WPI: Through the years you've been associated with some of the NFL's greatest leaders. Talk about what you learned from guys like Pete Rozelle, Paul Tagliabue and now with Roger Goodell?
Clark Hunt: "When I got involved was actually the transition from Pete to Paul. That actually may have the first series of meetings, which was somewhat interesting because it was not at all clear that we were going to end up with Paul as the commissioner. There was a split and ultimately it worked out great. But I certainly was aware that Paul was a very different individual than Pete had been. Pete was the consummate marketer, and was exactly the right person for the league when he was at the helm."
"I think in the same regard, Paul was exactly the right person for the league when he took over. At that point the league was going through some legal struggles with the player's association and he came in helped the league get past that. Now we have Roger, who is probably a blend of those two individuals, plus someone who brings a very sharp business mind to the commissioner's office. Again, it's probably exactly the right person for the job at this time."
WPI: What was the conversation like when your dad told you it was your time to take over the Kansas City Chiefs?
Hunt: "I can't really say that there was any one conversation, but it was more of a gradual process, with him giving me more and more responsibility. Certainly as his health started to go downhill more and more that process accelerated. There were meetings that he was not able to attend. Issues where we might have jointly tackled them in the past, he just came to me and said ‘will you take care of this?' So it was something that took place over time. He was never someone to sit down and say ‘here's the grand plan, and this is where we're headed, it's going to all fall in your lap.' There was never a conversation like that. But it certainly evolved that way over time and I was happy to do it for him."
WPI: How difficult was it for you personally not to have your father around this past offseason?
Hunt: "Obviously it was such a huge change. Even though his health was in decline, if you had asked any of us last fall we've have said he was going to be with us for several more years. We just believed that because he'd been fighting it for so many years and fighting it successfully. It was definitely a shock to us and a tremendous loss. This year with each milestone that's passed, whether it's been the draft, or mini camp, or training camp, it's occurred to me that wow, this is the first one of those that he's ever missed."
"He was with the Chiefs/Texans from day one, and that's really stuck in my mind. Clearly the big change for me is in a lot of ways, being the face of the organization. No matter how much of the hard grunt work I was doing the last several years, he was always going to be the face of the organization, so really that's been the biggest change for me."
WPI: Your dad was very patient and had tremendous loyalty to people, but being younger and a different generation, do you want to win faster?
Hunt: "A misconception about my father is that he was not competitive. I think nothing could have been further from the truth, but it was overshadowed by his tremendous humility. The way he treated people and the way he was so humble, people thought he didn't have a killer instinct. And he really did – his nickname as a child was ‘games,' and that was because he liked to compete and play, and he was that way his whole life. He spent his entire 50-year business career doing nothing but sports. He actually was very competitive, but I don't think it showed. I've been told by my friends that I might be a little bit competitive, and it's certainly true. I definitely want to win, and I want to win now, not five years from now."
"But I've also been around the business long enough to know that we're in a very, very competitive business, where there are 31 other teams who are working very hard with great coaches and great staffs, so it doesn't come overnight. What's important to me is that we're taking the steps now that over a three to five-year period builds a winning team. It's very easy to get off track, we saw that in KC in the late 70s and 80s, and you see it in other cities where a few mistakes or the cumulative effect of a few mistakes over years can really put you in the ditch and make it hard to get out. I am extremely focused on winning. I do have some of my father's patience, but probably not the large dose."
WPI: You are very fortunate to have person like President Carl Peterson, who has spent 18 years with the organization. How much does that help you knowing you can trust someone else to get things done?
Hunt: "Maybe this was some of my father's foresight in this, and maybe he never came out and said it, but by virtue of being involved over the last 10 to 15 years, I've built a very good relationship with Carl. I was thinking about just today, how awkward it could have been for Carl to work with my father for 17 years and then all of a sudden have a new, 42-year-old boss. It hasn't been like that at all, it's been fantastic, and that goes back to the working relationship we've had going back the last several years."
"My father gave me more and more responsibility, and part of that was getting Carl signed up on his last contract, which started to establish that relationship between he and I which was appropriate. I think the Chiefs organization is very blessed to have someone of his capability, both in business and the football side. It is a huge asset to me, being new to my role, to have someone as capable as he is, running the team."
WPI: When you have a player like Larry Johnson, how do you as the owner balance paying a player like that with fielding a winning football team? Did you or your father at any point ever tell Carl Peterson not to sign a player because of the financial commitment it might take?
Hunt: "I'm not aware that my father ever told Carl ‘no' to any financial commitment to bring any player to Kansas City, and certainly in my short tenure I've never done so either. I have the benefit of looking at some of the other organizations, who have owners who want to win now, and have decided that the free agent market is the way to do that, and have been abject failures at it. Conversely, I have the good example of organizations in New England, and Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, just to pick three, who have methodically gone about building their football team. That's not to say they aren't active in the free agent market, because they are, but they're very strategic and thoughtful about what they do."
"What's going on with the other side, is that those organizations are doing a better job of building their team through the draft. I really believe that, I know my father believed that – he was very funny about draft choices and actually had it in Carl's contract that he needed to accumulate more draft choices than the stated seven every year. We have a head coach who feels exactly the same way. It's a very long-winded answer, but there are many faces to it and I think if you let your emotions rule your judgment it's really easy to screw up a football team."
WPI: How would you like to look back on your legacy in the next 15 or 20 years?
Hunt: "I haven't really thought about what I want per se to be my legacy, but it has dawned on me that I will never be able to fill my father's shoes – the guy who created the American Football League and helped make the NFL what it is today. At least in sports I don't think I have a shot at recreating what he did, and he did that in many sports, he did it in tennis and soccer. I'm probably not going to leave that kind of legacy but there are three things as it relates to the Chiefs that I would hope the organization will be recognized for under my leadership."
"First of all, most importantly, is having a very competitive football team on the field. Secondly, is having the team and our players being a positive influence on the community in Kansas City. And thirdly, I want to continue the tradition of Arrowhead really being the best fan environment, and the best place to watch a football game, in the country."
This article originally appeared in Warpaint Illustrated the Magazine. If you want more information about the only Magazine Dedicated to the Kansas City Chiefs, hit the banner below to learn how you can get 56 issues of Sports Illustrated when you order Warpaint Illustrated the magazine.