It may come as a surprise to you that the Chiefs have retired 10 numbers in the franchise’s history. Some names are no brainers, and there maybe a couple you never heard of and there is at least a couple that should deserve considerations going forward, we take a look and rank the Chiefs retired numbers today.
10) Stone Johnson #33
Stone was a former Olympic 200 meter finalist, finishing fifth in the 1960 summer games in Rome. Drafted in the 14th round of out of Grambling in 1963, Stone only played in the preseason for the Chiefs. On August 30th, 1963, Stone was injured while returning a kick against the Oilers in Wichita. He suffered a broken vertebra and died seven days later. The Chiefs retired his number 33 in honor of the tragedy.
9) Mack Lee Hill #36
Mack Lee Hill was another talented athlete coming out of Southern University in 1964 that went undrafted after having numerous injuries in college. The Chiefs took a flier on him and offered Hill a $300 signing bonus if he could make the roster. The fullback had a great rookie campaign rushing for 576 yards on only 105 carries and 4 touchdowns adding another 144 yards receiving and a pair of touchdowns on his way to the Pro Bowl. Unfortunately, a knee injury in the second to last game of his 1965 season would end tragically. While in surgery Mack Lee Hill’s temperature spiked to 108 degrees and he died of hyperthermia. The Chiefs retired his number and every season award their top rookie with Mack Lee Hill award in his honor.
8) Abner Haynes #28
Drafted by both the Steelers in the 1960 NFL Draft and the Raiders in the AFL Draft, it was the nearby Dallas Texans who signed the native from Denton, Texas. Haynes was an early star of the new league and franchise. Winning the rushing title with 875 yards at a 5.5-yard clip, Haynes added 55 receptions for 576 yards as well on his way to rookie of the year and AFL Player of the Year. Abner would go on to have another two solid seasons in Dallas, eclipsing 1000 yards and 19 total touchdowns, a pro football record at the time, in the Texans 1962 AFL Championship season. His two years in Kansas City were solid but he never that of his first three seasons. Haynes would retire in 1967 as the AFL’s all-time leader in all purpose yards.
7) Jan Stenerud #3
The first pure kicker ever to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Stenerud came to the Chiefs from Montana State where he began his collegiate career on a skiing scholarship for the Bobcats. After kicking a then NCAA record 59-yard field goal, the Chiefs scouting department went to work securing Jan in the 1966 futures draft. In an era where field goal percentage was hovering around 50%, Jan would consistently be around 70% giving the Chiefs a distinct advantage in the kicking game. His three field goals, beginning with a 48 yarder, set the Chiefs up in Super Bowl IV. Stenerud would spend 13 of his 19 NFL seasons in Kansas City. He was named to the 75th Anniversary Team in 1994.
6) Willie Lanier #63
Affectionately known as Honeybear, Lanier was a former small college All-American at Morgan State. Drafted in 1967 Lanier would take over the starting duties in the middle in 1968, making him the first African American to play the position in Pro Football. He was All-Pro from 1970-75 and named the NFL’s Man of the Year in 1972. He would be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1985, the Chiefs Hall of Honor in 1986, and named to the NFL’s 1994 75th Anniversary Team.
5) Len Dawson #16
Lenny The Cool came to the Dallas Texans in 1962 after 5 years in Pittsburg and Cleveland that left a whole lot to be desired after being a first-round selection out of Purdue in 1957. He immediately became an All-AFL and MVP in his first season with the franchise leading the Texans to the AFL title in 1962. Though his stats don’t translate to today’s NFL Dawson was a dynamic quarterback for the era. His 29 touchdown passes in 1962 stood as the Chiefs record until Patrick Mahomes shattered it in 2018. Len Dawson was a quiet leader for 14 seasons for the Chiefs, winning two AFL titles and one Super Bowl as the Chiefs quarterback. Inducted in the Chiefs Hall of Honor in 1979, the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1987, Len would enjoy a long broadcasting career in Kansas City.
4) Emmitt Thomas #18
Undrafted out of now-defunct HBCU Bishop College in 1966. Thomas would go on to become the Chiefs’ all-time leader in interceptions with 58. Twice he led the league with interceptions, he was the vital cog from the secondary on the legendary Chiefs defenses that would include 4 Hall of Famers. Thomas had 3 playoff interceptions in 1969 including one in Super Bowl IV. Thomas would go on to have a lengthy and successful coaching career culminating in the interim head coach position for the Falcons in 2007. Thomas was inducted into the Chiefs Hall of Honor in 1986 and the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2008.
3) Buck Buchanan #86
Wherever Junious “Buck” Buchanan was, you knew it. Huge for the time at 6’7 270 lbs, Buck was drafted by the Chiefs with the first overall selection of the 1963 draft. Lining up both inside and outside Buchanan was a force to be reckoned with both against the run and the pass. His long arms were menacing against opposing offenses. His durability was legendary only missing five games in his 13-year career, which included 166 straight starts. His college coach Eddie Robinson said, “he is the finest lineman, I ever seen.” A four-time All-Pro player, Buchanan was named to the Chiefs Hall of Honor in 1981, the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1991, and the College Football Hall of Fame in 1996.
2) Bobby Bell #78
Drafted six rounds after Buck Buchanan in the 1963 draft was Bobby Bell. One of the most athletic and instinctive linebackers of his day. Bobby excelled as a pass rusher, stuffing the run, and defending the pass. After an all-pro season at defensive end in 1965 Bell was moved to outside backer, one of the many testaments to the talent Bell possessed. Extremely durable he never missed a game between 1964 and 1973. Teammate Buck Buchanan said, “this guy is the best football player I ever saw.” The first Chief enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1983.
1) Derek Thomas #58
The first jersey I ever owned was the 58 of Thomas. Probably the most ferocious pass rusher to ever come out of college finishing his senior campaign with an NCAA record 27 sacks in 1988. The Chiefs drafted Thomas with the 4th overall selection the next spring. He went on to win the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year, the Mack Lee Hill Award for outstanding Chiefs rookie in 1989.
In 1990, he would set the NFL single-game record for sacks with 7 at against the Seahawks on his way to career-best 20 sacks. He was a seven-time All-Pro outside linebacker. 1993 NFL Man of the Year. The Chiefs all-time sack leader would almost certainly be top five all-time if it were not for his tragic death in 2000. Passing away from complications sustained from a car accident, Thomas was and still is the Chiefs all-time sack leader with 126.5. One of the quickest first steps I have ever seen from a pass rusher, I still compare all Chiefs pass rushers to Thomas, who in my opinion was the best to ever play the position. D.T. was enshrined into the Chiefs Hall of Honor in 2001 and the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2009.
I was quite surprised to find 10 retired numbers for the Chiefs. I would like to see a few more in the upcoming years. I’m sure it is only a matter of time before Tony Gonzalez and Will Shields find the 88 and 68 respectively retired. Strong cases could be made for the 25 and 31 of Jamaal Charles and Priest Holmes. Patrick Mahomes and Travis Kelce are certainly on that trajectory as well. We are in a time only precedented by the early years of Chiefs history.