There were roughly 1 million more residents of Minnesota in January 1999 for Falcons 30, Vikings 27, OT than was the case with our population of 3.8 million three decades earlier. Thus, it is on a per capita basis that we can claim residents of this state never have been more shocked by a Vikings loss than the 23-7 drubbing from the Kansas City Chiefs in the fourth Super Bowl on Jan. 11, 1970.
Fifty years later, you look back and are puzzled by the Vikings’ status as 12-point favorites and Minnesotans’ outrageous overconfidence.
Eight members of those Chiefs are now in the Pro Football Hall of Fame: quarterback Lenny Dawson, place-kicker Jan Stenerud and defenders Bobby Bell, Willie Lanier, Emmitt Thomas, Johnny Robinson, Buck Buchanan and Curley Culp.
Campaigns for the Chiefs’ great receiver, Otis Taylor, have failed to this point. And there has been no movement in favor of the most dominant of those Chiefs, Jim Tyrer, the mountainous left tackle.
The exceptional work done by Tyrer and his left guard, Ed Budde, against the Purple People Eaters had as much to do with the Chiefs’ Super Bowl victory as did those great K.C. defenders.
Tyrer was 6-6 and 290 pounds, enormous for the standards of 1970. Vikings ironman Jim Marshall, a Tyrer teammate at Ohio State, spent the afternoon being rammed helmet-first by a much taller, 60 pounds heavier opponent also blessed with mobility.
Ron Glover, a high school teammate of Tyrer in Newark, Ohio, said: “Jim Tyrer was a tremendous athlete. He was a huge person — 6-foot-5, 240 and getting bigger in high school — with great feet. He was an outstanding basketball player and ran the hurdles in track.”
Glover is a Plymouth resident. He has had an outstanding corporate career. He also lived a block and a half from the Tyrers in Ohio.
“His legs weren’t huge, but from the waist on up Jim was so powerful,’’ Glover said. “He had such a huge head that Woody Hayes didn’t have a helmet to fit when Jim first got to Ohio State.
“And his long arms … three of us would stop at the Fairfield Shop in Newark for doughnuts after practice. Jim would sit in the booth on one side. He’d get close to the table, reach underneath with an arm, bring up his hand on our side of the table and steal our doughnuts.’’
Tyrer was an All-America for Hayes at Ohio State. He was drafted and signed by the Dallas Texans in 1961, started immediately and moved to Kansas City with the franchise in 1962. He was the left tackle (with Budde as the left guard) when the all-time AFC team was selected on Jan. 14, 1970, three days after his colossal effort in the Super Bowl.
Opponents and teammates agree that Tyrer would’ve been a Hall of Famer by acclamation, other than for the tragedy of Sept. 15, 1980.
Apparently depressed over failed businesses, perhaps suffering from brain damage that could be verified decades later in football players at a comparatively young age (i.e., Junior Seau), Tyrer killed his wife, Martha, with a shotgun blast in the family bedroom, went out in the hallway, let out an unearthly sound and shot himself.
Tyrer was 41. Three of his four children were at home. Glover was in London, working for American Express, when he heard the news.
“You can’t believe it, of course,’’ Glover said. “He was a gentle guy, very smart. That wasn’t Jim. I believe it was damage from the way football was played then, when offensive linemen couldn’t use their hands or extend their arms, and were taught to lead with their helmet.’’
Marshall, now 82 and losing friends and rivals, the latest being Paul Hornung on Friday, said: “That’s what you were taught. Hit ’em in the belt buckle with your helmet.’’
Kevin Patrick Allen has been a reporter in major markets and has created documentaries. He met Tina Tyrer Moore, the oldest child, and became fascinated with the ability of the four children to survive the unthinkable and find excellent paths as adults.
He has produced a one-hour documentary, “A Good Man — the Jim Tyrer Story.’’ There have been showings, but the documentary has not found a home for circulation.
“The feedback we’ve received from the streaming services is that they want to hear more about the children, that they want to know more about the grandparents that immediately started filling the parents’ role,’’ Allen said. “We’re likely to go back and expand that part of the story.’’
Children: Tina has been married for 25 years and raised two boys and has grandchildren. Brad, then 17 and in the next room when the shots were fired, is successful in business and a family man. Stefanie is a pediatric surgical nurse. Jason is married with three sons; he also attended the Chiefs’ second Super Bowl victory in February and wore his father’s Super Bowl ring from 50 years earlier.
Maternal grandparents: Lucille Cline was a powerful force. And her husband, Truman, was an amazing tale unto himself, a triple amputee from a car accident five days after graduation from Purdue.
Brad was a defensive end for Tom Osborne at Nebraska in the mid-’80s. Jason was a backup linebacker for Glen Mason at Kansas a few years later.
“Jason was an outstanding person, a try-hard guy,’’ Mason said. “I knew the tragic story, but Jason never brought it up, so we never had a conversation about it.’’
Mason paused and said: “I learned the most about Jim Tyrer being a great player when playing for Woody Hayes at Ohio State in the late ’60s.
“Every time he was talking to the offensive linemen, it was, ‘Tyrer would’ve done it this way;’ ‘Tyrer would have flattened that guy.’ Jim Tyrer was Woody’s example of excellence on the offensive line.’’
Bobby Bell, an all-time example of excellence for the Gophers, attended a showing of the Tyrer documentary with a few other Chiefs in mid-September.
A case is made by teammates such as Fred Arbanas and Budde in the film that Tyrer has long belonged in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, based on both his greatness and the strong chance of a damaged brain on that night in September 1980.
Tyrer was a Hall of Fame finalist in 1981, then never again appeared on the ballot.
“He was a good man,’’ Bell said. “He was one of those teammates that challenged you every day in practice to become a better player.
“Back then, we all needed something else when football was over. For me, I started working for General Motors at the start of my career. I had that something ready when I was done playing.
“I saw Jim and we talked a few times after he retired. I don’t think Jim ever was able to make that adjustment of not having football.’’
Then Bell, Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee in 1983, said: “We’ll never know for sure about what damage Jim might have had from football, but was he a Hall of Fame performer? That’s 100 percent.’’