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Know Your KU History: Curtis McClinton

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We’re keeping this edition of Know Your KU History local with running back Curtis McClinton.

Kansas running back Curtis McClinton was one of those guys that spurned the NFL for the up and coming AFL. To put it into context, you have to consider that the rules were a little different back then. For one, McClinton was drafted in the 10th round (110th overall pick) of the 1960 NFL draft but returned to Kansas to play his senior season. Obviously, it wouldn’t work that way today. A year later, he was taken by the Dallas Texans in the 14th round (110th overall pick again!) of the AFL draft.

That pick had to be one of the shrewdest picks in football history. His college stats while at Kansas don’t jump out at you, but they are solid and steady. During his three years at KU (1959-61), he ran for 1414 yards and averaged 4.5 yards per carry. His best season came in 1961 when he led the Big 8 in rushing touchdowns with eight. He even caught 10 passes at an average of 16.6 yards per catch and snagged an additional two more touchdowns through the air. He led KU to the 1961 Bluebonnet Bowl and scored a touchdown in a 33-7 demolition of Rice. McClinton also made the Sporting News All-American team that year.

As for his time in the pros, McClinton had a short but eventful pro career in the AFL. In 1962, the only season that he played in a Dallas Texans helmet, he was voted the AFL Rookie of the Year when he had a combined 937 yards from scrimmage. In the following years with the Kansas City Chiefs, McClinton established himself as one of the best run-catch threats in football.

His best season came in 1966 when he ran for 661 yards and led the league with six rushing touchdowns. He also caught 19 balls for 285 yards and an additional five more touchdowns. These numbers helped Kansas City win the AFL and participate in the first ever Super Bowl against the Green Bay Packers in January of 1967. McClinton was the first ever AFL player to score a TD in a Super Bowl when he caught Len Dawson’s seven yard second quarter pass. Of course the Chiefs lost that first encounter, but McClinton would not finish his career in KC without a championship.

McClinton played his last season of pro football in 1969, helping the Chiefs reach Super Bowl IV as a backup tight end. He didn’t see much action in that game, but he is one of a select few that can say they have won a Super Bowl for Kansas City. The three time AFL All-Star (1962, 1966, 1967) retired from football after that game. Since then, he has been elected to the Kansas City Chiefs Hall of Fame and the Kansas football Ring of Honor.