KANSAS CITY, Mo. — For the Haglund family, when the Chiefs make the playoffs, it brings joy.
Their father Tom Haglund loved the team so much he had season tickets since Arrowhead Stadium opened.
“Section 124, Row 40, Seats 1-4,” his son Derek Haglund recalled.
And then Tom became a Red Coat member, a dedicated group of season ticket holders turned volunteers who represent the Chiefs in the community and take part in pregame activities on the field.
“He would take Marty Schottenheimer a pound of apples every Monday,” Derek said. “Got to meet Len Dawson, got to meet to whole 1994 Chiefs roster basically before a game.”
Tom’s sons were even named after some of his favorite Chiefs players.
“He had named him Justin after JT Smith who was a wide receiver with the Chiefs,” Derek said of his brother, “and when they were ready to have me, they came to an agreement that I would be named after Derrick Thomas but the spelling would be different.”
Tom even took his Chiefs passion one step further.
“His name was supposed to be Derrick Michael Haglund, and his father changed it on the birth certificate to Derek Thomas Michael Haglund, so he ended up getting what he wanted,” Derek’s mother Maura Haglund said.
But as the Chiefs become more and more successful, it’s also a reminder of grief. Tom died in 1994 in a tragic work accident.
Even the Chiefs organization felt the impact of his loss. Carl Peterson and Marty Schottenheimer left a letter in honor of his memory.
The day of Tom’s death makes Chiefs’ playoff runs more complicated for the Haglund family. He died a few weeks after an AFC Championship loss to Buffalo. A few years later, Derrick Thomas died on the same day that Tom did. That day, Feb. 8, is just one day after this year’s Super Bowl.
“All these years that we’ve tried to move on and do things — and we have, very well — and then the football season comes that we all know meant so much to Tom, brings him right here,” Maura said. “And then when they went to the Super Bowl, it was awesome, but it was melancholy.”
As the years have passed, the success of the team has helped the family remember but bring them even closer to the team Tom loved.
“She hardly had ever watched a Chiefs game after Dad passed away, and then when Patrick (Mahomes) takes over in 2018, she knows every player. She knows their stats,” Derek said.
And Tom would, too.
“He would be so in love with this team right now,” Maura said. “It would be all he could live and breathe.”
“It doesn’t matter how many times they’ll be in it because it’ll never change or take away from, in that moment, we wish they had these others with us,” Derek said. “But we also know they’ve got the best seat in the house.”