Exclusive Interview with Bobby Bell, NFL Hall of Fame Linebacker
One of those players was former Super Bowl champion and NFL Hall of Fame linebacker, Bobby Bell. I had a chance to speak to Bell, who played for the Chiefs from 1963-74, and he shared with me some of his favorite moments from his playing years.
He also talked about the impact Lamar Hunt made for the game of football.
Farzin Vousoughian: What moments do you cherish the most during your time as a Chief?
Bobby Bell: I go back to the opportunity to play for them. I came out of college and a lot of people just thought I was too small. It was in 1962, Lamar Hunt gave me a chance to play for the new league, the American Football League, and I had the opportunity to excel. I also had the opportunity to play in the first Super Bowl. It was a great experience playing in the first Super Bowl and then coming back to play in the fourth Super Bowl, which we won.
FV: What was it like getting ready to play in the first Super Bowl?
BB: They [Green Bay Packers and NFL] joked about us and they also called us “The Mickey Mouse League.” They thought that we were not capable of playing in the National Football League. But people did not understand that we all came from the same schools.
Some went to the NFL and some went to the AFL. We were a young team going into the first Super Bowl, in which Green Bay was a veteran team and we knew we couldn’t make mistakes. But that was the thing. We turned the ball over a couple of times. They got the ball and they capitalized.
FV: You and your team got a second chance at proving the NFL wrong in Super Bowl IV against the Minnesota Vikings and won 23-7. When you won, what did that prove to the NFL?
BB: Going into the fourth, the National Football League did not recognize any other league because they felt that they were so powerful. They controlled the first two Super Bowls.
In the third Super Bowl, the Jets beat the Colts. The thing about the AFL back then is that we came out, we had quickness, we had passion. That’s what we came out with in the AFL. We came out more excited. Going into the third Super Bowl, they said there is no way the Jets could beat the Colts.
When we were getting ready to play the Vikings, we were underdogs. We felt that we had a better defense and a better offense. We figured there is no way that Minnesota could beat us.
FV: Lamar Hunt did a lot for the game of football. What kind of an impact did he make on the NFL?
BB: If it wasn’t for Lamar Hunt starting the new league, do you think the NFL would be where it is now? No way. Because what he did, he brought in players that never had a chance to be drafted [in the NFL.] Look at Willie Lanier—he’s the first black middle linebacker.
I was in Minnesota for four years and Lamar came up there and looked at me and took me out to the AFL. He took players who never had an opportunity to play in the pros. When Lamar started the league, he created that and he was the best thing that ever happened to the National Football League.
In 1970, when the Chiefs beat Minnesota, the NFL was saying ‘Woah. These guys are here to stay.’ That’s when they started the merge. We played in the first exhibition game against the Chicago Bears down in Kansas City once and we beat them 66-24 . They didn’t know what happened to them. But Lamar Hunt, the NFL would not be where it is today if it wasn’t for him.
FV: As a former linebacker, you have to be pleased with the linebackers who came to Kansas City after you. Guys like Derrick Thomas, Tamba Hali and Derrick Johnson are pretty good linebackers.
BB: I think we’ve got some great linebackers who have come along, like Derrick Thomas. The name of the game started changing for linebackers. Back when I was playing, they didn’t count the sacks. I think the Chiefs defense last year came at the end of the year stronger than I have seen in a long time. The linebackers played good defense.
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