended, Taylor made Kansas City his permanent home.

Former Kansas City Chiefs great Otis Taylor has been overlooked by the Pro Football Hall of Fame for decades. If that changes, the dazzling wide receiver and 10-year veteran of the team will never have a chance to enjoy it.

Taylor, a Hall of Fame semifinalist last year, died Thursday night at the age of 80, according to attorney Kevin Regan, who has worked with the Chiefs for several years on legal affairs and is a friend of the Taylor family. Regan said Taylor died after a long battle with Parkinson’s Disease.

“The Kansas City Chiefs organization is saddened by the passing of Otis Taylor,” Chiefs owner Clark Hunt said in a statement after Taylor’s death. “My family and I would like to extend our heartfelt condolences to Otis’ wife, Regina, his sister Odell and the entire Taylor family as we mourn his passing.”

Taylor’s best season as a player was in 1971 when he finished second in the NFL’s Most Valuable Player voting. He finished that campaign with 1,110 receiving yards.

But Taylor is remembered most vividly for a signature moment in the 1970 Super Bowl, when he broke free on a pass from quarterback Len Dawson and scampered down the sideline for a 46-yard touchdown.

“Most of the time when I throw a pass, I get nailed right after I threw the ball — I never saw anything and I have to listen to the crowd,” Dawson said during an interview in the early 1990s. “But that one I saw all the way.”

“When he broke that tackle and started down that sideline, I said: ‘They don’t have anybody in that secondary fast enough to catch up to Otis Taylor,’” said Dawson, who died in 2022.

Dawson Taylor 1971
William P. Straeter
Quarterback Len Dawson, left, and Otis Taylor, of the Kansas City Chiefs, were named the offensive players of the week by the Associated Press, Oct. 26, 1971 in Kansas City. Taylor made a one-handed catch of Dawson's pass in the closing minutes of the game to break a 20-20 tie against Washington.

The Chiefs were heavy underdogs going into that Super Bowl. But Otis revealed in an interview about 20 years later that he spoke with former Vikings players from that team, and found they were confident, but not excessively so.

“All this hype about us being underdogs, and we might embarrass (the American Football League), I think that brought our team even closer together,” Taylor said.

‘Good people and good attitude’

Ahead of the AFL-NFL merger in 1970, many AFL teams had to find young talent to compete. The Chiefs ventured into the Deep South to sign players.

Taylor was drafted in 1965 out of Prairie View A&M, a historically Black university in Houston. He played for the Chiefs his entire pro career.

Former Chiefs coach Hank Stram laid out years later the type of players he wanted scouts to look for.

“I wanted speed, I wanted good people and good attitude,” the Hall of Fame coach said.

Taylor delivered season after season.

Stram said one of the most satisfying aspects of assembling a championship team was seeing his former players make Kansas City their permanent home.

“You can play football a certain period of time, and then you’re through with football,” said Stram, who died in 2005. “Then your life goes on because you’re a man — you’re a man the rest of your life.”

Taylor was among those former Chiefs who made Kansas City his permanent home.

He worked as an executive with Blue Cross/Blue Shield, and was also known for his charitable work with organizations such as the Derrick Thomas/Neil Smith Third and Long Foundation which works to improve reading skills among Kansas City area students.

Sports have an economic and social impact on our community and, as a sports reporter, I go beyond the scores and statistics. I also bring the human element to the sports figures who have a hand in shaping the future of not only their respective teams but our town. Reach me at gregechlin@aol.com.
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