The winner of the AFC Championship Game earns the ultimate prize of a trip to the Super Bowl, but they also take home the Lamar Hunt Trophy as the champions of the AFC. Let’s take a look at why the trophy is named after Hunt and the history of the trophy itself.
Why is the AFC Championship trophy named after Lamar Hunt?
The story of Hunt is one of perseverance, and it has shaped the NFL as we know it today. For that reason, he was named as an honorable mention in Pro Football Network’s NFL Mount Rushmore. Initially, Hunt was turned down for an NFL expansion franchise. He was then unable to purchase and move the Chicago Cardinals franchise to his hometown of Dallas. Therefore, Hunt — along with seven other franchises — founded the AFL.
Hunt’s team was initially the Dallas Texans, but when the NFL countered by placing the Cowboys in Dallas, Hunt pivoted, moved his team to Kansas City, and renamed them the Chiefs. The AFL was able to merge with the NFL in 1966, leading to the AFL-NFL Championship Game. However, in a letter to then-NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle, Hunt coined the term “Super Bowl”. Hunt’s name stuck and the third championship game was officially called the Super Bowl.
How long has the Lamar Hunt Trophy been awarded?
The Lamar Hunt Trophy was first awarded to the winner of the AFC Championship Game in the 1984-85 NFL playoffs. The Miami Dolphins were the first AFC team to hold the trophy after defeating the Pittsburgh Steelers 45-28.
The Dolphins would go on to lose the Super Bowl 38-16 to the San Francisco 49ers. That is a prime example of why the Lamar Hunt Trophy — much like the George Halas Trophy in the NFC — has become a bittersweet trophy to win. While winning the trophy is a joyous moment at the time because it signals a trip to the Super Bowl, it can also be a stark reminder of the failure to add a Lombardi Trophy for the team that loses the Super Bowl.
It took the Chiefs until the 2019-20 season to claim the trophy
Despite Hunt living until 2006, he never saw his beloved Chiefs win the award that bore his name. They came closest in 1993 but ultimately lost 30-13 to the Buffalo Bills. In the 2018-19 season, it was another nearly-but-not-quite moment for the Chiefs, as they lost 37-31 to the New England Patriots at home.
It was the 2019-20 campaign where the Hunt family finally got their hands on the trophy as winners. The Chiefs defeated the Tennessee Titans 35-24 on Sunday, January 19, 2020. That led to an emotional moment for the family when the trophy was awarded. They did not have to wait long to win it again, as they picked up the trophy the following year when they defeated the Buffalo Bills 38-24.