“It’s a beautiful trophy and I can’t think of a better conclusion to the 100th season of the NFL than receiving this trophy.” -Clark Hunt
It was a season of perseverance. Many obstacles riddled this journey, but the team knew. The organization knew. It was our time, Chiefs Kingdom. And I’m here to tell it so that we never forget.
Let me begin by introducing myself for those who don’t know: My name is Gracie Hunt, eldest daughter of Clark and Tavia Hunt and granddaughter of Norma and the late Lamar Hunt. I have almost completed my degrees in journalism and sports management from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, but Kansas City is my home away from home.
There are many more people who are the heartbeat of this team and do the heavy lifting and deserve the credit. I am not here to claim that, but I lived through it and am here to tell you how it all went down and the eerie, almost miraculous storylines surrounding the culmination of 50 years on 02-02-2020. Yes, it is called a palindrome day and is when it forms the same date forward and backward. This is the only time such a date will occur this century. The previous palindrome date in all formats came 909 years ago on 11-11-1111. Mind. Blown.
Now let me tell you the story of the 100th season of the National Football League.
I believe this story actually begins in the heart-wrenching loss to the Patriots in the 2019 AFC Championship game. It hurt. Actually, to say it merely hurt is a gross understatement. However, it sparked the revolution that burned within each man of the team’s heart. It bonded them as more than a football squad but as a true band of brothers. Football is family, as we like to say.
Fast forward to training camp in St. Joe’s, MO. The Chiefs are embarking on our 60th season as a franchise and are entering into our 50th season since winning the Lombardi Trophy. Lamar Hunt, known as Pappy to me, founded the AFL in 1959 and helped negotiate the merger between his American Football League and the National Football League in 1966 to form the NFL as we know and love it today.
Long story short the Chiefs played in Super Bowl I and lost to the Packers and then went back and won Super Bowl IV against the Vikings in 1970.
Back to 2019 Chiefs Training Camp.
My dad gives what he did not realize would become an iconic speech that went viral:
“In terms of our goals, it’s pretty simple,” Dad said. “It starts with winning the AFC Championship. We were inches from getting that done last year. For the first time, we hosted the AFC Championship game at Arrowhead Stadium, and those of you who were on the team know how that turned out. But this team can get back there and when we do, we’re going to win that trophy. That trophy has my dad’s name on it. It’s something that is very important to the organization. Once we do that, then we’re going to go to Miami and win the Lombardi Trophy, and anything less is not going to be a success.”
He set the tone for the season. Because of this, even when Patrick suffered a dislocated kneecap on October 17th and had to miss several games, no one allowed themselves to lose sight of the overall vision, and it preserved the clarity with which everyone moved towards Miami.
Miami Helped Us Get to Miami
On December 29th, 2019, the Miami Dolphins made the trip to take on the 2019 Super Bowl Champions, the New England Patriots. That same day, at that same time, the Chiefs were hosting the Los Angeles Chargers. The Chiefs beat the Chargers 31-21. However, across the country on the East Coast, a Miami Miracle was in motion. Kevin Harlan was calling both games and with a stunning victory in the last ten seconds on the clock, Miami beat New England 27-24 and the Chiefs earned the second seed in the AFC, along with a first-round bye in the playoffs.
Divisional Round of the Playoffs: The Houston Texans
We were down 24-0. Then, the greatest comeback in Chiefs history ensued. Mahomes magic combined with Reid Resilience and a brilliant team effort led to a 51-31 Chiefs victory. If you missed the game, you might not believe me, so go and watch what transpired at Arrowhead on January 12th.
AFC Championship Game: The Tennessee Titians
As the chaos ensued, the clock running out, the 2020 AFC Championship Game concluded. I looked around as reporters, photographers, and the team flooded the center of the field. Confetti erupted. Insane love, joy, and relief consumed Arrowhead. I shed a few tears as I watched my father raise the trophy that bears his father’s—my Pappy’s name on it. And seeing Mimi Norma kiss the Lamar Hunt AFC Championship Trophy meant the world. It was a beautiful moment and truly felt surreal while it was happening.
Once the press conferences were finished and the crowd of jubilant fans cleared, we ventured down to the confetti-covered pitch and made snow angels. As I lay upon the field, I looked up into the cold sky and closed my eyes.
“Confetti falls to the ground. May these memories break our fall.” -Taylor Swift
The next two weeks were either the longest or the shortest weeks of my life. I still haven’t decided which.
The first consisted of managing the 1,000 logistics and questions that you never knew you needed to manage or answer unless you are a frequenter to the Super Bowl. Let’s just say the Super Bowl 50 years ago was not exactly the global spectacle it is in 2020 haha.
The Week Before the Game
For me, entering into Super Bowl week itself brought the whir of packing, tailor visits, spray tans, workouts at 4:30 in the morning, and the schedule of the week.
The parties and events, even with all of their profile and glamour, are now but a blur in my memory and are thankfully documented by pictures.
Welcome to Game Day
I wake up at 5:00 a.m., fix my ponytail and pull on my sneakers. Methodically grab my iPad and air pods, some water, and hop on the treadmill, starting my Garmin. Just like any other day. However, my mind keeps replaying the thought “We have a football game to play today.” I look out the large windows across the city of Miami. Still shrouded in darkness, the sunrise has not had a chance to burn the nightly fog off from the ocean. The treadmill belt hums while I try to process the reality that this is *the day.* Two weeks of anticipation have made this morning seem almost sacred.
Daddy wakes up about an hour later and comes to join me in the gym. We workout together early in the mornings on most days. He crushes it on the Peloton while I embrace my former soccer player and run seven miles or so. Today is no different. The rest of the family wakes one by one. Mimi Norma sips on hot tea and enjoys some berries and oatmeal while Austin Ryde perfects her hair and makeup for this historic day. Knobel and Ava sit together, enjoying pancakes, and Mom enjoys some fruit while having her hair curled and set.
Dad asks me about my night out in between his sets of bench presses. I tell him about what my girlfriend, Payton, and I were up to and about the people we met. All very interesting and entertaining tea…none of which I can share with ya’ll 😉. She and I headed back to the hotel at a decent hour, knowing that we wanted to workout before the big day ahead.
Our conversation moved along to other topics. Before leaving the gym, I remember turning to him and saying, “You are an amazing man and father, Clark Hunt. You have worked so hard to be here and we all couldn’t be prouder of you. I love you.” I know my mom also took him aside to share some words with him that morning. We all knew that the game was in God’s hands, and everyone had prepared as much as possible to be the best they could be.
I finish up my workout, shower, grab a bite of breakfast, and hit the hair and makeup chair. We laughed. We cried (although I tried to cry on the inside like a winner to not smudge Austin’s masterpiece). That is something we say in the Hunt Household: “Cry on the inside like a winner.” This is especially hilarious because usually tears are being shed in situations where there is no winning happening.
We are overwhelmed with excitement, nervous energy, but at the same time peace permeates each of us. We are going to win this game.
Austin, who has weathered a few pageants with me both as the winner and as runner up looks across the room and shares his brilliant revelation: “Guys! This is way better than a pageant because you can come back and win it year after year!” To which Knobel adds: “Yeah, it is better than a pageant because we can *actually* win it.” My stomach cramps with laughter along with everyone else’s in the room.
The nerves killed my appetite and so from about 10:00 a.m. until Shakira was shaking it during the Pepsi halftime show, I couldn’t manage anything.
The morning flew by and before I knew it, the time to head to Hard Rock Stadium arrived.
We loaded the black sedan and pulled out, following the expert police motorcade. I sat in the middle seat of the middle row in the car. Mimi Norma to my left and my Dad to my right. I slipped my hand around Mimi’s svelte fingers as Mom read a sweet message and prayer sent from a friend aloud.
One lonely tear trickled down the side of my face.
I held her hand in my left and my Dad’s in my right as the stadium came into view. It had been 54 years since she attended her first Super Bowl. And now her Chiefs were in the game and she was about to witness history.
We arrived, immediately going to the NFL VIP Tailgate. Ornamented with palm trees, ice sculptures, cabanas draped in white linens…it was beautiful. The aroma of the buffet was tempting, but the raw nerves forbade my appetite.
After about an hour of making the rounds, it was time to head over to the Chiefs friends and family pregame tailgate. Our dearest friends encircled us and excitedly chattered. Meanwhile, I was beyond happy to see each person who holds a special place in my or my family’s heart. However, what I was actually feeling can be best described as an out-of-body experience.
I was watching my surroundings in slow motion. Each breath I inhaled bore the nerves of a lifetime of football. I grew up on the sidelines of soccer and football games. I have lived through both losing and winning seasons, as has my entire family—Mimi Norma, Clark, and my mom, Tavia, more than anyone.
It was strange because I don’t think that I was nervous about the game. In my soul, God had given me the assurance that we were going to win. That is why even during the most stressful time in the game—I knew what was going to happen. I think that the anticipation of the last two weeks is what led to my restless spirit. And also knowing just how much that moment and the match to come meant to Mimi and Dad and Coach Reid—and all of us.
We all wanted this so badly for Coach Reid and his wife Tammy. She has weathered more than a few seasons as a coach’s wife, but if you know Tammy, you know that she is Queen Sparkle when it comes to fashion and the Head Coach of the Head Coach on and off of game day. She is an incredible person and if I had to choose a role model outside my family, she is definitely in contention for that top spot.
I entered the field at Hard Rock Stadium, and she was one of the first people I grabbed and gave a hug. Ironically, she was wearing the red metallic cheetah print blazer and matching slacks that my mom had also thought she was going to wear. Thanks to a chic custom gift that had arrived at our hotel the night before from the Diamond Duchess, Tavia had made a last-minute change to her outfit for Super Sunday. Although it seems like a small thing, call it what you want, but I believe God orchestrated that also.
Warmups concluded. The game ensued. Shakira and JLO shook what their mammas gave them. The second half kicked off. My emotions rode the roller coaster equivalent of the Black Mamba at Worlds of Fun about twenty-five times. And then we won.
I got a hold of Mimi with my arm wrapped behind her and walked from our suite down to the field with her. Step by step. I was not going to let her go. We stepped out onto the field and with the utter chaos caused by players, aggressive reporters, photographers, and everyone else who flooded the field, I knew I was not going to let anyone bump into or accidentally knock into her. I stood there, surrounded by Chiefs Kingdom and company, watching the confetti fall. I looked into her eyes and said, “This is real. This is happening. This Lombardi is for you.”
With tears of joy creeping into our eyes, we held each other, soaking in the moment and all that was transpiring around.
We made our way to the stage and she got to hold and kiss the trophy that her husband won for her fifty years before and her eldest son had now returned for her.
Following the on-field celebration (from which I still have confetti in places that confetti should never be), we rode back to the team hotel and partied like it was 1970. I may or may not have lived out my dream dancing with Flo Rida on stage to “Low,” and my feet may or may not have been so defeated that they had a heartbeat for next 24 hours, but it was an epic party and without a doubt the best day of my life to date.
It was you, Chiefs Kingdom. On Wednesday, February 5th, 2020 the Lombardi came back to its people in Kansas City. I rode next to Clark, Tavia, Coach Reid, Tammy, and my siblings as we traveled through the city to Union Station. God’s confetti fell from Heaven while I had the privilege to see the beauty and heart of the Kingdom firsthand.
As Kelce said, we fought for the right to party and as Coach Reid said, “save your spots, because we are coming back to the same place in 2021.”
Until next time, go and be great!