Hall of Fame tribute to Lamar Hunt

(Ben Liebenberg / NFL.com)

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and members of the Hunt family cut the ribbon to open the Lamar Hunt Super Bowl Gallery at the Pro Football Hall of Fame. (Ben Liebenberg / NFL.com)

CANTON, Ohio — Saturday morning’s ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s newest exhibit quickly turned into a tribute to the man for whom the exhibit is named.

Despite the fact that the enshrinement ceremony does not begin until 7 p.m. ET, many NFL dignitaries were on hand at 9 a.m. for the official opening of the Lamar Hunt Super Bowl Gallery. Hall of Famers in attendance were Len Dawson, Willie Lanier, Bobby Bell, Jan Stenerud, Emmitt Thomas, Bart Starr and Troy Aikman. Also there: NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, Tennessee Titans owner Bud Adams, Pittsburgh Steelers owner Art Rooney Jr., as well as Kansas City Chiefs owner Clark Hunt and most of the Hunt family.

“We can go through all the reasons Lamar was so closely associated with the Super Bowl,” said Clark Hunt, one of Lamar’s three sons. Not only did Hunt’s Chiefs play in the first Super Bowl and win Super Bowl IV, but Hunt is credited with coming up with the name “Super Bowl,” as well as the use of Roman numerals to keep track of the big game. It was Hunt’s idea to name the Super Bowl trophy after Vince Lombardi, and, of course, Hunt was instrumental in bringing on the AFL-NFL merger.

“I don’t think even he had any idea how important the game would become to the American culture,” noted Clark Hunt, but he added that his father was even prouder knowing how much the Super Bowl meant to the players, coaches and team administrators who were fortunate enough to win it.

Goodell told the crowd in attendance that one of his early positions when he started working at the NFL in the 1980s was assistant to the President of the AFC — who at the time was Lamar Hunt.

“I had not only the good fortune but the honor to work for Lamar Hunt,” said Goodell. “I’m grateful for the experience I had with him.”

The ceremony was not only a tribute to Lamar Hunt but a tribute to his wife, Norma, as well.

“She’s not only a terrific person, but she knows her football,” said Goodell.

Norma Hunt is one of the only people on the planet who can boast of having been to every Super Bowl ever played — a distinction that was a great source of pride for Lamar Hunt right up until he passed away in December 2006. Clark Hunt told the story of visiting his father on his deathbed. It was about two months before Super Bowl XLI was to be played, and Lamar told Clark to make sure his mother got to the game. She did, and she was at the next two after that.

Added Clark Hunt: “Her flights are already booked for Miami for Super Bowl XLIV.”

Norma Hunt is proud of her super streak, but she joked about asking Lamar before he died: “If you’re going to tell everyone that I’ve been to every Super Bowl, then tell them I was 8 at the first one.”

She added that nobody loved the fans more than Lamar Hunt, and she accepted the honor of having the Super Bowl gallery named for him on behalf of the fans.

“There is no honor on Earth that Lamar would rather have,” said Norma Hunt of her late husband, “because he loved the Super Bowl and he loved the Hall of Fame both so much.”

— Craig Ellenport

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