The Mentor Was More than a Football Coach

It was 4:00pm on Monday afternoon I received the news that Kansas City's legendary Coach Hank Stram had passed away. Even though it had been obvious for quite some time that his passing was on the horizon the sudden news of it caused my heart to sink with despair.

Like most people born in the mid 1970's, I cannot tell you that I know a great deal about coach Stram. I never saw him coach a live game, I do not recall his days in the booth with CBS radio, and I believe I have only heard him interviewed over a handful of times. In fact what I do know about Coach Stram comes largely from his 1986 football based autobiography "They're Playing My Game" or interviews with his former players.

Even though I lack the memories of Coach Stram as the Chiefs head coach I still have a huge appreciation for the great football tradition he built in Kansas City. During his fifteen year coaching tenure with the Chiefs he not only introduced the NFL to the "two tight end set" but he also brought in "stack linebacker formations", "the tight I formation", "the moving pocket" and the modern "3-4 zone defense". Thanks to Coach Stram those innovations are still a major part of NFL playbooks today.

As far as the Chiefs are concerned Coach Stram played a major role in making them one of the best franchises in the history of the league. He was responsible for coaching the Chiefs to three AFL Championships (one in 1962 as the Dallas Texans), one NFL championship, and two Superbowl appearances.

To me personally Coach Stram also represents a bygone era of professional football. These were the days before multi-millionaire superstars and smooth talking agents. Most of the players were considered blue collar workers and were adored by the cities they played in. You also didn't see a lot of players jumping from franchise to franchise as most players would play for the same team their entire career. Yesterday, when we lost "The Mentor", the glory days of the AFL slipped that much further in to the distant past.

Coach Stram may have lost his battle with diabetes but he won the hearts of countless football fans for generations to come. He left Kansas City with a powerful legacy that will never be forgotten.

And that signature phrase that NFL Films immortalized from Coach Stram in Super Bowl IV never rang more true than it does today; "keep matriculating the ball down the field boys."

Coach Stram was born to be an NFL coach and his death marks the end of one of the games most innovating teachers giving birth to the West Coast offense but more importantly for changing the lives of every player he coached while he was part of the Texans and Chiefs. He was more than a coach to his players he was their father and mentor.

That above all else will be his legacy. Top Stories