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Hall of Famer Willie Lanier talks Titans-Chiefs rematch, playing against Houston Oilers all-time greats

JM: You’re serving as a co-chair of Concordance Academy of Leadership’s recently announced “First Chance” campaign to help raise $50 million to expand its program nationally to 11 cities across the United States. The Academy is aiming to reduce incarceration, especially in the Black community. The timing for a program like this feels right.

WL: This program would feel right at anytime, but even more-so at this time with everything going on right now. You have seen the realities of the decisions that are made. That goes for both sides of the equation, not just one or the other. We are searching for a formal way to improve the potential outcomes for all Americans. We want to create opportunity for the less fortunate. We want to improve their day-to-day lives with this program. We want to create stability. There is legitimacy to what we are doing.

JM: I love that. Transitioning to your football career, you played on the Kansas City Chiefs team that won the Super Bowl in 1970. Little did you know that they wouldn’t win again until 2019. They defeated the Tennessee Titans in the AFC Championship Game en route to their first Super Bowl in 50 years. Do you think we have a chance to see a Titans-Chiefs rematch in the semi-finals?

WL: I’ll tell you what, when you jump into the statistics or analytics as some may call it, seeing a rematch of that nature is a very difficult thing to predict. If you look at the history of Super Bowls, the odds of something like that happening are incredibly low. That’s not to say that it’s impossible, as both teams looked good in their Week 1 victories.

If you look at the history though, it’s very unlikely that the same two teams advance to the AFC Championship Game. To see those two teams play against one another again would really be something. It would defy what the statistics tell us. It would be an anomaly, statistically speaking. We’ll see what the future holds. They have to play the games. The odds are slim. Winning in this league is very difficult, and sustaining that sort of success can be even more difficult.

JM: Fair enough. The history of this Titans team of course began with the Houston Oilers. You played against some fantastic Oilers players in your day such as Elvin Bethea, Jim Norton and Ken Houston.

WL: Elvin Bethea played his college football at North Carolina A&T. Him and I are a year apart in age. He played his college football at a Historic Black College. I played at Morgan State, a fellow Historic Black College. We played against one another on at least one occasion throughout our collegiate careers. That brings up some great memories.

As much as I played against the Oilers during my professional days, I always think of Bethea throughout our college days. I always remember competing against him. He was a track champion, truly one of the best in his day. We competed against one another at Track & Field as well. We both went on to have very successful careers. I knew him from college all the way to our professional days.

Ken Houston and I were drafted the same year. That was the 1967 NFL draft. That was something that will always tie us together. That was a very significant year in both of our lives. We both received the opportunity to continue our professional careers.

I certainly have some great memories with all of those all-time Oiler greats.

For more on Concordance Academy of Leadership and the “First Chance” campaign visit concordanceacademy.org.

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