Willie Edward Lanier (August 21, 1945-) spent 10 seasons as a middle linebacker for the Kansas City Chiefs, the first African American player to hold that position in pro football history. The Chiefs (then in the AFL) selected Lanier in the 2nd round of the 1967 NFL Draft. His selection was due largely to the Chiefs’ defeat in Super Bowl I and a desire by Head Coach Hank Stram to shore up the team’s defensive line. Quickly establishing himself as a key player in the game, Lanier was a major contributor to his team’s Super Bowl IV victory, contributing seven tackles and an interception. The 1970 season would mark Lanier’s first of six consecutive Pro Bowl team selections, which he added to his eight consecutive All-Pro selections, two AFL All-Star games, and two ALL-AFL selections. While with the Chiefs (1967-1977), many saw Lanier as the team’s “heart and soul,” and, teamed with fellow linebackers Bobby Bell and Jim Lynch, were considered three of the game’s most talented players at that position. The Chiefs traded Lanier to the Baltimore Colts before the start of the 1978 season, but he chose to retire before the move was complete. He ended his career with a total of 27 interceptions and 15 fumble recoveries in 149 games. Willie Lanier was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1986.