Lamar Hunt's efforts to acquire an expansion NFL franchise for his hometown of Dallas were rebuked by the league. However, his desire to secure a professional football franchise was further heightened after watching the historic '58 NFL Championship Game between Baltimore and the N.Y. Giants.


After another attempt at landing an NFL expansion franchise for Dallas was spurned, NFL officials suggested that Hunt contact the Wolfner family, owners of the Chicago Cardinals franchise. Violet Bidwell Wolfner, mother of current Cardinals owner William Bidwell, and her husband Walter eventually agreed to sell Hunt 20 percent of the Cardinals franchise. Hunt declined the opportunity. He then conceived the concept of forming a second league. "Why wouldn't a second league work," Hunt recalled. "There was an American and National League in baseball, why not football?" Hunt contacted several other individuals who had expressed interest in the Cardinals franchise - Bud Adams (Houston), Bob Howsam (Denver), Max Winter and Bill Boyer (Minneapolis) - and gauged their interest in forming a second league. Adams quickly signed on and the young league, albeit still very much in its infancy stages, already had its first rivalry.

With four teams in the ranks including Hunt's Dallas franchise, he sought franchises in New York and Los Angeles. Before ownership in those cities was secured, Hunt sought the NFL's blessing for his endeavor, hoping that NFL Commissioner Bert Bell would oversee both leagues. "I told myself I didn't want to go into this if it meant some kind of battle," Hunt remembered. "Of course, this was one of the more naive thoughts in the history of pro sports." Although the NFL wanted no part of Hunt's new league, Hunt gave his blessing for Bell to mention it in the course of his testimony before a Congressional committee on July 28th. "At that point, no one had put up a penny and I had no commitments from New York or Los Angeles," Hunt continued. "But Bert Bell had announced it. We were in business."

Within weeks, Barron Hilton (Los Angeles) and Harry Wismer (New York) agreed to enter the six-team league. On August 14th, the first meeting of the new league was held in Chicago. Charter memberships were issued to six original cities – Dallas, New York, Houston, Denver, Los Angeles and Minneapolis. The league was officially christened the American Football League on August 22nd. Ralph Wilson (Buffalo) was extended the league's seventh franchise on October 28th and William Sullivan (Boston) became the league's eighth owner on November 22nd, the date of the inaugural AFL draft, which lasted 33 rounds. All eight original owners agreed to contribute $25,000 and to post a performance bond of $100,000. "Before there was a player, coach or general manager in the league, there was Lamar Hunt," said Sullivan. "Hunt was the cornerstone, the integrity of the league. Without him, there would have been no AFL."

In November, the league nearly disbanded before it even played a single game. Winter announced that he was withdrawing from the league to accept an NFL franchise for Minneapolis. The NFL now envisioned an expansion franchise for Dallas, as well, but Hunt declined that offer. "It (the AFL) was so important to me," Hunt said. "I had a lot of money in it, a lot invested in it. Emotionally, I spent a lot of time, effort and energy on it. I felt an obligation. A guy like Billy Sullivan had everything he had in it. It wouldn't have been the right thing to do."

The AFL forged forward as former World War II hero and two-term South Dakota governor Joe Foss was named commissioner on November 30th. A second, 20-round AFL draft was held on December 2nd. Hunt pursued both legendary University of Oklahoma coach Bud Wilkinson and N.Y. Giants defensive assistant Tom Landry to lead his Texans franchise. Wilkinson opted to stay at Oklahoma, while Landry was destined to coach the NFL's franchise in Dallas. Hunt settled on a relatively unknown assistant coach from the University of Miami (Florida), Hank Stram. "One of the biggest reasons I hired Hank was that he really wanted the job," Hunt explained. "It turned out to be a very lucky selection on my part."