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Still super after 36 years : Aspen Times : February 4, 2006 : Nate Peterson

After all these years, Ed Podolak still dreams about touchdown runs in his sleep. He sees himself breaking a tackle on a kickoff return and darting up the sideline. He can see the shadows of pursuing linebackers and hear the pounding of the crowd in his helmet as he squeezes through an opening at the line of scrimmage, then into the open field.

"Especially during Super Bowl week, or when training camp begins" says Podolak, a Basalt resident since 1981. "It feels like you're ready to go. Here I am 58 years old and I still think I can play."

It was 36 years ago, on a soggy field at Tulane Stadium in New Orleans, when Podolak played in one of the most significant Super Bowls in pro football history.

He was a wide-eyed rookie for the Kansas City Chiefs then, only 22 and without any sense that the game would be the first and last time he would play for a pro football championship.

The Chiefs' opponents in Super Bowl IV were the Minnesota Vikings of the National Football League - a squad anchored by three future Hall of Famers on a stingy defensive line nicknamed the "Purple People Eaters."

The Chiefs from the upstart American Football League, led by Hall-of Fame quarterback Len Dawson and Hall-of-Fame coach Hank Stram, were playing in their second Super Bowl in four years, but were considered 13-point underdogs.

A year earlier, when Joe Namath and the AFL's New York Jets had upset the heavily favored Baltimore Colts of the NFL in Super Bowl III, the AFL had garnered some of the respect it had sought from the NFL.

But a year later many still considered the Jets' win - which Namath famously guaranteed - to be an anomaly. The prevailing wisdom assumed that the Chiefs would be crushed by the Vikings, and with the two leagues set to merge into one after the game in New Orleans, there were skeptics who questioned the NFL's decision to merge with the supposedly inferior AFL.

Contrary to predictions, Kansas City dissected the Vikings' defense with ease, while holding Minnesota's strong rushing game to a mere 67 yards.

The 23-7 win, Podolak says, helped ensure the future success of the new league and its crowning event, the Super Bowl.

"It really gave the new league a springboard," Podolak says. "There had been four Super Bowls and the NFL had won two and the AFL had won two. It wasn't a fluke."

By the numbers

  • Wore No. 14 during his playing days with the Kansas City Chiefs
  • Was inducted into the team's Hall of Fame in 1989.
  • Is the team's second all-time leading rusher with 4,451 yards and 34 touchdowns on 1,158 carries.
  • Caught 288 passes for 2,456 yards and six scores while averaging 8.6 yards per punt and 20.5 yards per kickoff return.
  • Has the second-most career combined yards in club history, with 8,178.

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