Otis Taylor, Star Receiver for the Kansas City Chiefs, Dies at 80March 11, 2023
Otis Taylor, a graceful former star wide receiver for the Kansas City Chiefs who caught the touchdown pass that nailed down the team’s upset victory over the Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl IV, died on Thursday. He was 80.
The team announced his death but did not say where he died or cite a cause. He had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and dementia.
Clark Hunt, the Chiefs’ principal owner, described Taylor in a statement as “one of the most dynamic receivers of his era,” adding that he “helped revolutionize the position” and that “off the field, he was kind and dedicated to his community.”
Over an 11-year career that began in 1965, when the Chiefs were one of the top teams in the American Football League, Taylor was one of quarterback Len Dawson’s key offensive targets. (Dawson died last year at 87.) Tall and acrobatic with soft hands, he was the prototype for the big receivers who would come to dominate the position.
In 1966, his breakout season, Taylor caught 58 passes for 1,297 yards, an average of 22.4 yards a catch. Five years later, after the A.F.L.’s merger with the N.F.L was finalized, Taylor led the league with 1,110 receiving yards, and United Press International named him the N.F.L.’s player of the year.
“If a ball is thrown to me, I should catch it,” Taylor told Sports Illustrated in 1971. He added: “God did give me two hands to catch with, and if the ball comes when I can’t use one of them, I’ll use the other. I’m not defeated.”
When the Chiefs faced the Vikings in Super Bowl IV on Jan. 11, 1970, it was their second appearance in the championship game. They had lost to the Green Bay Packers, 35-10, in the first Super Bowl.
The Vikings were 13 ½-point favorites, but the Chiefs handled them easily. Kansas City was leading, 16-7, late in the third quarter when Dawson tossed a short pass to Taylor. He shook off a tackle from Earsell Mackbee, a cornerback; faked Karl Kassulke, a safety; and ran in for a 46-yard touchdown. Their 23-7 victory would be the Chiefs’ only Super Bowl win until 2020; they won the championship again last month.
“That’s it, boys!” Chiefs coach Hank Stram said gleefully from the sideline. “Otis!”
Otis Taylor Jr. was born on Aug. 11, 1942, in Houston. He was a star receiver at Prairie View A&M University in Texas and was drafted in the fourth round of the A.F.L. draft by the Chiefs and in the 15th round of the N.F.L. draft by the Philadelphia Eagles.
In his rookie season, when he started four of the Chiefs’ 14 games, he caught 26 passes for 446 yards. He emerged as a star the next season, and over his career he was chosen for the Pro Bowl three times and was a first-team All-Pro twice.
He caught a total of 410 passes in his career for 7,306 yards, with 57 touchdowns. He ranks third in Chiefs history in receiving yards, after Tony Gonzalez and Travis Kelce.
Taylor’s playing career ended after the 1975 season, and he became a scout for the team. In 1981, he was upset that Marv Levy, the Chiefs head coach at the time, had not interviewed him for an assistant coaching job.
“I was the most frustrated and saddest man in the world,” Taylor told The Kansas City Star. “All the jobs that were available, and I never got a call from anyone. I’ll never put myself on a pedestal and say I should get a coaching job because I’m Otis Taylor. That’s not the way the system works. But it would be nice at least to be thought of.”
He was diagnosed with Parkinson’s and dementia in 1990. He filed a successful claim under the roughly $1 billion class action settlement that resulted from players who sued the N.F.L. for covering up the dangers of concussions. His family cited “multiple repetitive traumatic head impacts, subconcussive and concussive injuries” during games and practices, and he sought medical care for the rest of his life.
He was described as being bedridden and dependent on a feeding tube by The Associated Press in a 2016 article.
Taylor’s survivors included his wife, Regina Taylor; his sister, Odell; and his son, Otis III.
While several of his teammates have been inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Taylor has fallen short, most recently last year.
“If you close your eyes and think about something you want to happen,” he told The Star in 1999, “it can happen if only for a second or two.”
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