The Kansas City Chiefs hold a special place in the hearts of Lake area resident Dan Hagedorn and his wife Sharon.

The Kansas City Chiefs hold a special place in the hearts of Lake area resident Dan Hagedorn and his wife Sharon.

So much so, the couple decided it was best to wait until after the season to get married in December of 1969 because Sharon had season tickets. About two weeks later, the team gifted the newlyweds a Super Bowl title when the Chiefs beat the favored Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl IV.

The couple just recently celebrated their golden 50th anniversary and unfortunately, their beloved Chiefs are just now returning to the big game. It may have taken five decades, but there is an old adage that says good things come to those who wait.

“Hopes get up and go down because they don’t get in, but true Chiefs fans hang in there and wait for the the time that is coming. Low and behold, the hopes we have are here now,” Dan said of his faith in the club returning to football glory. “The Chiefs are back and it will be the same when we play. Hopes will be high and there is fear in the back of your heart that something will happen to make it not come true, but a true fan will be waiting and remain confident they will.”

It may be hard for some to wrap their minds around waiting 50 years for anything, especially in today’s world where news and information fly around at people’s fingertips. A period of 50 years is the stuff of time capsules- not a simple football game.

But Hagedorn’s fandom has remained unwavering, even after disappointing heartbreaks in the playoffs from previous Chiefs teams. That may be because he sees the organization as more than just a professional football team.

Many in the Lake area may know Hagedorn from the 28 years he spent as a high school counselor at Camdenton where he also operated the clock for 30 years at Laker football games. But another one of the roles he enjoyed was taking on Chiefs players on the basketball court.

During the offseason, the Chiefs put together a team of seven or eight players who would be paid to travel around to small towns and take on a school’s faculty or town team and Hagedorn had the privilege of playing the Chiefs on three different occasions. One of those occasions came when he was on the faculty of his alma mater at Slater High School, a town near Marshall and about 100 miles east of Kansas City. The other two happened at Camdenton and the memories are bountiful.

Hall of Famers Buck Buchanan, Willie Lanier, Bobby Bell and Emmitt Thomas were some of the Chiefs players Hagedorn remembers playing along with Nolan Smith, Mike Livingston, Nate Allen, Otis Taylor and Wilber Young.

“You got to know them personally and watch them as heroes,” Hagedorn said of the opportunity to play against Super Bowl champions. “It made it even more special to you to watch them win a big game.”

Hagedorn recalled warming up before one of the games where the 6-foot-6 Young went up for a dunk and accidentally bent the rim down before getting the metal hoop back to its proper place. There was also the time where Hagedorn was simply trying to keep up with Smith, a 5-foot-6 wide receiver and kick returner who earned the nickname “Super Gnat” because of his speed.

“I was running down the court trying to catch up with him, he stopped and I ran over him,” Hagedorn recalled, laughingly. “The next time I got a thud in my back and Willie Lanier said, ‘Don’t be hurting the little man.’”

The memories go beyond the court as well.

After one of the games, Chiefs players were signing autographs and Sharon asked to see Buchanan’s Super Bowl ring, which comfortably fit over two of her fingers. Having played the Chiefs on more than one occasion, Hagedorn also found it neat that Thomas immediately recognized him after four or five years before getting ready to play a game at Camdenton.

“It made me feel good that they were like regular people. We put them on pedestals and think they are above us common people, but everyone I met was as nice to you as you were to them,” Hagedorn said.

“The neatest thing about those games was how nice they were.”

Among all the Chiefs greats, Hagedorn’s favorite player was Fred Arbanas who never played in any of the basketball games. Arbanas once held Chiefs records for receptions and receiving yards for a tight end until Hall of Famer Tony Gonzalez came along and it was the position Hagedorn once played during his time on the gridiron for Slater. Coincidentally, Arbanas also married a girl named Sharon but a pair of cleats proved to be his deepest connection.

“When I started coaching football at Slater I needed some cleats. I was out of college with no money and one of my friends in Kansas City knew somebody who worked in equipment for the Chiefs,” Hagedorn said of the cleats Arbanas wore that would soon become his own. “I had his old cleats until they fell completely apart.“

As someone who once stood around the main streets back in Slater or in Marshall, hoping someone had an extra pair of tickets to Chiefs games, to having all those special memories and connections, it is not hard to see why Hagedorn still avidly roots for his team. The passion has passed on to his son, Luke, and grandson, Harrison Brownell, both former Laker football players.

Luke likes to dress up as current Chiefs coach Andy Reid and this Super Bowl is a special one for Brownell because his other favorite team in the NFL is the San Francisco 49ers, the team the Chiefs will be playing on Sunday in Super Bowl LIV. In his early days Brownell once played on a team called the 49ers, but grandpa already knows he will stick with the Chiefs in this one.

Dan and Sharon never had the opportunity to watch the big game 50 years ago back home with family and friends because Hagedorn had been drafted in the Army. The couple cheered on and watched their Chiefs win Super Bowl IV from a little apartment near their base in Alabama, but things will be a little different this time around, 50 years later.

Whether it was the Chiefs or watching Camdenton win five state championships on the football field, Hagedorn picked up a few things along the way that make up a championship caliber team and he likes Kansas City’s chances on Sunday.

“You have to have talent and that is a given this year. You also have to have luck, the ball is not round and bounces funny,” he said jokingly. “Things happen that never happened before. The team from 50 years ago and the team now has talent and some areas better than others, but they had Hall of Fame players then. Quarterback Len Dawson is in the Hall of Fame and I think the quarterback we have now (Patrick Mahomes), if he continues he will probably be in the Hall of Fame.

“The final thing is desire. You have to want it more than the other team does and give yourself to the whole game. The preparation coaches do and the input of players will be what determines it on Sunday.”