Category Archives: death

“The NBA’s & Sports Worlds Amazing Ride Through Life With Craig Sager”

 

craig-sager-suit

In the medical field; and in life; you see so many amazingly brave and kind people battling diseases.  Their courage is never seen or talked about.  They worry about their families and are selfless in their battle.  People in the news also have those battles.  Some choose to fight them publicly; some privately.

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Warriors Give out Sager Strong T-Shirts on Opening Night vs Spurs

For Craig Sager he somewhat had no choice.  In today’s hyper sensitive society which judges anything that is seen or done; especially on television; Craig Sager was seen all the time.  For him though he wanted to show that you can fight things with strength. determination and with a sense of humor.  He knew every move he did would be watched but that he would always just be himself. Little did anyone know how much this would touch people.

http://www.nba.com/article/2016/12/15/turner-statement-passing-craig-sager-0

Craig Sager was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia in 2014 and it was obvious that he was not going to be working the 2014 NBA playoffs.  The severity of the disease and the diagnosis hit the NBA and Turner television family hard.  Without treatment he had 3 to 6 months to live.  Even with treatment this form of cancer was very aggressive and the long term prognosis was not good.

While his father was out, in a moving scene Craig’s son Craig Jr. interviewed the surly coach of the San Antonio Spurs Gregg Popovich.  His nastiness to reporters is of legend.  During the interview Gregg was very kind and showed a lot of love to Craig Jr. but he added that he would rather have Sr. there instead.

Along the way #sagerstrong began to pop up on Twitter.  People would see news stories of Sager in his extremely upbeat battle with the disease.  He was positive even through the worst of times.  He had an amazing 3 bone marrow transplants and went through chemotherapy along the way.

His daughter Kacy didn’t seem too pleased with her dad at one time on Twitter.  In the middle of an 8 day chemotherapy session Craig drove 3 hours to do the Oklahoma Thunder-San Antonio Spurs game after a treatment.

“My dad is in the middle of 8 days of chemo, drove 3.5 hours from HOU to SA to work this game, driving back in the am. Absurd. Meanwhile my roommate called out of work because she feels like crap”

The whole NBA community was pulling for Craig.  During the playoffs that he missed, for one day the entire Turner team dressed in crazy suits like Craig.  Many even from other networks did it.  It was an amazing show of support to a man that was battling so hard. craig-sager-colleagues-suits

http://www.nba.com/video/channels/tnt_overtime/2016/04/05/20160405-inside-sager-tribute.nba

Charles Barkley had hip replacement surgery and was told he could not fly for a while. When he heard Craig’s wife Stacy had a cold and could no longer be in the room with Craig, Charles hopped on a plane and visited. “Craig Sager is one of the most interesting people I’ve ever met.  You go to visit him to cheer him up and his attitude is so upbeat he cheers you up”.

http://www.espn.com/nba/story/_/id/17443442/nba-charles-barkley-defies-own-doctor-visits-craig-sager

Craigs shining moment was his story and then speech about fighting cancer at the Espy’s, the annual award ceremony ESPN does.  He was given the Jimmy V award in honor of former North Carolina St. coach Jim Valvano who passed away of cancer.  The Jimmy V foundation has raised millions for cancer research.

http://www.jimmyv.org/

His appreciation to the Turner broadcasting team for helping him to keep working was one of the first things he talked about.  In a day when corporations seem to have no morals, character or heart, he appreciated their amazing support.

Craig talked about living with passion and having fun.  Fighting it with a great attitude and fire and how that attitude can help the way you act.

When Craig first started he took a lot of ribbing.  Some didn’t take him seriously due to his crazy suits.  But in time people realized he was real.  He was fun, kind, hard working and loyal.  He loved life and loved and appreciated people.  He took his job seriously and loved the NBA and the whole experience.  He loved the hustle and bustle of his job but he never took himself too seriously.

In reality what we loved about Craig Sager is he was how we wanted our athletes and our news people to be.  In a day with so many scandals, arrogance, pettiness and dysfunctional actions, we loved that Craig was kind, caring and full of fun. He was vulnerable and humble and kind in a way that made us feel connected to him.  An everyman.

Craig was given a terrible sentence and he battled an amazing 2 years.  I’m sure the doctors didn’t expect him to last that long but Craig did it in a way that inspired millions.  Our family like all of yours, has probably been through the pains of cancer.  I’ve sat with patients as they died.  I’ve sat with loved ones as they took their last breath.  The torturous battle that is sometimes seen in cancer is a battle that so many have endured.

But in the end it’s not how people die that matters; it’s how they lived.  How we fight the battles and how we touch others doing it.  We’ve seen the tragedies but we’ve also seen the courage and triumph.  The passionate battles and the perseverance through treatment and adversity.  The amazing human spirit that is seen in people that never get the publicity or the attention during their quiet battles.

Reporters give tribute to Craig Sager

http://screengrabber.deadspin.com/former-craig-sager-colleague-rachel-nichols-reports-his-1790157916?utm_campaign=socialflow_deadspin_twitter&utm_source=deadspin_twitter&utm_medium=socialflow

To all of you battling, I pray for you deeply and hope that one day they will find better treatments which lead to finding cures.  And for loved ones and those with cancer, I say one thing.  Stay Sager Strong and live with all  you have no matter how long the time.

 

 

 

 

 

“A Horrific Tragedy Ends The Life of Another Iconic Raider Fan; Social Media Icon Tim Casto”

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I told several people last December that I had a horrible feeling about 2016.  Personally it’s been a terrible year for me and I know I’m not alone.  Several Raider fans; prominent ones; are now gone.  Add celebrities and many people’s family members and 2016 is a nightmare that can’t end soon enough.

Over the holiday weekend, in one of the saddest stories I’ve heard in a while, we lost another person that touched many lives.

(Please Donate Below)

https://www.gofundme.com/karen-casto

Tim Casto, owner of Oakland Raiders Homeport and founder of Oakland Raiders Rumors, Rants & Reports, lost his battle for life after a horrific fire burned down his home.  He was the only one in the house.  Neighbors said they heard small explosions.  Tim had to be rescued by two firemen who were at a firehouse near by.  His family lost everything they had.  He was taken to a local hospital and was in a coma for days before passing away yesterday after life support was turned off.  Loved ones talked about how grateful they were to the two brave firemen who entered the burning home to try to save him.

http://www.wsaz.com/content/news/Man-rescued-from-burning-home-in-Putnam-County-402462286.html

Over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, Tim’s family; including his wife Karen and daughter Rhianna; were at his bedside praying for a miracle while Tim lay in a West Virginia hospital on life support.  Here was a family who lost every possession they owned now having to deal with even more tragedy.  There were prayer vigils and support coming from all over.  What made it even worse was that during this time, Tim’s wife and daughter had birthdays.  Karen spoke about her husbands deep love and kindness towards her and his daughter.  His daughter posted on Facebook a few days ago asking for people to pray for her dad to wake up.  Sadly he never did.

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Tim (A.K.A. the Captain) was the owner and/or administrator of several of the larger Raider pages on Facebook.  It’s hard to find someone who didn’t have an interaction or a debate with him on one of the sites.  Tim was smart, knew football; especially the history; and was well respected.  I liked him immediately.

He was also very caring often forwarding gofundme pages for people that were going through something.  His sense of humor was seen so often, especially in his crazy avatar’s on Facebook depicting himself as different Captains.  My favorite is still Captain Crunch and he even caused a stir with a Fidel Castro avatar.

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A few years ago when I first got back into writing, I thought I would put an emphasis on the Raiders.  They hadn’t been good for years but I took a chance that things would get better.  I started out young and had written about the Raiders for years on another site and wow, was it painful.  With record setting losing streaks, fans were over the top nasty and as the years went on, less and less fans would be involved with the team.  When I started again, I would sometimes write an article that wasn’t positive towards the Raiders, and some Raider fans would go crazy.  Even though it was based on facts, they didn’t want to hear it. Times had changed and some people wanted to hear only good things about their teams and they didn’t want much truth.  Tim did.

Even though he didn’t know me, he contacted me out of the blue when fans on one of his sites started trashing me.  One mean spirited fan with too much time on their hands even started a Twitter page that was saying all sorts of nasty things about me; and eventually Twitter banned the page and any page associated with it.

Instead of scolding me about the negativity on his page, he told me he loved my writing and asked if I would send him all my articles so he could put them on his sites.  I was reluctant and told him no.  He was really trying to grow his groups and most of the popular people on their were the cheerleader types; some minor social media bullies; and I was a bit turned off by it.  He said he understood.  He still would take some of my articles and forwarded them onto his site anyway.  Tim was persistent.

Tim and I would converse a lot online and it was fun.  I got on him a few times for being a bit too controlling on his sites.  He realized what I was saying and even if someone was way out there, he would let them talk.  It helped make his pages more fun.

If Tim had something on his mind he would try to do anything to prove he was right.  I loved battling with him.  He was the type that had to have the last word so I would mess with him by adding little words to our conversations.  He would laugh knowing what I was doing.  He said, “I love debating with you; you never take it personally and I’m the same way”.  He GOT social media and all the petty and immature grudges were not what he was about.  I liked that.

When Ken Stabler died and I wrote my semi-famous article on Ken, the two people I spoke with that night before writing it were Tim and Mike Yokum.  Mike had petitioned to get Ken in the Hall of Fame for years.  I knew how much they loved Ken and I needed to talk with people who understood what a big loss he was.  I used Mike and Tim’s quotes and takes in the article.  I soon was on various ESPN radio shows and other stations talking about Ken.  Tim and Mike’s insights helped me a lot.

There were some though that liked to take pot shots at Tim but he let it roll off his back.  Social media can show how nasty and mean some people are; especially men; and we talked about having to have a thick skin and not take it personally.  When Tim would bring up his much beloved predictions on who would get traded or cut in the near future, many would attack him.  He was right a lot though and it was fun to see his post reactions to his detractors.

He was also a huge voice during the election sparking controversy with some of his more zealous comments.  I appreciated his passion.

Tim was a great family man from West Virginia who loved his daughter and his wife immensely.  He talked about them at times in a self deprecating manner and you knew he enjoyed his family a lot.  Even his young daughter got in the act starting her own Facebook page showing her love for the Raiders as well.

I looked in my Facebook emails and saw the last time we sent emails to each other.  It was a couple of months ago where Tim had said his family needed prayer.  I sent him a prayer and he told me how much it meant to him and that he really appreciated it.

With the loss of Tim, social media/Facebook for the Oakland Raiders has a huge hole in it.  He was a prominent voice on Facebook for the Raiders and there were few groups that he didn’t have a hand in it’s success.  Personally, he was one of the reasons I didn’t take a writing job with a major company.  He encouraged me to be honest and to keep telling the truth and that I had freedom where others didn’t.  He was also the first person on the fan sites that supported me.  I’ll never forget that.

It’s going to be hard to get up in the morning now and not see Tim’s meme’s or his posts talking about the Raiders.  He was a positive and supportive person online and would help anyone that was going through a hard time.  I’ll miss him; a lot.

I don’t ask much of anyone but his family is dealing with unbearable pain and tragedy. Think of losing a spouse or a dad, and then losing your home and everything you owned. It’s just too much to handle alone.  I know that the best tribute to him would be for Tim to know that the very fans and team that he loved and supported and put so much into, are the very ones that support his wife and daughter during such a painful time.

I’m again leaving a page of support for Tim’s family and even if its just $5 or $10, let’s show Tim that even with his tragic death, he is not forgotten.  For the price of a Starbucks coffee or a pizza, you can show the same passion that Tim showed to Raider and NFL fans all over.  Thank you so much.

https://www.gofundme.com/karen-casto

This loss hurt’s deep and he is already missed.  Thank you Tim for all you did for so many and for sharing yourself with all of us.  Tim proved that you don’t have to be famous to be great.  He was a good man and in today’s world we need more Tim Casto’s.

“Calling Out NFL HOF Voters; How Future Raiders Can Get In; New Info On Stabler Vote”

 

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“Ken Stabler & His Teammates In the Final Seconds of 24-21 Playoff Win v.s. Patriots”

Hypocrite:

A person who claims or pretends to have certain beliefs about what is right but who behaves in a way that disagrees with those beliefs.

Wow did I miss this one. I once told my niece, “when dealing with guys, what they do shows their heart. What they say shows what they want you to think. Always look at what they do.”

During the time when the mild controversy regarding the NFL HOF Nomination of convicted serial rapist and ex all pro safety Darren Sharper was going on, famous SI sportswriter Peter King took to twitter to defend the HOF voters. I was taking some time off and relaxing and I didn’t comment on it or write about it.   Recently though people have shown things that Peter King said and I was floored.

I’ve given the Deadspin article link to you; the only one that I could find; that repeated Kings serial tweets.

Here are some of his EXACT quotes.

The 46 HoF voters are asked to consider only on-field factors for ex-players. That is what I do. 

We would be shirking our duties if we did not consider him. What has happened since should not be factored in.

The bylaws of the Pro Football Hall of Fame forbid the 46 voters from considering players’ off-field lives.

If I said, “I will not consider Sharper for induction because he has been accused of multiple rapes,” I would resign from the committee.

For the sake of not giving Peter King’s worshipers fuel, I say don’t even read the article. Just read his comments.

http://deadspin.com/peter-king-defends-hall-of-fame-s-right-to-honor-allege-1683701729

Ken Stabler and Peter King Ties:

For almost 3 decades starting in the 70’s, the most popular teams in the NFL were the Cowboys and the Raiders. Their ratings were always on top. People loved them or hated them. Sports Illustrated sold a lot of magazines with Raiders stories. Here is a great one on Ken Stabler from 1977 after the Super Bowl win.

http://www.si.com/nfl/2015/07/10/si-vault-ken-stabler-oakland-raiders

That all changed though after Ken Stabler was falsely accused of planting cocaine on Sportswriter Bob Padecky after a terrible year by the Snake in 1978.   Here is my popular article on that story:

https://jimjax4.wordpress.com/2015/07/23/part-csi-part-breaking-bad-the-real-reasons-why-ken-stabler-is-not-in-the-hall-of-fame/

Paul Zimmerman was a friend of Bob Padecky. He was the king of east coast media and was a voting member of the HOF and senior committee until his stroke in late 2008. He was the first expert to be used by ESPN during the NFL draft coverage. He was the man at SI (Sports Illustrated) and is revered today by most sports writers.   He was the one that had a vendetta against Ken Stabler because of the incident with Bob. Peter King every year honors Paul Zimmerman for an entire week near the time of the HOF ceremonies. He did it again this year.

Below is Peter Kings article trashing Ken Stabler’s HOF credentials.   He said that he only had 5 good years.   Remember one of his best friends and his mentor is Paul Zimmerman.

http://mmqb.si.com/2015/07/13/ken-stabler-hall-of-fame-nfl-peter-king

Peter King probably didn’t vote for the Snake but he was in the minority.   Players, coaches, owners and teammates all said he was HOF worthy a long time ago.

Why Peter Kings Words Are So Hollow:

Peter King brags about his integrity. He sticks out his chest saying that if he took into account things off of the field, he should resign as a voter in the HOF.

The Hall of Fame Voters should be called out. Their votes SHOULD ALL be released to the public. There is no accountability in their votes and there needs to be transparency. I respect the fact that you don’t vote people in; but the fans, media and teams need to know why.

Cris Carter was left out of the HOF for 5 years. Why? Carter was a tool at times. Even fans didn’t like him.

After his first 4 years in Philadelphia, the media, team, and the fans were sick of him. He was their leading WR and he was cut. He also took a beating from writers who talked about his drug use of marijuana, ecstasy, and cocaine. He stopped talking to the media.

He regrouped in Minnesota and had amazing numbers. At the end of his career some said he softened to the media because his numbers might be HOF worthy and he wanted to find favor with them. Sportswriters have long memories though Cris.

Terrell Owens was another one. Of course he’s a HOF player. But he was dramatic, demanding and nasty to the media. One year during a contract dispute in Philly, he refused to LOOK AT media members let alone talk to them. He threw teammates under the bus, blamed coaches for losses and even told Playboy that QB Jeff Garcia was gay.

Why do I bring these 2 up? These are just 2 examples of obvious HOF players who weren’t voted in by the writers.   I thought anything off the playing field didn’t matter? Well obviously it does.

Stabler is the worst example of all. Anyone that is buds with Zimmerman knows how much he hated Ken, blaming him for the Bob Padecky fiasco.  How can you leave Stabler out of the Hall? Only 5 good years? Are you kidding me?

Are Hall of Fame Voters Really Biased?:

I was being interviewed by a small radio station in Pennsylvania and they thought I was nuts. “Jim you actually believe that HOF voters will hold grudges for years against a player?”

My answer was simple.

“Yes. Look at people who are staunch Republicans or Democrats. They would blindly support Charles Manson if he was part of their political party.   And if Mother Teresa was in the other political party they’d rip her to shreds with negativity. They have grudges for a lifetime.

Same with some HOF voters. I’m giving you facts not opinions. Zimmerman said in an SI article in 1979 after the Bob Padecky situation that he would NEVER vote Ken Stabler into the HOF as long as he lived. He also admitted Stabler was the only player he ever lobbied AGAINST. Zimmerman was one of the most; if not the most; powerful writers in the country.   SI was king and ESPN was just starting and he was chosen as their NFL and draft guru. Thirty years later in 2009, Zimmerman told the NFL Network again; “I’ll never vote Ken Stabler into the HOF. Facts gentleman; facts”.

Jim drops the mic. Ok I didn’t do that, but I would have if I was in studio!

Just the very fact that Zimmerman; after 30 years; STILL said he wouldn’t vote for Stabler into the HOF shows how right I am about some sportswriters.   Most are great I’m sure; but some?

New Information:

Frank Cooney; who has covered football for over 5 decades; wrote a great article earlier in the year. EVERYTHING I said from Randall Watson to Padecky, to Dr Z to Nick Dudich was confirmed by Frank; and countless others; and my articles were written way before theirs, last summer.

A tidbit that I never knew was Frank finding out that the voters to the HOF “innocently” received a huge binder of information on this years candidates.

One piece was a blog from 2012 by Andy Barall of the NY Times with the famous quote that supposedly Dave Casper said. “Ken took football back 50 years. He didn’t work hard enough at it. He fooled em his whole life”.

Yes I found the blog. Here it is.   Magically it has a link to a book by………..Paul Zimmerman, one of his buddies. This stuff writes itself friends.

http://fifthdown.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/02/29/a-deeper-look-at-the-stabler-hall-of-fame-debate/?_r=0

Dave Casper has been very angry over being misquoted. “I’ve never said Ken set back football. I would vote him into the HOF”. Below is Franks article with Dave Caspers angry retort.

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Jims Jamz:

I’m a realist, and I know nothing is going to change in the voting process.   So what needs to happen is that if you are a fan of a player that is deserving of the NFL HOF, it’s time to act.   Through petitions, writing emails, responding to social media posts and articles; in reality it’s up to you.   So many are working hard for players from the Raiders that deserve to be in the HOF.  But everyone needs to be involved.  Think of the loyal fanbase, families and children of these great players.

Some will say Ken got in so get over it.  But I remember the pain in the Stabler’s families eyes.  I don’t want ANY other Raider or NFL family to go through that.  If you grew up in the bay area the Raiders were not our team; they were family.

How a petition for a Ken Stabler or a Cliff Branch can’t get 50,000 signatures in a month is beyond me. I see a lot of posts online talking about fan loyalty, but in reality it’s going to be up to ALL fans actions to carry the torch.   Keep doing what you are doing to inspire others.  And for those that haven’t been a part of the support, it’s never too late to get on board.  Do your part for these players that gave generations of people so much enjoyment and pride.  Make NFL HOF voters do the right thing; because without you; some won’t.

Myth-busting Ken Stabler’s Hall of Fame credentials

 

 

“A Football Family Reunion for the Ages; Ken Stabler’s NFL HOF Induction”

 

ken stabler hof bustA family reunion for the ages.

In a night that went as perfect as a last minute Ken Stabler drive, Ken Michael Stabler took his rightful place in the NFL pro football hall of fame. For one last time, Ken Stabler lead everyone on a magical ride that will never be forgotten.

With decades of Raider tradition all around mixed in with a little Southern warmth from the state of Alabama, Canton looked more like Oakland, Ca than the sleepy town that wakes up for a week every year before the NFL season starts.

With several Raiders by their sides and HOF WR Fred Biletnikoff giving support, Ken Stabler’s grandsons unveiled the HOF bust of their beloved grandfather. In one action, all of the emotions that have built up from decades of frustration, anticipation, sadness and hope was released. Tears flowed, and closure began to fill the air slowly like a soft mist on a hot night.   All the years of waiting; all the unjust votes and comments came out in a healing moment that hopefully now brings closure to an amazing career by an amazing man.

http://www.nfl.com/videos/nfl-hall-of-fame/0ap3000000681148/Ken-Stabler-Enshrinement

Brett Favre’s Moment:

http://www.nfl.com/videos/nfl-hall-of-fame/0ap3000000681185/Hall-of-Fame-QB-Brett-Favre-shares-a-story-about-Ken-Stabler

Why He’s Loved So Much:

I have many good friends from around the country who ask me, why was there so much emotion and love for Ken Stabler. I think the answer is easy.

When the Snake saw a fan he didn’t care what color you were. He didn’t care if you were famous or rich.   He truly appreciated the adoration that was given him. I think Ken always knew how important he was to the City of Oakland, Alabama and the bay area. That’s why he was so kind to so many. He never judged; never lashed out; he was always good to those that supported him, and shrugged off those that hurt him. Many saw a little of themselves in Ken. Sometimes misunderstood, often doubted, and occasionally misjudged. Ken was an every man and in reality so many people related to the things he went through.

Ken was real. He made mistakes; he failed at times; he was ripped in the media at times; but he ALWAYS dusted himself off and kept coming. He never quit and the harder someone pushed, the harder he pushed back. The Raiders and Ken Stabler smashed people in the mouth and never gave up. That’s why when most teams would have quit, the Raiders usually won due to the never give up attitude of the Snake. Ken was a lot like the fans that supported him. He was a lot like the City of Oakland and the East Bay; always fighting, never quitting.

 

 

Why Younger Fans Should Be Excited:

Some younger Raider fans seem to be in a fog at the great adoration for Ken and this amazing era. Let’s face it, we live in a society where history to some is what pokemon go character you caught last night. If it’s old, society seems to not care about it.

If you are a younger fan, look at the extreme excitement that is seen in social media today for the upcoming season. The Raiders were 7-9 last year and some are nearly losing their minds with excitement. Nothing wrong with that especially with all the improvements, but put it into perspective.

Think about going 56-13 in Ken’s first 69 starts. Think of going 18-1-1 on Monday night football. Think of having the highest winning % of ANY professional team in the U.S. of ANY sport for a 25 year stretch. Think of 3 Super Bowls in 7 years and 5 straight AFC Championship games. For almost 3 decades the Raiders and the Cowboys were consistently on top of the NFL ratings for most watched teams on television. Oh and don’t forget having more wins in the greatest NFL decade of all time, the 1970’s. Could you imagine what Ken and the Raiders offense could do with today’s rules?   Now you understand OUR excitement.   As Raider great Tim Brown said Friday, “When Ken walked into our locker room you saw everyone change. It was like royalty had just come into the room.   The Raiders of that time were just that good; people adored him.”

A Leader to the End:

The reason this meant so much to so many is because Ken really was the Raiders leader in every way.   He was a leader on the field and off.   Players felt he was invincible and looked to him when things got rough. Even after his death he inspired. Raiders greats like George Atkinson, Art Thoms, and George Buehler followed in Ken’s footsteps and decided to donate their brains to the study of CTE and give them to the Concussion Legacy Foundation after they passed away.   Truly unselfish acts inspired by the Snake’s selflessness and the encouragement of his partner Kim Bush.

“When you see your teammate deteriorate a lot through the end of his life, to see him go out like that, it brings us together,” Thoms said in a Mercury News article. George Atkinson has complained often of his memory issues. “Ken meant so much to us and we felt we needed to do this.”

The Closest Team in the NFL:

Many of the retired Raider players talked about how close they were to each other. Many stated how no team was as tight as they were.   Even after retiring, they would meet for dinner often and even if players were out of state, they would fly back to join their fellow teammates. It was important to them to stay in touch with an incredible time that gave them so much enjoyment.

Jim Jamz:

We have many older patients and one is Mr. & Mrs. C who live deep in the wine country (I wont give their name for health privacy reasons.) They used to be a Raiders season ticket holders in the 60’s and 70’s.   I visited them recently.

Mrs. C is the classic sweet nurturing elderly woman who still feels a good meal will solve any problem. Mr. C was a successful businessman who’s health is failing. I go to their house so he doesn’t have to go into the office. I also know they enjoy my visits. Mr. C usually holds court with a scotch in his hand while I get my usual pay for a house call. A cold beer with a roast beef or turkey sandwich or the occasional German Chocolate cake and cold glass of milk.

“You know something James, those times were so special and those guys meant the damn world to us.   Players like Tom Keating and Art Thoms; Tony Cline, Warren Wells, Charlie Smith, Raymond Chester. Tatum and Atkinson, Skip and Willie. Otto, Beuhler and Dalby; Upshaw and Shell; Sistrunk and Kinlaw; Rod Martin and Vilipiano. Sumner, Wolf, and Al Locasale. So many great men that gave their all to win. And Kenny was everyone’s favorite. No group of players and fans were closer. The minute you forget this son, you won’t be worth a damn as a writer, or as a fan.”

After a pregnant pause, Mr. C showed a moment of rare emotion. Pointing his finger at me he said softly while winking, “Ken in the Hall of Fame? This one means something son; this one means something.”

It sure does Mr. C.   It sure does.

 

“Joy, Pride, & a Little HOF Controversy; Everything on Ken Stabler & his NFL HOF Induction”

 

kenny stabler hof gold jacket final

Joy, Pride, & a Little HOF Controversy; Everything on Oakland Raiders Ken Stabler:

Saturday it Finally will happen.  A long time coming.

Never Forget The Greatness of Ken Stabler & Oakland:

As people wait for Saturdays induction ceremony, watching Friday’s Gold Jacket ceremony was very emotional.  I was happy for Ken’s family to be able to have that great moment.  He should be remembered in so many ways.

It’s sad that our society doesn’t respect history much anymore, because the greatness of the Raiders and Ken Stabler doesn’t get it’s due. In the greatest era in NFL history, the Raiders had more wins in the 1970’s than any other team. For a 25 year period, the Raiders had the highest winning % NOT only for all NFL teams , but of any team in any professional sport in the U.S. If any New York or Boston team had ever done that they’d have statues for it.

The NFL did a contest with fans voting on NFL.com on who the greatest team in NFL history was. With over 5.2 million fans voting, the 1976 Oakland Raiders were voted the greatest team of all time. And if you ask John Madden and the Raider players, the Raiders 1977 team was actually better. A huge amount of injuries and the Rob Lytle fumble debacle in Denver derailed that.

https://jimjax4.wordpress.com/2016/03/30/over-5-2-million-nfl-fans-vote-the-1976-oakland-raiders-the-best-team-of-all-time/

A frustrating thing for the Raiders that never is brought up, is the huge amount of key injuries the Raiders had during the mid to late 70’s.   The Raiders had a hard time getting home field advantage during the regular season with so many key players out.   That made them have to go on the road in the post season. If the Raiders were at full strength in many of those seasons, one to two more Super Bowls would have been achieved.

When people say Stabler and the Raiders should have won more championships, to their credit, the Raiders rarely if ever talk about the frustration of all those injuries.

Ken Stabler Mania in Oakland:

During my off season down time, I read many things on Ken Stabler & the 1970’s Raiders. I enjoyed the stories about the crazy book signings Ken would do locally. Most athletes would get hundreds of people to show up and it was a mad house. But when Ken did a book signing, the stores were usually full before he even got there and sell outs of his books were the norm. When the store would run out of books, people would go across the street and get grocery bags so Ken would sign them. Ken would sign peoples hands, their kids heads, or any piece of paper a person could find. Some women would use their back, breasts or any other part to make sure Ken’s signature wasn’t wasted.

People of today really don’t understand the love and passion fans of the East Bay had for Ken and the Raiders in the glory years. The press at times would try to get Ken and other players in trouble by trying to find dirt by asking fans and bar owners about wild partying and the crazy times the players had. That was a mistake. Messing with Ken and the Raiders in the East Bay was akin to messing with someone’s mom.

There will never be a pro sports fan base like the Oakland Raiders of the 1960’s, 1970’s & 80’s. I was just a little kid but even then I got it. Most people of today look up to players as hero’s and that’s great, but for fans back in the day the Raiders and Ken Stabler were more than hero’s; we literally loved them and they were family. We mowed their lawns, and saw them in stores. We went to their restaurants and our parents bought insurance from them.   Most lived locally and had to have jobs because they didn’t make a lot back then. They were a part of us.  Add the same adoration from the unequaled Alabama Crimson Tide fans and this is one of the most beloved athletes of all time.

Fred Biletnikoff Justin Moyes (2)
Oakland Raider Hall of Famer Fred Biletnikoff is all smiles greeting Ken Stabler’s Grandson at the NFL HOF Gold Jacket Ceremony

A New Controversy:

For LB great Junior Seau, having his daughter Sydney introduce him at the HOF ceremony was of the utmost importance. For the Stabler family, what is important for them is that Ken be honored with the traditional HOF Gold Jacket, and the HOF ring that is given to all HOF members. The NFL HOF states that they no longer would be doing this.

What has come to the attention of the family and others, is that a couple of years ago another rule was changed by the NFL HOF with little to no communication. A Gold Jacket and ring would no longer be given to the family of a HOF player who was deceased, but they would get a large plaque with the shield that would have been on the jacket.

My Communications with the NFL HOF:

People that are close to me know how shy I am (wink wink) so I called the HOF myself.

What bothered me was the callousness we encountered. The worst call was when I was transferred to a long time worker. When I asked if Ken’s family would get a Gold Jacket & ring, her response was “you don’t give jackets to a dead person”. I was shocked. “Well maam you don’t give anything to a dead person; they are gone; but it’s a way that families can remember and celebrate their life”.

We made a total of 6 calls between 3 of us during a 6 week period.   All of the people said the same thing; it’s always been that way and it’s not a new policy.

In reality it hasn’t been this way; this is a new policy that started in 2014 from what I’ve been told; in fact I can’t find the new policy anywhere on the internet. The HOF has never been that great with communicating changes and it’s kind of frustrating. Many of us have emailed the HOF and none of us got a reply of any kind.

justin moyes ken stabler (2)
Grandson Justin Moyes accepts the NFL HOF plaque during the NFL Gold Jacket Ceremony

Jims Jamz:

Even though others like Cliff Branch, Bill King & Jack Tatum deserve to be in the Hall of Fame, I think for fans, they realize that this is the closing of the final chapter of the glory days. Ken Stabler and the Raiders of the 1960’s, 1970’s, and 1980’s, get one final time to share memories and relive a time when the sports world was dominated by Silver & Black colors.   For fans in Alabama and across the nation this is one final chance to celebrate a favorite son whose spirit is rooted so deeply.

Fans can go back and remember when they were kids, or young parents starting out remembering the amazing times the Alabama and Raiders QB gave them while struggling to survive the tough 1970’s & 80s. People can remember sharing special moments with parents and grandparents whose spirits fill our hearts.

Today when money rules, and teams and players change cities like it’s nothing, people can celebrate a time when all was right with the football world.   There was a magical sense in the House of Thrills. A togetherness and an enjoyment shared with people of all races and financial backgrounds.   A group of hard working people coming together to show love and support to players who loved and supported them back.  And Ken especially was our guy.

Oakland was the island of misfit toys and Ken was the leader on and off the field. And FINALLY; they can’t take this honor to Kenny away.  No petty grudges or politics; no financial excuses; no bad referee calls or even the government will tarnish this day.

The rest of the country always told the Raiders and the East Bay, you are just not good enough.  (Ask the Warriors recent owners).  The media and the rest of the world hated the Raiders; and we loved it. The stories were the same; Ken had no arm, bad knees and partied too much. The chokeland Raiders can’t win the big one. Al Davis signs players that are too old, and who won’t fit in with other teams. The Fans are too rowdy. Separately it made no sense; together it made sense.

In reality Raiders players and fans don’t need sports writers HOF votes to know that Ken was a HOF player all along. They already know that Cliff Branch and Jack Tatum are HOF players & Bill King is a HOF announcer.  Trophies, jackets and rings will not change who they are or how they live their lives. It would have been nice, but as long as players, family and fans know the truth, the nonsense of not showing the proper respect to players that made the league great will not hurt anyone at all.  It’s the Raider way not to care what others say or do as long as you know who you are.

A Magical Ride:

Thank you to all of the wonderful people of Alabama for sharing this journey. You have a piece of my heart.   From Foley to Huntsville, to Tuscaloosa to Birmingham, the kindness & passion that has been shown to me and others is truly humbling. To Drew DeArmond and Ryan Fowler who made the radio waves in Alabama full of everything Ken Stabler, eternal thanks and friendship.  Your talent is only equaled by your passion for this great game and I’m so glad to have crossed paths.  Keep teaching others to respect the history.

To the Stabler family and loved ones who trusted and entrusted fans.  In time you realized that this wasn’t just celebrity hero worship for attention, but a true love for a man that meant so much to everyone. We were proud he was our leader, and you are now Raider royalty.

Thanks to Mike Yokum and other fans who have been so passionate. From petitions to social media posts, every word counted; and still does. Never quit.   You all proved that the fans voice still matters.

Thank you to Raider fans for their passion, pride, love and respect.   Truly an amazing group that can’t be duplicated. Never change. As a kid and now as an adult; Raider pride for life.

And Finally thank you to all of the Raider fans that are no longer with us.   Thank you for instilling the importance of remembering Ken and all of the Raider greats, and thank you for raising good people into the Raider family. You are missed more than anyone knows and we hope you enjoy this moment from up above.   Until we meet again.

This has been an amazing journey and I’m so blessed to have been a tiny part of it. I’m appreciative to people from all over the world that were touched by the sharing of Raider fans passion for Ken Stabler and this amazing time in sports history. I’m grateful to you for reading and sharing my articles, listening to my podcasts and radio interviews and inspiring me to get back into the game. Your tolerance and patience with me was unending and I’ll never forget it.  At times readers from over 42 countries read my articles on Ken.

Now let everyone party old school. Loud music, lots of food and drink, and a great time without drama, celebrating the Snake. Wherever a Raider fan is, let them feel the spirit of the House of Thrills. And if you get a chance on Saturday night, look up in the sky at the brightest star. If you look closely you’ll see a grey bearded Ken Stabler looking down by the light of the jukebox with a smile a mile wide.

With the Snake going into the HOF, the final chapter of the great Alabama and Oakland QB Ken Stabler; and the Oakland Raider dynasty of the 60’s, 70’s & 80’s will now have a happy ending. And what an amazing story it was.

Times are different now and passion, compassion, loyalty and many other things are in short supply.  Class is rarely found.  In reality teams will now move, players will leave and times in the NFL and in our society will never be the same again.  These things though cannot change or tarnish a magical time in our sports fans lives that was as fun, passionate and fulfilling as any sports fans have ever known thanks to Ken Stabler & the Oakland Raiders.  NOTHING can take away those feelings and memories and exciting times we shared with people we loved.

How innocent were those days; how rich we are to have known them.

http://www.raiders.com/news/article-1/The-Sea-of-Hands-Game/d192e67a-53ee-4424-868c-a458238b74d2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“The Passing of NFL Hall of Fame Raider Fan Ron “The General” Rickard; Fans From Every Team Mourn Their Amazing Friend”

Please Donate to RAIDER RONS SUPERBOWL FUNDRAISER CELEBRATION OF LIFE

https://www.youcaring.com/janet-richard-has-taken-a-financial-sack-from-rons-diseas-586242

 

Fans are Invited to Ron’s Memorial on Saturday, July 9th. 

https://www.facebook.com/events/141139472956658/

 

ron and janet rickard (2)

Hero:

a person, who is admired or idealized for courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities.

Heroes…….

My father once said that the hardest part about aging is watching people around you; including family, friends, athletes and celebrities; slowly pass away as the years go by. As NFL fans it’s also hard for us to watch the iconic fans of our youth slowly leave us with the passing of time. Another great one has left us in Ron “The General” Rickard.  “Raider Ron” was a Hall of Fame fan, and so much more.

We all have a story, and Ron’s was one of fun, determination, struggle, pain and joy. That’s why fans from all over the country have been saddened by his death at the tender age of 54 due to liver failure. He had been battling for over 6 years. He was hoping for a liver transplant but it wasn’t to be. He had contracted Hepatitis C which eventually damaged his liver.  Sadly the liver that he long waited for came 12 hours after his passing.

Ron was a cherished member of the exclusive NFL Pro Football Ultimate Fan Association and his brothers and sisters from this group are hurting from his passing.

http://www.pfufa.org/

“Raider Ron’s” story is an amazing one.  What made Ron’s story amazing is that he went to 246 straight games for the Raiders; HOME and AWAY! He even got to go to the game in Wembley to keep the streak alive after winning the “One Nation, Your Story” contest.

After his 200th game his friends that he competed with (mostly as a leader) at The Bad Boys of BBQ threw him a tailgate party in his honor. “Kingsford” Kirk Bronsord, the leader of the Bad Boys of BBQ stated in an article from the Raiders website, “I’m proud and honored to be able to say that this is a great friend of mine. He has done something that few people get to do. That’s 12 ½ years of never missing a game”.

Ron said of the streak, “one year I told my wife, you know, I want to go to every game and do it just one time. So I did it and everything went pretty smooth so I did it again the next year.”

After his 246th game in 2014, the Raiders honored him, and Lincoln Kennedy interviewed Ron on the field. He was thrilled to be able to light the Al Davis memorial torch.

http://m.raiders.com/media-vault/videos/Raider-Ron-Attends-246th-Straight-Game/933b1c84-3123-454c-ac6c-108af7efc053

Ron’s story doesn’t end there by a long shot. He began to create friendships with Raider fans from all over the country. He also created great friendships with fans of other teams. From Tampa Bay, to San Diego to anywhere there was an NFL stadium, people grew to love Rickard. That love was shown when at times fans would help him financially including getting him tickets and other items to keep the streak alive.

Fast friend and a person I enjoyed talking to; Ron’s Fellow Hall of Fame icon Tim Young; (The Famous Tampa Bay Fan known as “The Captain”) said he once came to a game in Oakland knowing no one.  “I walked into the parking lot and I told Ron I was looking for a tailgate to adopt me.  Ron quickly took me in and added me to the fold.  A long friendship ensued”.  (I will be featuring Tim’s story during the season hopefully with an amazing podcast!)

Friendship was important to Ron and people reciprocated that feeling.  Ron said in an interview, “70 or 80 people; many of them Raider fans; have even offered to serve as living donors for me”.

Tim said that Ron grew up in Kentucky.  He came to California and started a car wash which he later sold.

Ron’s personality was refreshing. Friends described him as blunt and to the point but also compassionate and caring. He had a goofy, fun side and even when he went through hardships he always had a smile to give to whoever needed it.

“He was very smart” Tim exclaimed, “but he never was arrogant and he never name dropped.  He was extremely kind and humble.  He showed great sportsmanship.  Ron and his wife couldn’t have kids but he adored them.  He mentored many people showing them the ropes of life, of being a good fan and of being a good person.  He did so much for so many”.

 

Ron and his lovely wife Janet were true soulmates with years of devotion.  He was loyal, appreciative, kind and strong. He was given a rotten hand, but he smiled and fought hard with all he had to the end.  Ron enjoyed being a Raider fan but most of all he enjoyed just being. He inspired and touched so many, and he put a lot of smiles on a lot of faces.

The Commodores have a song called Heroes and here are some of the lyrics:

Heroes make the sun rise in the mornin’
Heroes make the moon shine bright at night
Heroes make our lives a little stronger All our fears go away when he’s around

Whoa, heroes make our lives a little stronger
If you look you’ll surely see they’re you and me

I am lucky in life.  I had heroes.  My mom and dad; my grandparents; uncles and aunts and great friends.  Ron was a hero too.  Heroes are not some of the popular dysfunctional celebrities who are famous for being famous.  They are not boy band members or coaches that make risky play calls.  Heroes are every day people living through the ups and downs of life. Heroes are soldiers fighting for our freedom.  Heroes are teachers and janitors and wait staff.

A hero loves their family, shows kindness and love to others, and they don’t look down on people.  And during their darkest hour they still think of those around them and how they can make things better for them. They are our partners, parents and grandparents who fight a disease with dignity and grace.  They are those that give of themselves with no care or desire to worry about what they get in return.  They are the ones that inspire others to do good with little to no fanfare.  They are us.  Ron was one of those heroes.  The simplest of things.

The best way to honor Ron is to be that hero.  To be the one that leads and encourages and inspires.  Live with ethics and grace and be inspired by right and wrong.  Be kind when others aren’t, and be level headed and open minded when anger fills the air.  In a country that has lost it’s way with violence, anger and a lack of compromise, be a hero like Ron.  In this way his legacy will live on.  A good General mentors and inspires even after they are gone.

So in remembrance of Ron and in support of his amazing wife Janet, I would love for fans from all over the country to donate to help them financially during this tragic time.   Healthcare costs have drained them (sadly) and if everyone donated just a little, they could reach their modest goal quickly.

https://www.youcaring.com/janet-richard-has-taken-a-financial-sack-from-rons-diseas-586242

I would also encourage those to go to his memorial this Saturday. Here is a website with the information, and an RSVP. A celebration tailgate party will include food, drink, music and dancing. I’m sure stories of Ron will be a plenty.

https://www.facebook.com/events/141139472956658/

I have and always will support good fans from all of the NFL teams in their causes, hardships and triumphs. We are not gang members.  We are people who are part of one team; the human race; who just want a chance to live a good, fun life in peace.  Just like Ron, support one another and let’s never forget to live life to the fullest while never taking ourselves too seriously. And as Ron “The General” Rickard taught people; wear your colors proud, but wear your heart prouder.

“The Oakland Raiders All-Time Greatest Late Round Draft Picks & Steals”

cliff branch

When you look back at the history of the Oakland Raiders, it is a work of art on how to build an NFL dynasty.  Some drafts would get several starters and some even multiple HOF players.  Ron Wolf & Al Davis made it an art form to pick up late round talent and pick players that others had no desire to choose.

http://www.raiders.com/history/draft-history.html

Yesterday we talked about some of the worst picks; today lets look at the top 15 Oakland Raider late round picks of all time; 4th round on dow.

https://jimjax4.wordpress.com/2016/04/25/pimps-drugs-busts-the-oakland-raiders-top-10-worst-draft-picks-of-all-time/

Honorable Mention;  Bo Jackson; 

Even though Bo Jackson was originally drafted by Tampa Bay, he was put back into the 1997 draft and the Raiders took him in the 7th round so technically he wasn’t an original pick.  Al Davis was the only owner that allowed him to play both football and baseball.  Bo never had 1000 yards and only started 23 games and ran for 2782 yards in his career, but his long touchdown runs were fun to watch and will always be remembered.

#15 Reggie Kinlaw DL (1979; 12th round 320 overall)

At the University of Oklahoma, Reggie Kinlaw was a superstar using his great speed to dominate defenders. At 6’ 2” and 245 lbs. experts said he was a huge long shot to even make the NFL let alone be a quality player. He played for the Raiders for 6 years and started on two Super Bowl teams. Many Raiders have said Reggie is one of the unsung heroes in the history of the Raider legacy.

# 14 Shane Lechler P: (2000; 5th round 142 overall)

After a record setting career at Texas A & M, Lechler was selected in the 5th round by the Raiders. He has had a stellar career and is a perennial pro bowler. He currently kicks for the Houston Texans.

#13 Pete Banaszak HB: (1966; 5th round AFL Draft)

A solid player at the University of Miami, he was chosen in the 5th round of the AFL draft.   The Raiders were the first to employ a short yardage RB full time and for 13 years Banaszak played that role to a tee. In 1975; his best year; he ran for 16 touchdowns. In the Super Bowl against the Vikings he scored 2 touchdowns. Nicknamed the Rooster by fans and teammates, he could do anything in the clutch including catch the ball. He was a key element of the Raiders domination in the 1970’s.

#12 Charlie Smith RB: (1968; 4th round 110 overall)

A standout at the University of Utah, here is another unsung hero and my mom’s favorite player.   Charlie Smith was a classic change of pace back of the time that could do anything. He was a great pass catcher with speed and he was an integral part of the Oakland Raiders offensive machine. His most famous touchdown was never seen. He scored the go ahead touchdown in the famous Heidi game.

#11 Tony Cline DE:   (1970; 4th round 102 overall)

One of the great players from the great defenses of the early Oakland Raiders, Tony Cline was as good a pass rusher as there was in football. He has the unofficial rookie sack record in the AFL at 17 ½ sacks in 1970.   Some say due to the hate the NFL had with anything AFL, the NFL does not acknowledge the sack record. Officially the NFL didn’t record sacks until 1982 even though the AFL did. Tony’s son Tony Cline Jr. also played in the NFL. Raider fans will never forget Tony Cline.

#10 Marv Hubbard RB: (1968; 11th round 277 overall)

“Take it to the Cupboard Hubbard” and “Run Like a Mother Hubbard” were favorite signs of Raider fans in the 1970’s. The NFL yawned when Marv Hubbard was taken out of Colgate. Slow and not athletic, he was not expected by most experts to make the NFL. Boy did he ever. He became a 3 time pro bowler and helped lead the Raiders to 4 Western Division titles and 3 AFC Conference Finals.

Hubbard is ranked 4th all time in NFL history in yards per carry (4.8) for fullbacks and is 13th overall. “Marv was one of the toughest players to ever play for the Raiders. I’ve never seen anyone look for contact and then actually enjoy it”. The wars between Hubbard’s Raiders and the Chiefs and their bulldozer Ed Podolak were much awaited games for NFL fans everywhere. Hubbard had a knack of hitting holes perfectly and getting every yard that he could out of runs.

Marv never left the bay area and he had a lot of interactions with fans. He loved muscle cars and could always be seen waving to appreciative fans everywhere. His death last year was a sad end to an amazing life. He also released two music singles. Smart and outgoing, he will never be forgotten.

#9 Skip “Dr. Death” Thomas DB: (1972: 7th round 176 overall)

Another fan favorite, the USC product was a key member of the famous Soul Patrol defensive backfield of the Oakland Raiders. His physical play was as intimidating as any DB before or since. Thomas could play safety or cornerback but his play in the Super Bowl shutting out Vikings WR great Sammy White in the first half will always be remembered as one of the key’s to a huge Super Bowl win. He played his entire career in Oakland and he had back to back 6 interception years. No one will ever forget Dr. Death.

#8 Dave Dalby C:   (1972; 4th round 100 overall)

Another beloved Raider who left us too soon, he is on UCLA’s all century team. He played 14 seasons and NEVER missed a game. He replaced hall of famer Jim Otto and many feel Dave Dalby deserves that same honor. He made one pro bowl and he started on 3 Super Bowl winning teams.   I still see his friends talking about him at times online. A kind person who is really missed.

#7 Clarence Davis RB: (1971; 4th round 97 overall)

A 1969 All-American, Clarence Davis slipped through the cracks in the 1971 NFL draft. People forget that Davis was a part of the famous “All Black Backfield” at USC. With Sam Cunningham and QB Jimmy Jones, it was the first time in college history that a backfield purely made up of African Americans was created.

When USC went to Alabama in Tuscaloosa, they steam rolled the Tide beating them 42-21. This convinced Bama coach Bear Bryant to allow non-whites to play on the team. It also made the Alabama fan base insist on integration to keep up with the west coast schools.

Scouts didn’t think Davis was good enough to be an NFL starter and he was smaller than advertised (5’ 10”, 190 lbs.). Davis was the classic Raider RB of the day. He could block, catch in the clutch (didn’t have great hands though), and play special teams. He ran back kicks his rookie year.

Davis will forever be remembered for his catch in the “Sea of Hands” game and his clutch post season performances. His amazing record setting game in the Super Bowl win against the Vikings put an exclamation point on a great Raider career.

#6 Greg Townsend DE: (1983; 4th round 110 overall)

Greg Townsend was a standout player at TCU who was considered more of an NFL project than super star. He ended up being the all time sack leader for the Raiders with 107.5 sacks and is 16th all time on the NFL list at 109.5. He was a 2 time pro-bowler and a 4 time all pro. He also recovered 8 touchdowns in his career with 3 of them going for touchdowns. A great career for another later round pick.

#5 Rod Martin LB:   (1977; 12th round 317 overall)

The ultimate underdog.  After being drafted out of USC by the Raiders, he was cut. He then signed with the 49ers and was cut again. The Raiders then resigned him and the rest is history.   No one really gave Rod Martin much of a chance to make the NFL. With his weight fluctuating between 200 and 210 lbs., he was the classic tweener.   He was a linebacker trapped in the body of a safety. The Raiders had him gain 20-25 pounds and eventually he took over the starting OLB job.   He then became one of the best LB’s in the NFL.

He was on several all pro teams and made 2 pro bowls. His 3 interception game in the Super Bowl win against the Eagles is still considered by many as the greatest defensive game of all time in the Super Bowl. A clutch player, people forget he also had an interception and fumble recovery in another Super Bowl win against Washington. He also stopped John Riggins on a fourth and 1 in the third quarter when Washington was trying to get back in the game & he had a sack.

Rod Martin now works at USC and remains a beloved member of the great Raider teams of the past.

#4 George Atkinson DB: (1968; 7th round 190 overall)

Not much was known about Morris Brown standout George Atkinson at the 1968 draft. He was a good player at Morris Brown but he was not considered a top prospect by NFL scouts. Boy were they wrong.

In 10 years with the Raiders he played in 16 playoff games and won a Super Bowl ring. He still holds the punt return record in a game for the Raiders with 205 yards against Buffalo in 1968. He ended up with 30 interceptions and 13 fumbles. He was a key element of the famous Soul Patrol and many feel he and Jack Tatum were the greatest safety tandem of all time and that the Soul Patrol was the greatest defensive backfield of all time. The trash talker of the group, George was a mixture of great speed and toughness and will always be a big part of Raider lore.   He still works for the Raiders doing the pre and post game show for their home radio station.

#3 Lester Hayes DB:   (1977; 5th round 126 overall)

When the Raiders picked Texas A & M safety Lester Hayes in the 5th round, the NFL kind of shook their head. Many felt he wasn’t fast enough to play DB in the NFL and in pre-draft interviews many teams said that Hayes was not a very bright person. Most had little confidence in him due to his lack of social skills.

What teams didn’t know is that Lester Hayes had a massive stuttering issue. He also had severe nasal problems including chronic sinusitis.   As a child he had severe head and jaw pain and would wake up with apnea. After using nasal medications for years, he finally got surgeries to correct it after he retired; it took 3 of them. In an interview Hayes said, “As a young player I sounded like Cousin It in the Adam’s family. No one could understand me”.

When he was drafted he literally cried in front of Al Davis begging him not to move him to cornerback. He felt if he went there he’d be cut but Al Davis asked him to trust him and the rest was history. Hayes explained, “It was so much pressure playing CB in our glory years of the 70’s and 80’s. We had to be right in the face of the WR because we were obsessed with rushing the QB. Our defense would blitz constantly and you could see the fear in the QB. They had to get rid of the ball quickly and if we weren’t all over the WR we were going to get burned. The pass rush and our coverage though helped us win and play at a high level.”

In 1980 Hayes won defensive player of the year after his NFL record tying 13 interceptions. He is a 5 time pro bowler, 2 time Super Bowl champion and a member of the 1980’s all decade team. He shares the all time Raider record for interceptions with Willie Brown at 39. How The Judge is not in the Hall of Fame is a miscarriage of NFL and sports justice.   Ridiculous.

#2 Cliff Branch WR: (1972; 4th round 98 overall)

At 5’ 10” and 170 lb. Cliff Branch was a standout track star at the University of Colorado. He was also a 5 year standout in football running back an amazing record 8 kickoff returns for touchdowns in his career.   Many felt he didn’t have the size or the hands for the NFL and early on he struggled with drops. After a lot of practice and mentoring through the likes of Fred Biletnikof, Branch solved that problem and for 14 years was a top WR in the NFL.   He holds the record for the longest pass play in Raider history at 99.

When Branch retired he led the NFL in post season receptions (73) and yards (1289) for an average of 17.7 yards per catch, while scoring 5 TD’s. And remember this was in the time where DB’s could do anything they wanted to WR and get away with it. He remains the only Raider WR with 3 Super Bowl rings. He was a 4 time pro bowler and a 4 time all pro. He ended up with 501 receptions, 8685 yards and 67 touchdowns.   He was a semi finalist for the NFL Hall of Fame and him being omitted from the HOF is another ridiculous miscarriage of NFL & sports justice.

#1 Jim Otto C: (1960; 24th round AFL Draft)

If you look up Oakland Raider in the dictionary, a picture of Jim Otto will appear.  The epitome of what it is to be a Raider, he was undersized, undervalued and a pure winner.  A 9 time all star, 3 time pro bowler, 3 time all pro and a Hall of Famer.  He also was selected to the all AFL team.  In 15 years he never missed a game because of injury.  In his life he’s had 28 knee surgeries and 74 total surgeries.  In 2007 due to infection he had to have a leg amputated.

When he was eligible for the draft, no NFL team wanted him.  He finally was drafted by the Raiders in the 24th round.  At 6′ 2″ and 240-245, it was thought he was no way big enough.  Otto later stated it was a great chore to keep his weight at 250-255 lbs.  The NFL Network voted Jim as the 63rd greatest football player of all time.

Final Thoughts……….

It’s amazing to see how great the Raiders were at drafting good players late in the draft in the 1960’s and 1970’s. NO ONE was as good as Ron Wolf and Al Davis at evaluating College football talent. They remain the gold standard of the NFL draft and how to build a winner.