GRANBURY, Texas —While the pageantry of Super Bowl LII is underway, one North Texan is remembering the simplicity of the NFL’s very first world championship.
Sitting atop a hill in Granbury is the house of 79-year-old Jon Gilliam.
Gilliam, a graduate of Hillcrest High School in Dallas, has held a lot of job titles over the years.
He’s been a salesman, a stockbroker, but most remember him for his very first job—professional football player.
In 1960, Gilliam was drafted by the Green Bay Packers after playing at Texas A&M commerce—but he quickly transitioned into the American Football League, which would later become the AFC after a merger with the NFL.
He played two seasons with the Dallas Texans before they were moved to Missouri to become the Kansas City Chiefs.
From 1963 to 1967, Gilliam played center for the team. He remembers knocking heads on the offensive line, just like it was yesterday.
“Basically, I liked when I had to push to get the deal done,” Gilliam said. WFAA asked if that meant he was a fan of running the ball to which he said, “Oh I liked doing both.”
Gilliam’s wife, Becki, said it was always her husband’s dream to be a football player.
“At the age of 6 or 7, his goal was to be a rancher—and a football player,” she said. “He worked out when no one else ever worked out—and he just had that drive to prove to his buddies that he could do it.”
There’s a lot of football memorabilia in the Gilliam house. They even have his old jersey and cleats.
“They love the game that much,” Becki Gilliam said. “Even though they didn’t get paid that much back then, they would have paid to play,” she laughed.
One piece of memorabilia stands out when you walk into the Gilliam home. In a large picture frame is the cover of Sports Illustrated for the 25th Anniversary of the Super Bowl.
In 1967, the Kansas City Chiefs met the Green Bay Packers for the AFL-NFL World Championship. It would later come to be known as Super Bowl I.
On that cover, is a picture of the coin toss before the game at midfield—standing there as a captain is Gilliam.
“I don’t think of it as anything special,” Gilliam said. His wife, however, thinks differently.
“It’s a just a little tingle in my heart knowing that he was there in the beginning,” Becki said.
Sadly, Gilliam never got to play. That season, he injured his knee and was sidelined.
Though, he still remembers supporting his fellow offensive lineman as a captain during the game.
“I didn’t go hoo-rah or anything, I got my 5 guys and we got to work,” Gilliam said.
The spectacle of the Super Bowl wasn’t as grand back then. In fact, Gilliam said tickets were $12 and that Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles, where the game was played, wasn’t even sold out.
In fact, 33,000 tickets went unsold.
“To them, they just got to play an extra game,” Becki said. The Chiefs lost the game 35-10. Becki maintains that if her husband had played, things would have been different.
Gilliam laughs and stayed modest.
“When I got busted up, they went in there and did a hell of a job,” Gilliam said.
Today, Gilliam enjoys retirement. His wife said she’s incredibly grateful to the NFLPA, which has helped tremendously with Gilliam’s medical concerns.
When those Super Bowl ads start to play, Gilliam said he wishes he could suit up once more.
“Right now, I would love to play with them,” he said.
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