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Pasquarelli: Football loses an original
Stram's presence, videotape moves HOF crowd
Wednesday, July 6, 2005
Stram still Chiefs' all-time winningest coach
NEW ORLEANS -- Even in declining health, Hank Stram was able to inspire his former players.
"His whole life was football -- that's what he was born for, I think. He had a passion for it, not just a liking," Chiefs Hall of Fame quarterback Len Dawson said Monday. "He was really sincere when he talked about the team being a family. Everybody really loved him."
The Chiefs' first and winningest coach, who took them to two Super Bowls and was known for his inventive game plans and exuberance on the sideline, died Monday, his family said. He was 82.
"I've lived a charmed life," Stram said in an interview two years ago. "I married the only girl I ever loved and did the only job I ever loved."
Stram had been in declining health for several years. Dale Stram attributed his father's death to complications from diabetes. He died at St. Tammany Parish Hospital, near his home in Covington, across Lake Pontchartrain from New Orleans. He had built a home in the area during his brief stint as coach of the Saints from 1975-77 and retired there.
"He was responsible for doing a lot of the things in the '60s that teams are still using now," said Dawson, citing the moving pocket and the triple stack defense. Stram was also credited with the two-tight end offense that provided an extra blocker.
Stram took over the expansion Dallas Texans of the upstart AFL in 1960 and coached them through 1974, moving with them to Kansas City, where they were renamed the Chiefs in 1963.
The gregarious, stocky, blazer-wearing Stram carried a rolled up game plan in his hand as he paced the sideline. He led the Chiefs to AFL titles in 1962, '66 and '69 and to appearances in the first Super Bowl, a 35-10 loss to Green Bay, and the fourth, a 23-7 victory over Minnesota in 1970.
He had a 124-76-10 record with the Chiefs and in 17 seasons as a head coach was 131-97-10 in the regular season and 5-3 in the postseason. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2003.
"He was one of the pioneers of the American Football League and someone I admired as a fan long before I had the opportunity to ever meet him," Patriots owner Robert Kraft said. "In recent years, I had the opportunity to talk to him on many occasions. He was a man with a great spirit and lived life to the fullest."
Stram was the first coach to wear a microphone during a Super Bowl and Stram's sideline antics, captured by NFL Films, helped bring the league into the video age.
"Pro football has lost one of its most innovative and creative coaches and one of its most innovative and creative personalities as well," Chiefs owner Lamar Hunt said.
Stram later enjoyed a successful second career in CBS' television and "Monday Night Football" radio booths as an analyst. He made his mark in the booth by consistently telling the audience what would happen before it did.
"I think they'll go deep here," he would tell his partner, Jack Buck.
"Elway to throw," Buck would respond. "He's looking deep. He throws deep. Caught by Steve Sewell at the 11-yard line. You called that one, Coach."
"John just saw what I saw," Stram would say.
Hall of Fame linebacker Willie Lanier, who played for the Chiefs under Stram, said he was able to elevate his players to new levels of success, no matter what their skin color. It was because of owners like Hunt and coaches like Stram that black players were able to advance in the AFL, he said.
"No question they opened doors. Shortly after I was drafted out of Morgan State, I'm playing next to Jim Lynch from Notre Dame," he said from his home in Midlothian, Va. "I thought it was a great joy to be in that kind of situation at a time when many industries were challenged to make equal opportunity truly equal."
Hunt hired Stram, then an assistant at Miami, Fla., in 1959 after Oklahoma's Bud Wilkinson and then-New York Giants assistant Tom Landry turned down the team.
"He had never been a head coach before and you never know how that's going to work out. In our case, it worked out tremendously. I think it worked out great for his career, too, because he ended up in the Pro Football Hall of Fame," Hunt said. "He deserves to be there."
Stram is survived by his wife Phyllis, sons Henry, Dale, Stu and Gary, daughters Julia and Mary Nell, and a sister, Dolly.
His sons said a private memorial service was being planned for later this week.
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