Chiefs Hall of Honor

AFL

Willie Lanier

Willie Lanier

LB

1967-1977

Born: August 21, 1945 (Clover, VA)

College: Morgan State

Drafted: By Chiefs, 1967 / 2nd Rd (50th overall)

Career Highlights:

  • Pro Football 75th Anniversary All-Time Team, 1994
  • AFL All-Star Game, 1968-69
  • Outstanding Defensive Player Pro Bowl, 1972
  • All-AFL/AFC, 1968-75
  • All-Pro, 1970-75
  • NFL Man of the Year, 1972
  • Chiefs Hall of Fame Inductee, 1985
  • Pro Football Hall of Fame Inductee, 1986
  • College Football Hall of Fame Inductee, 2000

Though he’d been a small-college All-American at Morgan State, Lanier was little known when the Chiefs drafted him in 1967. A year later, “Honeybear” had earned the starting middle linebacker job (becoming the first African-American to play the position regularly in pro football history) and become the heart of a revamped Chiefs defense. Mobile and instinctive, Lanier was a five-time All-Pro selection and made eight All-Star or Pro Bowl appearances. In 1994, he was named to the NFL’s 75th Anniversary All-Time team. During his career, he demonstrated a penchant for thunderous hits, which eventually forced him to wear a modified helmet, with extra padding on the crown, to prevent repeated concussions. His teammates would point to Lanier’s unusually vocal exhortations as being the inspiration for the Chiefs’ epic goal-line stand against the New York Jets in the first round of the 1969 playoffs. “There’s no question in my mind that he was as good as or better than any middle linebacker who ever played the game,” said teammate Jim Lynch. He had the smarts, the finesse, plus he had tremendous power.”

Case Objects