Remembering the Chiefs’ Mack Lee Hill

I have long had an interest in the handful of players who passed away as members of AFL teams.  There were a surprising number of them – Howard Glenn, Ralph Anderson, Bob Laraba, Stone Johnson, Mack Lee Hill, Bob Kalsu and Frank Buncom.  As players they made various contributions to their teams, yet none had the opportunity to reach their full potential, as their lives were cut short in one fashion or another.

1964 topps - 110 - chiefs team - mack lee hill

1964 Topps Kansas City Chiefs team card autographed by Bert Coan and Mack Lee Hill.

Unfortunately, the names of these players have mostly been lost in the annals of history.  The majority of football fans do not know their names, although a few have remembered by some sort of honor bestowed upon them by their team.  The Kansas City Chiefs remember Mack Lee Hill by naming their team rookie of the year award after the young running back who died due to complications from knee surgery.

In 2015, Fox Sports did the piece linked below on Mack Lee Hill, and provided commentary from several of his teammates.  Many of Hill’s teammates (and opponents) are regular readers of this site.  I am sure that I speak for all of us when I say that I would love to hear any comments that you all might have on Mack Lee Hill.

Fifty years later, Kansas City Chiefs teammates remember Mack Lee Hill

mack lee hill

Mack Lee Hill prepares to run into the Patriots’ Ross O’Hanley.

Todd Tobias (790 Posts)

Todd Tobias's interest in the American Football League began in 1998, when he wrote my master's thesis about Sid Gillman. He created this site to educate and entertain football fans with the stories of the American Football League, 1960-1969. You can follow Todd and get more AFL history on Twitter @TalesfromtheAFL.

2 Responses to Remembering the Chiefs’ Mack Lee Hill

  1. afl says:

    Mack ‘The Truck’ Hill, or for those prefer, Mack Truck, was good. In fact, tho he lost out in 1964 ‘AFL Rookie of the Year’ voting to the Jets Matt Snell (a deserving player who set an then team record for seasonal rushing yardage), Hill actually averaged more yards per rush 5.5 to 4.4, and scored just as many tds as Snell despite having had 155 fewer touches that year.

    Neither the Chiefs nor Jets were world beaters that season, neither with a winning record (tho interestingly, just five years hence, both would have won an Superbowl, one team following the other to the NFL’s chagrin.) Not to knock Snell (who scored AFL’s first rushing td a Superbowl), he was the #1 draft choice of the Jets and #3 overall pick that years draft, and also received benefit playing the big market NY, whereas free agent Hill played in the tall wheat fields and low visibility of KC.

    An aside, in 1966 another Chiefs RB was stiffed (my opine) for ‘AFL Rookie of the Year’, in lieu yet another (state of) NY RB same.

    Mike Garrett, the Chiefs first Mack Lee Hill Award winner the season aft Hill’s death, gained 35 more yards in 40 fewer carries, averaged 1.4 ‘more’ yards per rush & scored as many tds (8) as the ROY winner BUFF’s Bobby Burnett (this despite 28 fewer overall touches ’66 than Burnett.)

    Burnett was a fine player that season whose career was derailed by injury thereafter.
    He was a 4th round AFL pick, while Garrett was a 20th rounder (Mike was a #2 pick in the NFL draft by the LA Rams and Burnett was an 10th rounder by the CHIC Bears; some guy named Gale Sayers would’ve been Bobby’s competition in CHIC and too another free agent RB Brian Piccolo, who arrived with Sayers the year before. Was another guy who turned out pretty well for the Bears too 1965, a LB named Dick Butkus.)

    Back to Hill, he was one of a number of 1960’s Chiefs and/or wannabes who died while still active as a player, or in the course attempting be one. In addition the listed deaths of Johnson, Hill and injuries to Budde and Arbanas referenced in the article, the 1968 Chiefs had a guy named Bruce McLenna who died in an vehicle accident before training camp that year. And under the category of ‘what might have been’ good times for he and the Chiefs, a back who tried out for the Chiefs in both 1966 and 1967 but did not make the team(s), did go on to success on the small and silver screen: actor John Amos (‘Good Times’, ‘Mary Tyler Moore Show’ & ‘Vanishing Point’ among other.)

    Now if the Chiefs Hank Stram could have convinced Wilt Chamberlain to play TE in the mid 1960’s (which Hank imagined Wilt doing, having invited ‘The Big Dipper’ training camp one year), what DB could have covered the 7’1 red zone threat? Have a suspicion ‘Stilt’s spindly (comparison) legs would not have had a long career as a Chief.

  2. Philbeaux says:

    Graduated from Southern, not far from where I am.
    I read somewhere he was deathly afraid of going into surgery when he died. Supposedly he had a really bad feeling. Just a tragic story.

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