After winning Super Bowl IV in January 1970, it took the Kansas City Chiefs 50 years to return to the big game. After winning Super Bowl LIV last year, it took the Chiefs just a year to get right back.
With a dominating 38-24 victory Sunday night over Buffalo in the AFC championship game, the Chiefs are headed to Tampa to take on the NFC-champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Super Bowl LV on Feb. 7. It will mark the first time in NFL history that a team will compete in a Super Bowl on its home field, but the defending-champion Chiefs are the favorites.
It’s exactly where the Chiefs and many others expected them to be, especially after going 14-2 in the regular season — the best record in the NFL this season and the best regular season in franchise history. The Chiefs offense ranked No. 1 in total yards per game (415.8), passing yards per game (303.4), and quarterback Patrick Mahomes finished second in total passing yards (4,740).
“It’s just trusting each other,” Mahomes told CBS on the field after the game. “The best thing about this team is we believe in each other, and every single time we hit the field, we leave everything we have. But the job’s not finished. We’re going to Tampa and we’re gonna try to run it back.”
The quarterback was preceded on the podium by the team’s owner and CEO, Clark Hunt. He accepted the AFC championship trophy, which is called the Lamar Hunt Trophy. That’s Clark’s late father, who founded both the AFL and the Kansas City Chiefs. The Lamar Hunt Trophy is awarded each year (since 1984) to the winner of the AFC, but Clark received it for the first time last year.
“I’m so honored to accept this trophy on behalf of this incredible team, and the best fans in the National Football League,” Clark said Sunday night. “The Lord has blessed our family in so many ways. Coach (Andy) Reid, what a game today. Great job today. My dad would love the grit and determination of this team.”
Clark and the Hunt family are well known for sharing about their faith in Christ. “I want to thank the Lord for blessing us with this opportunity. The glory belongs to Him,” Clark said after receiving the AFC trophy last year. And after winning the Super Bowl, Clark said, “I want to thank the Lord for blessing our family with all these incredible people who have helped us bring this championship home.”
The winning culture is a result of the Christ-centered culture the Hunts have been establishing for decades.
Marcellus Casey is the team’s chaplain, and his dad, Carey Casey, was a team chaplain years earlier. Marcellus will never forget the day he first met Lamar Hunt.
“I remember as a little kindergartner in the parking lot meeting Lamar Hunt and just how cordial and kind and loving he was with my father and I,” Marcellus said last year on the Sports Spectrum Podcast. “And you just see that legacy throughout the whole family with Clark and his wife, Tavia, and all the Clark siblings. It’s really a family environment. It’s really a faith-filled environment at the stadium and with their family. So it makes it really easy as a chaplain to have a positive impact with the players and with the coaches.”
That environment is one of the reasons offensive lineman Stefen Wisniewski signed with Kansas City in 2019. After helping the Chiefs win the championship last year, he signed with Pittsburgh in March but was cut in November. Two weeks later, he rejoined the Chiefs and helped them back to the Super Bowl. In his 10 years in the NFL, he’s played for five different teams. The 2017-18 Super Bowl-winning Philadelphia Eagles was a squad with a strong Christian core, and he sees something similar in Kansas City.
“There’s definitely a lot of Christians in the organization, and when it starts at the top, that’s pretty powerful, with the owner, and he kind of sets it from there,” Wisniewski told Sports Spectrum at the Super Bowl last year.
Clark, who became a Christian at 10 years old, says he makes faith a top priority for his staff.
“We want our employees to develop spiritually,” Hunt said in October 2019, according to the Tyler Morning Telegraph. “In the National Football League, Christ is really glorified. My identity is my faith in Christ.”
Since 2014 (but not in 2020 due to COVID restrictions), through a partnership with Fellowship of Christian Athletes, local churches and Hunt’s direct support, the Chiefs have offered their fans a nondenominational pregame chapel service, the first such recurring onsite faith event in the NFL. Church of the Resurrection was the 2019 host of the event, which took place every week there was a 12 p.m. home game. Because fans at Arrowhead Stadium may miss their normal Sunday worship opportunities by attending Chiefs games, a service was held in a pavilion near the stadium and featured a message and worship starting at 10 a.m.
Hunt and his family regularly attended.
“It’s neat that he makes the effort for him and his family to come,” Kris Thomas, an FCA area representative in Kansas, said in 2017. “I guarantee on Christmas Eve they have a lot people out there who would like their time. And yet they make this a priority. I haven’t been here where they haven’t been here.”
“You’re establishing a new culture,” FCA’s Kansas City Director Alex Campbell said in 2017. “You get to see this thing come to a fruition where lives can be changed. Now people are actually saying, ‘If this happens, then I’ll get season tickets (for next year).’ The service has that much of an impact, and the season-ticket holders are saying, ‘We need this.’ It’s got to be fulfillment for the Hunt family for even having the vision.”
Since 2015, the Chiefs have advanced to the playoffs each year. They’ve won the AFC West the past five years, and have hosted the AFC championship game the past three years. Now they’re in a second consecutive Super Bowl, aiming to run it back.