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Chris Burford

Northern California has produced many football players who have played on the sport's biggest stage, the Super Bowl. From Lynn Swann to Tom Brady, the grandest stage in all of sports has seen no shortage of players from the upper half of the Golden State. Chris Burford was the first. The wide receiver from Oakland traveled quit an interesting road that took him all the way to Kansas City and the very first Super Bowl. This is his story.

Early Years

Chris Burford was born on January 31, 1938 in Oakland, California. After graduating from Oakland High School in 1956, he earned a football scholarship to Stanford University. His first two years were quiet but by his junior year he was third in the nation with 45 receptions. As a senior in 1959, he was an All American while leading the nation in receptions (61) and receiving yards (756). He was the Indian's lone bright spot in both years as they finished 1958 with a 2-8 record and 1959 an abysmal 3-7. Though he was picked in the 9th round of the 1960 NFL Draft, the AFL's Dallas Texans saw his potential and drafted him in the 1st round. Seeing a better opportunity in Dallas, Chris Burford went to the upstart league.

The Texans/Chiefs

From their very beginning, the Dallas Texans were at the forefront of offensive innovation. Led by head coach Hank Stram, opposing defenses were left helpless in the unknown. In his rookie year, Chris Burford benefitted from the passes of quarterback Cotton Davidson, leading the team with 46 catches for 789 yards and five touchdowns.

He continued to be the Texans' best pass catching option in 1961, catching 51 passes for 850 yards and five touchdowns.

The Texans' first two years of existence were marred with inconsistency, finishing each year behind the Chargers in their division. The right pieces fell into place in 1962 when the team signed quarterback Len Dawson. Suddenly, the team that had consistently hovered around .500 the previous two years was 11-3, division champions and headed to the AFL Championship versus the Houston Oilers. Though Burford didn't play in the double overtime triumph, he still had an excellent year with the team, recording 45 receptions for 645 yards and a career best 12 touchdowns.

Despite their recent success, Texans owner Lamar Hunt realized that the team couldn't compete with the NFL's Dallas Cowboys for long and would have to move. Soon after the AFL title game, the team packed up its bags and headed to Kansas City where they would be renamed the Chiefs. Chris Burford played well in the Chief's inaugural season, catching 68 passes for 824 yards and nine touchdowns while the Chiefs finished the year third in their division.

Chris Burford's production began to diminish in 1964 as he finished second on the team with 51 receptions and third on the team with 675 yards and seven touchdowns. Meanwhile, the Chiefs were stuck in mediocrity, finishing 7-7 in 1964. Despite Burford's six touchdowns, Kansas City still finished 7-5-2 in 1965 as they continued to search for a winning formula.

The Chiefs found their winning ways again in 1966, going 11-2-1 and winning the AFL championship over the Buffalo Bills. Along the way, Chris Burford provided stability at receiver, matching Otis Taylor with the team lead of 58 receptions and eight touchdowns. The Chiefs went on to the very first Super Bowl in Los Angeles against the mighty Green Bay Packers who were led by the legendary coach Vince Lombardi. In the end, Kansas City stood no chance and lost 35-10. Chris Burford contributed with four receptions for 67 yards.

Burford and the Chiefs suffered through the trauma of losing a Super Bowl the following year and never recovered, losing the division crown to the arch-rival Oakland Raiders. Burford retired at the end of the season, holding the franchise record for receptions (391) and having gained 5,505 yards and scoring 55 touchdowns. He was inducted into the Chiefs Hall of Fame in 1975, the College Football Hall of Fame in 1995 and ironically into the African American Sports Hall of Fame in 2010, having been nominated by an African American teammate Abner Haynes. Chris Burford left a legacy that future Chiefs would follow in the years to come.

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