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Chiefs great Otis Taylor dies at 80

Kansas City Chiefs Otis Taylor

Football: Kansas City Chiefs Otis Taylor (89) in action, making catch vs Oakland Raiders. Oakland, CA 10/31/1971 CREDIT: Walter Iooss Jr. (Photo by Walter Iooss Jr. /Sports Illustrated via Getty Images) (Set Number: X16307 TK1 F21 )

Sports Illustrated via Getty Ima

Otis Taylor, a speedy wide receiver who spent 11 seasons with the Chiefs, has died at the age of 80.

“The Kansas City Chiefs organization is saddened by the passing of Otis Taylor,” Chiefs owner Clark Hunt said. “My family and I would like to extend our heartfelt condolences to Otis’ wife Regina, his sister Odell and the entire Taylor family as we mourn his passing. Otis was a Chief throughout his 11-year career, and he played an integral part in the early success of our franchise. He became a Kansas City icon with his signature touchdown in Super Bowl IV, as he helped the Chiefs bring home our first Lombardi Trophy. He was one of the most dynamic receivers of his era, and he helped revolutionize the position. Off-the-field, he was kind and dedicated to his community. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family. Otis’ legacy will live forever as a member of the Chiefs Hall of Fame.”

After playing his college football at Prairie View A&M, Taylor was drafted by both the Eagles in the 1965 NFL draft and the Chiefs in the 1965 AFL draft. In those days, the NFL and AFL fiercely fought each other for players, and the legend of Taylor ending up with the Chiefs is that NFL officials put Taylor up in a hotel room while trying to sign him, and used guards to keep AFL officials away. But longtime Chiefs scout Lloyd Wells found out where Taylor was staying, sneaked past security, and got to Taylor with a contract that he signed.

Taylor’s play made him well worth the trouble it took to sign him. As a rookie he scored five touchdowns, and in his second season he led the AFL with an average of 22.4 yards per catch while helping the Chiefs reach Super Bowl I. After the AFL-NFL merger, Taylor proved he was as good a wide receiver as there was in football, in either league. In his best season, 1971, he led the NFL with 1,110 receiving yards and finished second in Associated Press MVP voting, still the highest any wide receiver has ever finished.

But for all of Taylor’s big plays, perhaps his best-known play was an ugly fight with Raiders defensive end Ben Davidson in 1970. Davidson delivered a cheap shot to Chiefs quarterback Len Dawson just as the Chiefs had secured a game-winning first down, Taylor retaliated and started a fight with the much bigger Davidson, a brawl broke out, and the result was offsetting penalties that negated the first down, forcing the Chiefs to punt and leading to a Raiders game-winning field goal that resulted in the Raiders winning the division and the Chiefs just missing the playoffs. The next offseason, the NFL changed its rules so that offsetting personal foul penalties after a play would not negate the result of the play.

Taylor was also known for an incident during the 1987 players’ strike, long after Taylor retired, when he was working for the Chiefs as a scout. Chiefs linebacker Jack Del Rio saw Taylor reporting to work, mistook Taylor for one of the scabs the owners had signed to replace the striking players, and attacked him. Taylor sued Del Rio and the suit was settled out of court.

Taylor has long been viewed as a strong candidate for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Last year he was chosen as a semifinalist by the Hall of Fame’s seniors committee.