Remembering the NFL's First Full-Time Black Scout, Lloyd Wells

Posted Feb 26, 2016

Wells was paramount in building a roster that helped the Chiefs win Super Bowl IV

He was a man of many talents, but for Lloyd Wells, who lived a lavish life of luxury and the constant pursuit of the finer things, the legacy he left in Kansas City is one that will forever be tied to the first, and currently only, Super Bowl championship.

It was the 1960s and Lamar Hunt and the Kansas City Chiefs hired Wells as the first full-time black scout in the NFL.

He’s responsible for scouting and helping sign many of the players who were instrumental in the Chiefs beating the Minnesota Vikings, 23-7, back in Super Bowl IV.

At the time he was hired, Wells wasn’t necessarily a football guy, but he was well connected with the historically black colleges and universities. He was a photographer, worked with the newspapers and was, for lack of a better way of explaining it, a close confidant of legendary boxer Muhammad Ali.

He was a man known for many things, but bringing in key members of one of the best defenses in NFL history should be near the top of that list.

“There were three Hall of Famers from historically black colleges on our defense,” linebacker Willie Lanier said of the 1969 Championship team. That included Lanier (Morgan State), Buck Buchanan (Grambling) and Emmitt Thomas (Bishop).

“(Wide receiver) Otis Taylor (Prairie View A&M), who is also going to be inducted in the Black College Hall of Fame in March, was another. Obviously those individuals had a whole lot to do with being able to create a competitive balance and the opportunity to win the only Super Bowl in the franchise’s history.

“The amount of talent Wells brought in should be acknowledged.”

For Lamar Hunt, who was running the Dallas Texans at the time, Wells was a man he had first met at a function down at Texas Southern, a guy who could potentially help his football team become better. Although it wouldn’t be until a few years later that Hunt would ultimately hire Wells, it was a decision that forever altered the now celebrated history of the Chiefs organization.

“It was a daring hire,” Michael MacCambridge, author of “Lamar Hunt: A Life in Sports, and America’s Game,” said during a phone interview. “You have to remember, it’s not that he was just the first black scout to be hired full-time—there weren’t that many scouts around, period. Black or white.”

That’s not to say everyone was necessarily for it, either. Bringing on Wells and signing more black players wasn’t necessarily going to go over well with everyone.

“There were certainly people against it,” MacCambridge noted. “There was a really vicious telegram that was sent to Lamar's father (HL Hunt). The gist of it was why are you letting your son sign all of these Negro ball players and ruin the fabric of our country?

“He practically accused him of being a communist.”

It didn’t change what Lamar was trying to build. He moved forward with Wells.

As MacCambridge said in his book, “America’s Game,” Wells, aka “The Judge,” was an “ebullient, sly ladies’ man who had an angle on virtually everything.”

“Lloyd would get in his car and just make the circuit of black colleges in Texas,” MacCambridge said. “He’d go down to the Southeast—Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Tennessee, and work his way up. He eventually got up to Morgan State and Maryland Eastern Shore.

“That became his beat. You had other scouts going down there, but they didn’t have the access, the history or the relationships that Lloyd had.”

One of the relationships that Wells had was with Lanier, who was enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1986.

“He was an energetic, positive person who had an opportunity to help shift the views of professional football in the direction of historically black colleges,” Lanier explained of Wells. “With his energetic style, he had an approach of possibly cajoling I might say.”

Wells’ contributions can’t be understated. The Chiefs wouldn’t have won Super Bowl IV without those players.

One of the most popular stories of Wells’ escapades and connections had to do with receiver Otis Taylor and the intrigue that surrounded his eventual signing with the Chiefs in 1965.

At the time, the AFL and NFL were doing anything and everything they could to get players to sign with their respective leagues.

So when the Dallas Cowboys, a NFL team who strongly coveted Taylor, came to the Prairie View campus and invited Taylor and his teammate, Seth Cartwright, to spend a nice Thanksgiving in Dallas, it was a “classic case of babysitter subterfuge,” as MacCambridge would say.

They were essentially trying to hide Taylor and Cartwright away from the Chiefs in an effort to have both sign with them.

“If you don't have Wells working for the Chiefs, then they don’t get Taylor,” MacCambridge said. “When the Cowboys and the NFL essentially kidnapped Taylor and had him in the hotel in Dallas—the way Wells found him was first, he called Otis' mother. And because she knew Wells, she gave him the phone number of Otis' girlfriend.

“Wells reached his girlfriend, and she knew where Otis was. That’s how Lloyd got there.”

After initially being stopped by the Cowboys personnel men outside of the hotel, Wells eventually got Cartwright and Taylor both out of there, and they both signed shortly thereafter with the Chiefs.

It’s one of the most popular stories of that time, and something that really showed the value of Wells, who had known Taylor and his family since before Taylor was in high school.

The decision to bring on Wells and make him the first full-time black scout in the NFL wasn’t about anything more than trying to put together the best possible football team.

“When I spoke to Lamar, he was very adamant that he was not in any way attempting to be a social progressive,” MacCambridge explained. “He was not trying to necessarily break down barriers. He just recognized that Lloyd Wells would be an asset to what he was trying to do.

“It was also no accident that the teams that were most successful were the teams that had the largest contingent of black players, because they were truly looking for the best players. That 1969 Super Bowl team was the first team in Pro Football history to win a championship with the majority of the starters being African-American.”

A lot of that had to do with Wells, who might never get the credit he deserves, but he’s a man who has earned his due.

When the Super Bowl IV team is mentioned, Wells’ name should be right there with the others as to who really made it possible.

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