MIAMI, Fla. -- Bobby Bell won a national championship in college at the University of Minnesota and later the Super Bowl when he played for the Kansas City Chiefs. He is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame and recently was named one of the NFL's top 100 players of all time.
But Bell puts awarding the Lamar Hunt Trophy to Kansas City team chairman Clark Hunt, after the Chiefs victory in the AFC Championship Game, at the "top of my list" of personal achievements. The Lamar Hunt Trophy, named for the Chiefs' late founder, is given to the AFC champion each year.
"Lamar and I were really close," Bell said of Hunt, who died in 2006. "He was like a dad to me."
On Sunday, the Chiefs will play in the Super Bowl for the first time in 50 years. Bell, now 79, was a star linebacker for the Chiefs on their last Super Bowl team, 23-7 victors over the Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl IV during their final season in the old American Football League.
The Chiefs, who will play against the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday in Miami (6:30 p.m. ET, Fox), have no bigger fans than the members of the franchise's last Super Bowl winning team. The 1969 Chiefs take an extraordinary amount of pride in the current team.
Several players from that team, most in their 70s and 80s and some coming from distant places like Virginia, Louisiana and Texas, braved wind chill in the single digits to be in Kansas City to watch the Chiefs beat the Titans in the AFC Championship Game.
"I thought of all my former teammates during the game and after the game," Hall of Fame kicker Jan Stenerud said. "It was a reminder of what we achieved. Winning that championship gives us a bond that's hard to break."
Hall of Fame defensive tackle Curley Culp played seven seasons of his 14-year NFL career with the Chiefs. He also spent time with the Houston Oilers and Detroit Lions.
But he said he identifies as a Chief because of what that 1969 team was able to accomplish. Culp traveled to each of the Chiefs' playoff games this year from his home in Texas.
"We won the Super Bowl when I was there," Culp said. "We came close a couple of times when I was with the Oilers, but in Kansas City I was able to be surrounded by some great players there and we found that connection. So I always follow the Chiefs regardless of what they do, win or lose. It's great they're going back to the Super Bowl after 50 years. That's a long dry spell, to say the least."
Loyalty to Lamar Hunt and his family is a reason many of the former Chiefs are so interested in seeing the modern team do well. That's particularly true for African-American players like Bell and Hall of Fame linebacker Willie Lanier.
Opportunities for black football players in the 1950s and 1960s weren't always available, Bell went from his childhood home in North Carolina to Minnesota to play in college. Lanier stayed closer to his home but played for a historically black college at Morgan State.
Back in those days, jobs in professional football were difficult to come by for African-American players.
"That's why we're all happy for the Hunt family," Lanier said. "With Lamar being who he was and with his interest in having a wonderful, diversified roster, we were able to go forth and do the things we did. The Hunt family and the American Football League created employment for gentlemen from historically black colleges. They gave us the opportunity."
Lanier was supposed to present the Lamar Hunt Trophy to Clark Hunt last year after the AFC Championship Game, but the Chiefs lost to the New England Patriots in overtime.
"It's disappointing that I never got that chance," Lanier said. "It was a chance to appreciate the person who was the architect, the leader, the man who made it all happen. You have to acknowledge all the Hunt family has done for so many people."
The 1969 Chiefs thought they would go on to play in multiple Super Bowls after beating the Vikings. They had 11 AFL All-Stars. Eight players plus coach Hank Stram would go on to become members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
"I think you always think that," Stenerud said. "We won convincingly, by 16 points. We played almost a flawless game. It seemed like there would be more Super Bowls for us."
The Chiefs failed to reach the playoffs in 1970 and the following year lost the famous Christmas Day playoff game to the Miami Dolphins. That double-overtime game remains the longest in NFL history.
The Chiefs wouldn't make the playoffs again until 1986. They've played in the AFC Championship Game three times, the first two being defeats.
The Chiefs had many lean seasons in between, leading Bell and others to wonder whether they would live long enough to see their former team in another Super Bowl.
"I thought I would have to go back to playing for them," Bell said. "I thought I'd have to put the uniform back on."
If the Chiefs win the Super Bowl, Lanier is looking forward to being part of the parade. He missed the victory parade in Kansas City after Super Bowl IV.
He was one of 11 Chiefs who returned with the team to Kansas City from New Orleans, site of Super Bowl IV, but then turned right around for Houston, where they participated in the last AFL All-Star game.
"That was a piece of the puzzle that makes winning that Super Bowl incomplete," he said. "I saw wonderful pictures of the parade and I feel we missed out a part of the whole experience."
Jack Steadman, then the Chiefs general manager, apologized to Lanier and the others for not including them in the parade.
"He told me the next time we went to the Super Bowl, he would let us come back to Kansas City and be a part of the parade and other festivities and then go to the All-Star game," Lanier said.
"We never got that chance. So if the Chiefs win this year, I'll be in Kansas City for the parade."