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Way Back When: The ultimate Kansas City connection


As the Denver Broncos set to kick off against the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium this week, the usual spate on stories will appear connecting the two legendary former American Football League franchises.

But in the history of both the Broncos and the Chiefs, there is just one individual who can claim world championship rings from both organizations.

That person is John Beake, who was an assistant coach for the Chiefs from 1968 through 1974 and later joined the Broncos in a player-personnel role and wound up as general manager, over a total time span of 1978-2000.

Kansas City won Super Bowl IV over the Minnesota Vikings, and Denver won Super Bowls XXXII and XXXIII.

Along the way there were a lot of practices in the hot sun, scouting meetings and contracts galore, but as radio legend Paul Harvey used to say, "the rest of the story" is what makes this especially interesting.

Beake got his master's degree from Penn State and was a graduate assistant there under legendary coach Rip Engle. Future legendary coach Joe Paterno was the other grad assistant with Beake.

Beake then started his coaching career at New York Military Academy, where his athletic director was the famous Claire Bee, author of a notable series of juvenile books revolving around Chip Hilton, the all-American boy. In fact, Beake's first-born son is named Chip.

While at NYMA, he coached some kids who became very famous and successful, but he prefers that I give them anonymity in this piece, and so I shall. 

Then he coached for four years at Nyack High School, where he won a state title and only had four losses in that time. 

"It was a beautiful setting, right on the banks of the Hudson River," he recalls.

But now we get to the rest of the story.

While at Nyack High School he picked up extra money in the summers working at Kansas City Chiefs head coach Hank Stram's football camp.

Clearly, Beake had established himself as a prep coach, and at the end of the 1968 camp Stram said, "Why don't you come to Kansas City with me?" 

Beake replied that, "I can't work another camp. I have to start my own season prep at Nyack High." 

But Stram countered, "I don't mean work another camp. I want you to join my staff full time in Kansas City."

So Beake did, and in the process, he became one of very few individuals to go right from high school to pro coaching, without a college stop in between.

But as can happen, the Kansas City staff was fired following the 1974 season — on Christmas eve, no less — after losing a legendary double-overtime playoff game to Miami.

Beake spent the following year as offensive coordinator at Colorado State, going 6-5 before Stram beckoned again, this time from New Orleans.

The Saints did not do much in 1976-77, and the staff was again dismissed following a disappointing season, and Beake did something very unusual. He let his family choose where they wished to live, with plans to get out of the coaching business.

They all said that they really loved their time in Fort Collins, Colorado, so Beake moved his wife and three young kids to Fort Collins and got his real estate license.

His days in football were over.

But his young sons Chip and Chris were football fans, and the Broncos trained in Fort Collins, so they begged their dad to take them to practice. So he did, with no special entrance whatsoever. They went like fans and stood behind the ropes that separated fans from the team.

The coaching fraternity brings everybody together, scouting the same players, discussing new trends, so everybody knows everybody.

And as it was, on a hot 1978 summer day in Fort Collins, Denver head coach Red Miller and running backs coach Paul Roach were surprised to see Beake behind the ropes. It could not have seemed more incongruous.

"What the heck are you doing here?" Miller asked.

"My boys wanted to watch you guys practice," Beake replied.

Beake explained that he was out of the game, had moved to Fort Collins and was embarking on a real estate career.

But Miller quickly said, "Hey, I could use somebody to break down some film. I can't pay you anything, but how would you like to do some film study for me?"

The football life sometimes makes for some crazy decisions, so Beake — a father of three — abandoned his real estate ambitions and started an unpaid job working for the Broncos.

He shared an office with a young Broncos assistant named Bill Belichick, who has gone on to create his own legend in the game.

Beake became a full-time personnel man, was later made general manager by Owner Pat Bowlen, and the rest is pretty well-known.

The Broncos embarked upon a period of greatness, and Beake was at the center of it — from helping negotiate the contracts of John Elway, to the seven American Bowl appearances, and of course the back-to-back world championships.

Beake went on to work for Roger Goodell at the National Football League office, and while this was his first full year not in that role, he continues to serve on the Denver Broncos Ring of Fame committee.

That is a very long and successful tenure for someone who gave up football in 1978.

And Beake remains the only person with an NFL presence that began in 1968, and includes Super Bowl championship rings from both the Kansas City Chiefs and the Denver Broncos.

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