Category Archives: John Hadl

“Remembering Oakland Raiders Al Davis (& the AFL) on MLK Day & His 5 Decade Fight For Equality”

Al_Davis_Raiders_t2903606

Al Davis, civil rights pioneer.

Al Davis has been called many things. Innovator, rebel, leader, dictator; and many other things that are not for print. One thing many will remember him for though is as a civil rights leader.  Al Davis had one goal in sports; winning. And because of that spirit, he didn’t care what color or sex you were.  Just win baby.

Davis Stand against Racism in the 1960’s; The AFL makes history in a boycott:

The 1960’s was a heck of a time. It had a lot of turmoil due to military conflicts and racial injustice.   From the college game to the NFL game, there were still many fans, coaches and administrators that didn’t like having blacks on their teams. We applaud the storied Alabama football program for it’s winning today but we forget it didn’t integrate black players until 1971 when John Mitchell and Wilbur Jackson first played for the Crimson Tide. Even though the civil rights bill threatening to take away federal funding to schools that discriminated against African Americans was enacted in 1964, it took years for some schools to comply. In fact, even though they have tried to hide it,   look at the Mormon Church and BYU’s history in the 1970’s in regards to race. Quite a read.

The same was seen at a smaller level in pro football. Even though there were many African American players, they were not welcomed by everyone with open arms. Al Davis really helped in opening doors for many people.

The AFL and Al Davis especially were different.  In a 1963 exhibition game in Mobile, Alabama, Al Davis demanded the contest be moved to Oakland because he was not going to separate his players in segregated hotels. He also tried to do this in many other games through the 1960’s.  When Raiders outspoken star Clem Daniels complained about the way black players were treated at the 1965 AFL All-Star game in New Orleans, Al Davis supported them when they voted to boycott the game unless it was moved.  Other owners and commissioner Joe Foss joined the outcry.  Even many white players including Ron Mix stated that they would no longer play in the game if it stayed in New Orleans.  The organizer of the All-Star game went so far as to tell the minority players that they and their families were welcome in New Orleans but that was far from the case.  African American players were left stranded at the airport with some not being able to get taxi’s while others were not allowed to go into restaurants and bars in the french quarter due to the color of their skin.  Eventually the game was moved to Houston and even though it was a spur of the moment thing, Houston did a good job of hosting.  AFL Commissioner Joe Foss wrote a letter to the people of Houston thanking them for the classy way they supported the AFL’s players.  The actual letter is below.  Pretty cool letterhead.

afl-letter

African American Colleges Play a Big Role in Player Drafts:

When he took over for the Raiders, Davis was one of the first to specifically target black/small colleges. Some of the greatest Raiders were from small or black colleges including Hall of Famer’s Gene Upshaw ( Texas A & I) and Art Shell (Maryland St.).   Both Hall of Fame players were thought of as somewhat risky picks because they were from schools that were too small or too abstract.

shell upshaw
Two of the Greatest to play the game.  HOF players Art Shell, and Gene Upshaw.

When Raiders all world WR Warren Wells was in Texas state prison serving time, the Raiders had an important team celebration. Mr. Davis contacted the state of Texas stating that he would pay for security for Warren to attend, but the state denied the request. It didn’t matter that Warren was an African American to Al Davis. What was important was that he was a Raider.

wells jets
The greatest catch that few remember.  Wells Makes Miraculous grab with 8 seconds to beat the Jets in 1970.

The Good Old Boys Network Get’s a Shakeup:

When Davis hired Art Shell to be the first African American head coach, it had broken down decades of prejudice.  It was groundbreaking and even today name all of the GM’s in the NFL that are African American or Hispanic?   There aren’t very many, but of course the Raiders have one of them in Reggie McKenzie. Al Davis also hired the first Hispanic head coach in Tom Flores, and the first female executive in Amy Trask. If he thought you could do the job, he didn’t care if you were a blue smurf, he would hire you.

art shell al davis 1989
Art Shell and Al Davis 1989

In an episode of HBO’s amazing series “Real Sports”, they talked about the lack of support and care for retired NFL players. One owner had an idea of building a hospital in Utah or another inexpensive state for the retired players that would be funded by the NFL retirement plan through the profits of the league. Who was the owner that created the plan and was the only one that voted yes for it? Al Davis.

al davis white jumpsuit
No One but Elvis could rock a white jumpsuit like Al Davis

Jim’s Jamz:

There have been many white owners, coaches and players in pro footballs history who have done their part in helping to cross the barriers of prejudice and hate.   None of them though did it with the confidence, fire and flare that Al Davis did.  On the field Mr. Davis didn’t want to lose and he didn’t want to tie. He wanted one thing and that was to win. And if you could help the Raiders get to that goal, he wanted you and you were a Raider brother for life no matter what your religion or race was. Especially in today’s America, wouldn’t it be nice if that was the way things were?

Sadly we still have a long way to go in eliminating hate and prejudice, but it’s people like Martin Luther King Jr.; and to an extent Al Davis; that gets us closer to that goal.   I know today is MLK day but on this day I always think of Mr. Davis. From Terry Bradshaw to Derrick Thomas to the countless number of players from other teams that he supported during bad times, Mr. Davis really cared about them.  The football world is not as fun without Mr. Davis but few see his other side because like most men his age, they didn’t want the attention it gave. The thing that everyone in football knows about Al Davis is that even though he loved the Raiders tough, renegade image, he had an awful soft heart under that ugly white jumpsuit.

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“The Oakland Raiders lose another NFL Hall of Fame Worthy Icon From the Past in Dave Grayson”

 

Dave Grayson Nemiah Wilson willie Brown Dave Grayson George Atkinson
Oakland Defensive Backs Nemiah Wilson, Willie Brown, Dave Grayson & George Atkinson

The Oakland Raiders lost another link to their storied past when AFL historian Todd Tobias announced on Twitter that Raider great defensive back Dave Grayson had passed away at the age of 78.  No cause of death was given at this time.

Dave played for Oakland between 1965-1970.  He played for the Dallas Texans/Chiefs before that, and was originally drafted by the Dallas Cowboys.  Grayson was an undrafted free agent out of the University of Oregon.

dave graysonryreyr

Al Davis Traded for CB Dave Grayson in 1965 (he traded him for future actor Fred “The Hammer” Williamson) from the Chiefs and then traded for Willie Brown from Denver in 1967.  This allowed the Raiders to play the physical bump and run style that has been a trademark of the team for years.

When NFL and former Cowboys personnel guru Gil Brandt was asked who were the 4 best cornerbacks in Dallas history his first 3 were not a shock.  Mel Renfro, Herb Adderly & Deion Sanders.  “I also include Dave Grayson.  He didn’t play with the Cowboys but he’s so good I’m including him.”

Dave Grayson went undrafted because at 5’ 10” and 185 pounds, he was dubbed too small by many NFL experts including Cowboys coach Tom Landry after the Cowboys briefly signed him and then let him go.  Gil Brandt liked him a lot and told the upstart AFL team the Dallas Texans (eventually the Kansas City Chiefs) to give him a shot.  Grayson was a key cog in the KC return game and at defensive back.  Grayson was fast and a ball hawk, something the Chiefs coaches loved.

dave grayson jim tyrer earl faison bud mcfadin ladd
Dave Grayson hamming it up with AFL All Stars Jim Tyrer, Earl Faison, Bud McFadin & Future Iconic Pro Wrestler Ernie “The Big Cat” Ladd

Grayson held the AFL record for the longest interception return for a touchdown at 99 yards against the New York Titans in 1961.  Dave made many other key plays for the Chiefs including his famous interception off of Houston QB George Blanda in the Texans epic double overtime win in the 1962 AFL Championship game.

For the Raiders he was a great player both in the regular season and in the post season.  He ended up with 48 total interceptions with an amazing 933 return yards after his interceptions.  His best year was in 1968 where he had 10 interceptions and 1 fumble recovery.  He was also a quality top 10 kick return man as well.

Other career highlights:

-48 career interceptions with an amazing 19.4 yard return average

-25.4 kick off return average

-6 time AFL all-star

-4 time First team All Pro

-2 time AFL Champion

-Voted on the AFL all time team

-Career interception leader in the AFL

The Greatest Defense Nobody Knows About:

Dave was a part of the amazing Oakland defense called the 11 angry men.  This defense is one of the greatest of all time that never gets their due.

In the amazing 1967 season, the Raiders had an astounding 67 sacks & 30 interceptions.  Teams averaged 3 turnovers a game against the Raiders.  This was also only in a 14 game season.  The record for sacks is held by the 1984 Chicago Bears at 72, and with almost a 5 sacks per game average, it’s pretty safe to say that the Raiders would have eclipsed that record fairly easily in 16 games.

raiders defense 11 angry men
Houston trying to come back from 3 touchdowns behind against the Oakland Raiders “11 Angry Men” in the 1967 AFL Championship Game

Even with only 14 games, the Raiders STILL hold the record for causing the most yards lost while an opponent passes.  This record is now 50 years old.

Another record that stands is that the Raiders lead the league in sacks for 3 straight years.  Another 5 decade old record.  Oakland also has the all time record for leading the league in sacks at 5.  That’s how great they were. The offense always gets the publicity but even in their Super Bowl wins and in the 1960’s, getting pressure on the QB was paramount to the Raiders success.  Offense puts butts in the seats and gets all of the publicity, but defense wins championships.

(Below are the all time stats for sacks by a team; many records are held by the Oakland Raiders)

http://www.nfl.com/history/randf/records/def/sacks

Amazing Names:

With the likes of Ken Davidson and Tom Keating leading the way the Raiders had a huge and ferocious defense.  The names of the past are a who’s who of Raider lore.  Two more underrated DB’s in Rodger Bird, Kent McCloughan and Warren Powers were teamed up with Howie Williams, Dave Grayson and Willie Brown.

Dan Conners played MLB while Bill Laskey & Gus Otto shored the outside positions.  Dan Birdwell and Ike Lassiter, Carleton Oats and Art Thoms; so many proud names of the past that helped the Raiders to unreal records in the 1960’s.  From 1967-69 the Raiders were a ridiculous 37-4-1, the best record in football.

dave grayson 2

Hall of Fame:

I’ve written at length about the biases of the NFL Hall of Fame and why some are not in the hall.  There are many that should be in the hall of fame (i.e. Cliff Branch) and I’ve written about them below.  I’m glad that more people are agreeing with me.

https://jimjax4.wordpress.com/2016/02/10/oakland-raiders-defensive-players-who-shouldshouldnt-be-in-the-nfl-hall-of-fame/

https://jimjax4.wordpress.com/2016/02/09/what-oakland-raiders-players-are-next-into-the-hof-whos-in-whos-not/

One of the great biases with NFL historians, is their turning their noses up at the AFL saying how it was no where near as good as the NFL.  In the beginning days I totally agree.  As time went on though, that myth was changed when the Jets beat the heavily favored Colts in Super Bowl 3.  More than a few people feel the Raiders and the Chiefs of the 1960’s had more talent and speed than the aging Green Bay Packers but they were overwhelmed in the Super Bowls against a mythical team with the greatest football coach of all time and an aura and mental toughness and a refusal to make mistakes.

dave grayson chiefs

It’s a shame that only 3 all time AFL defensive players are in the NFL HOF.  There are others that deserve it and I think Dave Grayson is one of them.  With his speed and ball hawking skills, he made big plays at big times and he’s never received the credit he deserved, much like the great Raider defenses of the day.

I hope that others will join me in giving appreciation for this great Chief and Raider player.  Another forgotten icon of the AFL and NFL who should never be forgotten.

dave grayson raiders

“The Oakland Raiders Mindset on Day 1; In Depth Evaluation of Karl Joseph; Lot’s of Good, Little Bad”

 

karl joseph
First Round Selection for the Oakland Raiders, Karl Joseph S

Raiders Draft Day 1; What They Thought About:

I love draft day and it is always good to reconnect with old friends for the 17th time.  Draft day is special to us and we love it.

To start out I was shocked when ESPN was reporting that the Raiders were going to take William Jackson III out of Houston.  I watched him play in 3 games and he was kind of soft in my mind but he was a great athlete.  A rich man’s DJ Hayden.  The NFL and NFL junkies LOVE their athletes but I only love athletes if they have an instinct for football.

Reggie Ragland was plummeting like a stone due to a story that broke that he had an enlarged aorta.  That isn’t rare and he can live a normal life with yearly checkups.  Problem is the hyper neurotic NFL is NOT going to want to take a chance like that.

Myles Jack (does any of these agents ever tell their clients to keep their mouths shut?) in another “I’m an open book” moment told Bart Hubbuch of the New York Post/NFL that he has a degenerative condition that may require microfracture surgery in the future.  In an innocent tweet, Hubbuch reported this.  Jack’s exact quote was, “If I can play 3 years in the NFL then that would be above average.”  Yikes.  Bart confirmed that’s what Jack said.  Yes kids I did my homework so you don’t have to!

Injury reports are a hit or a miss thing.  Remember Star Lotulelei?  The Utah DL stud was considered a top 3 pick but in pre draft checkups he had a heart condition that was created by a bad virus he had.  After two weeks he was cured of the virus and his heart function was normal but that didn’t matter.  The NFL freaked out and he dropped like a stone to Carolina at #14 and now he stars for Carolina who just went to the Super Bowl.  In my 2013 draft I picked Star; the Raiders picked DJ Hayden. (ok ok, the counseling about the Raiders bad drafts didn’t cure me after all).

In last years draft 15 minutes before the first pick ESPN radio announced that Leonard Williams shoulder may need surgery and he may be out for the year.  The top 2-4 pick dropped to 6.  The shoulder injury was from 2013 and since then  Williams didn’t miss a game.  Remember ESPN saying Carr broke his wrist before the season last year?  You have to be careful with all these rumors; many of these reports are to freak people out so they will listen or read what they’ve created.  Oh those ad dollars will make you lie like a beast.

One thing that many have talked about outside of California is just how little California fans watch and like college football.  Many really don’t know much about the players other than highlight tapes.  Nothing wrong with that but it’s just not their thing. I feel like an SEC/Big 10 guy sometimes trapped in a Pac 12 body.  I love college football so much and on a cold & wet Saturday, good food, good company, a fire and lots of college games is a joy to me.

Why Karl Joseph?:

First off in my draft I chose DL Shaq Lawson.  I had Joseph as a late first rounder or early second round talent.  The Raiders wanted Karl Joseph in the second round but they didn’t think he’d last until their pick.  I think the Raiders also felt Reggie Ragland was going to fall like a rock and he has.  I think no way without that health report is he not going in the first round.

Even though this wasn’t a great value pick in my mind, the Raiders may have thought that Ragland would be there to them in the second round so in reality they would get their safety and their MLB.  If that was their thinking, wow is that smart.  If not, then you just hope it works out.

The Raiders need a starting MLB in This Draft.

Other than Ragland I don’t think any of the MLB draft choices are ready to start.  It’s a bad year for MLB.  There may be a dark horse.  I do love Scooby Wright III out of Arizona though because he is just a ball hawk and a tackling machine so picking him up wouldn’t be the dumbest thing.  Some have him going round 3, others on day 3.  Critics say he’s not fast enough to cover the pass but they said the same thing about Zach Thomas and recently 49ers Chris Borland and they excelled big time.  Wright is a tough, smart football player and I get him in the 3rd or 4th round all day.  He’s too talented to not have on the field and even as a backup he’s much better than Ben Heeney.

(I’m not a big highlight video guy; the games are what shows the truth but just a few plays to let people know who he is.)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_M1PTdQyRVY

The Positives of Karl Joseph;

(Read above; I’m not a big highlight video guy; anyone can look good in them; but here is a little sample of Karl’s good plays.)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L88OIVNvsVA

Grades from Yahoo Sports to ESPN had this pick as a C- to a B+.  I predict he will be a huge fan favorite.  He’s an old school safety that loves to tackle and hit people.  He has a passion for football and is a born leader.  His technique is solid and he often hits runners flush.  If you are looking for an NFL combine genetic freak who runs 4.3 40’s then this isn’t your guy.  Karl is one thing; a football player.  The word that is used most to describe Joseph is that he is a thumper.  He’s a physical player who loves to hit people.  He’s a good tackler and is excellent against the run, mixed in with quality pass coverage talent.  His weight is between 195-205 lbs. so at 5’ 10” he’s not a huge guy.

Remember that newly signed S Reggie Nelson is going to be 33 in September so he’s only going to be playing in Oakland for 1-2 years.  Safety will be a priority.

Some will say oh great, Mike Mitchell 2.  But that’s not the case.  Joseph is a good cover guy and is a ball hawk.  He’s smart with good instinct.  He plays very physical football and rarely misses tackles.  Mitchell was just a hitter who could run fast.

At 5’ 10” people are calling him a poor mans Bob Sanders, the Colts great safety (Sanders was 5’ 8” or 5’ 9” depending on who you asked).  A compact guy who always seemed to be around the ball making plays.  Joseph is a very confident player with football smarts who should fit in nicely with the Raiders defense. Look for the Raiders to put Reggie Nelson at Strong Safety and Joseph to Free Safety.

The negatives:

He’s coming off an October ACL injury and probably will not be 100% the first part of the season.

Before he got hurt he ran a legitimate timed 4.6 40 which isn’t burning up anyone’s speed meter (he ran from 4.5 to 4.7) but he’s fast enough.  He’s a risk taker at times and sometimes got burned trying to do too much.  For good or bad, with his slower 40 time, Al Davis doesn’t make this pick.

Many wonder with his size and style of play can he stay healthy.  Bob Sanders was a beast when he played but he was hurt; a lot.  As people saw with Charles Woodsen, he said he wanted to play 10 more years after week 6.  The Raiders then put LB’s on the tight ends because the Raiders were struggling covering TE’s and this freed Woodsen up to stop the run and he took a beating.  He announced he was retiring after week 14.  Playing safety in the NFL is a rough go and a healthy one is key to having success.

Was Choosing Joseph a good pick:

NO ONE.  I mean NO ONE has been as honest as I have been about the Raiders and their draft picks for the last 13 years.  I’m not a homer and I’m not a hater; that’s why both those groups don’t like me sometimes.  I deal with what is and not with what might be.  I have the following I have for a reason and that’s because like or dislike what I write, you get honesty.

That being said, I say this is a solid B+ pick.  I like Joseph’s instinct and hitting ability.  He has great technique and he’s a ball hawk.  Another swagger guy but he has a passion for the game and is a born leader.  These are the guys the Raiders are stock piling.

He’s smart and a good solid player that will make plays at safety.  He loves hitting and tackling and if he can stay healthy, he will be a solid player for years to come.  He’s not Jack Tatum but he’s also not Mike Mitchell, Patrick Bates or Derrick Gibson.  I don’t think Joseph is a top 15 pick but there was no way he was going to be there in the 2nd round so I understand the pick and it’s all good.

If the Raiders get Ragland in round two than I give this pick a big fat A +.  The Raiders still need a MLB desperately but this is a nice start to the draft.

“Last Minute Rumors & Draft Scenarios For The Oakland Raiders 2016 NFL Draft”

 

oakland raiders war room

Day 1 of the NFL Draft is Here! Or as we call it guys day in.

Go ahead and have some fun with it because this draft is going to be very interesting. Let’s be real; experts, insiders, fans, ex players and even the teams themselves don’t know what players are going to be chosen.   It’s guesswork for everyone so I’m not curing cancer here. Let’s just use common sense and historic facts and look into the 2016 NFL Draft day 1.

The Trade Impact In the First Round:

First off I’m a huge talent over need guy.  Let’s say for instance you need a safety but the only ones that are there are 2nd or third round talents; I pass.  If you look at the Raiders history they’ve ruined drafts picking for needs.

Even with the rules allowing WR to roam free and the QB to barely be touched, the QB position in the NFL is at it’s worst in NFL history. Passing and Receiving records are falling to average players at best who are benefiting from the new rules. I can see the likes of Dan Marino, Joe Montana and Jerry Rice saying, “give me a bucket!”

Here is a good article by quality ESPN Writer Bill Barnwell on Drafting Qb’s:

http://espn.go.com/nfl/story/_/id/15391775/taking-quarterback-early-round-2-makes-lot-sense-some-teams-nfl

I’m not a big fan of these 2 trades but I understand them.

Let’s look outside the box and stop just regurgitating what the “experts” are saying. Let’s think for ourselves and see what might be the mindset of teams in this years draft.

Raiders Trading Up:

The pre NFL draft is fun. Many sites try to stir the pot with mock drafts and scenarios and NFL combine #’s to keep people interested all year round. It is fun to do but let’s be real; 90% of this stuff never happens.

One of those scenarios is the annual can the Raiders trade up or down in the draft game. In 56 years please give me the list of all of the trades the Raiders have done to move up or down in the draft. Ron Wolf was the architect of many of the Raiders great drafts and he taught Reggie McKenzie all he knew at Green Bay.

Will the Raiders trade up?  No one knows.  But if you look at history it says the Raiders will do nothing and draft #14. When you trade up you are also in the mindset that you are 1 player away from being a top team.  They Raiders still have holes to fill.

The Raiders RB Reality of 2015:

The average fan almost always looks at offense but in reality you can’t win without a good to great defense.   Should the Raiders get a RB?   Yes. In the later rounds. But tell me last year how important the RB’s were in the championship game and in the Super Bowl? The Patriots were literally getting RB’s off the street; and the other 3 teams mostly used backups who didn’t exactly play like Walter Payton. What all 4 teams DID have were the 4 best DL’s in the NFL. New England had more sacks without blitzing than any other team in the NFL. Look at the history of the NFL; for the most part Defensive lines and defenses win championships; not RB’s.

The Raiders struggles last year began when Minnesota played a cover 2 defense and took away the long ball.   The Raiders medium passing game is bad and they never adjusted to other teams that did it as well. That’s not on the RB’s.

San Diego Chargers Pick Will Control the Draft:

Everyone has Ole Miss T Laremy Tunsil as the Chargers pick but let’s hold on.   The Chargers need to win now, and QB Philip Rivers is not getting any younger. The Chargers also paid a lot of money; some guaranteed; for tackles Joe Barksdale and King Dunlap. They also arent’ getting off cheap on their guards either. They could move one of their tackles to guard but now you are spending a ton of money on an OL when the defense is one of the worst in the NFL.

While the Raiders have a history of not trading up or down in the NFL draft, the Chargers have a lot of history. In recent year’s and in the past. (Rivers and Ladanian Tomlinson to name two). Chargers GM Tom Telesco is a wheeler and dealer for sure; for better or worse.

The Miami Dolphins are in big need of a franchise RB and rumors are swirling out of Miami that a trade with the Chargers isn’t out of the question. The Chargers have a kin to Notre Dame picks and they like OL Ronnie Stanley. They could trade down, get an extra pick or two and still get Stanley who other teams aren’t as high on.

If they do pick there, a defensive player like CB Jalen Ramsey or DL’s Joey Bosa or DeForest Buckner going to the Chargers would not shock me.

Ezekiell Elliott  RB Ohio St.:

Jerry Jones loves his badboys. I warned everyone that Randy Gregory DL out of Nebraska was an athlete playing football and of course Dallas took him in the 2nd round last year. In 12 games last year Gregory had 11 tackles and 0 sacks. He also tested positive for a drug of some kind (he was positive for pot in college) and he’s now suspended for the first four games. DeMarcus Lawrence had 8 sacks last year and he came into his own; he also has been suspended for 4 games for substance abuse. Add Greg Hardy’s departure and the DL for Dallas is just ugly. So they’ll go DL right?

Jerry Jones has always been an offensive guy and I see them taking Ezekiel Elliott, RB out of Ohio St. Jones likes offense and he loves running backs so I see this going down.

Interesting Oakland Raiders Scenarios:

Reggie Ragland MLB Alabama:

Reports are leaking that he has an elarged aorta that needs yearly monitoring.  They hypersensitive NFL; some teams reportedly have him off their board now. The only MLB that can start right away in this draft in my opinion is Alabama MLB Reggie Ragland.   As I’ve said before with the likes of Rolando McClain and others, these aren’t Bear Bryants free wheeling LB’s. Nick Saban runs a controlled and sophisticated zone and Bama LB’s do not have to cover much man to man so you really don’t know how good they are against the pass.

In reality though this would be the safe pick and the one I think the Raiders are leaning to right now.  Will his heart condition change this.

Myles Jack LB UCLA:

Myles Jack value is dropping quickly. Mike Mayock; who isn’t much for personality but who I like; has an interesting scenario where Myles Jack falls all the way to 14 and the Raiders take him. Even though I like Mike let’s be real; 3 days ago he said I can’t believe anyone in the top 10 won’t pick Jack but now in his Mock yesterday he has him falling to 14.

Why? Jack lost himself a lot of money in an “I’m an open book” millennial moment, when a few days ago he told reporters that his knee’s condition is degenerative and that in the future he may or may not need micro-fracture surgery. His exact quote was that no one knows the future but to play 3 years in this league would be above average. I could see his agent slapping his forehead when he heard that saying, “DOH!”. When the player is saying stuff like that then you move on……..Quickly.

Sheldon Rankins DL Louisville:

I like Rankins a lot and he’s going in the top 15 in the draft. I see him going to the Dolphins or the Saints who need help big time at DL. If not he’d be a great get for the Raiders to give them a much needed QB push from the DT position and could immediately upgrade their defense to possibly being a top 5-10 unit.

Shaq Lawson DL Clemson:

At the beginning I just couldn’t believe people downplaying him.  He’s slowly climbed up the ladder and he may be a top 10 pick.  In some mock drafts they have him going to Buffalo after the Raiders so it’s a crap shoot.  If he’s here, how can you pass up on a play maker like Lawson?  If he and Ragland are here wow; what a fun waiting time that will be.  I like Lawson and think you just can’t pass him up.  Talent over need.

Robert Nkemdiche DE Mississippi:

There is always a draft lovechild that fans glop on to and this year it is Nkemdiche. Gholston, Clowney, Gregory; the list is a long one.  He had a great game against Alabama and that’s his calling card; plus a lot of hype. They forget that in 3 years he only had 7 sacks and that in his last 7 games at Ole Miss he averaged 2 tackles a game. He was extremely inconsistent. I may be wrong but I warned people about all galaxy Jadeveon Clowney and how he’d tank and I’m warning others about Robert. To think he’s now going to be a 8-12 sack per year guy in the NFL? I say no way.

William Jackson III CB, Houston:

The University of Houston had a great resurgence last year; just not in the passing defense scene.  They were ranked the 122th rated pass defense in college football.

If you were listening to ESPN radio’s mock drafts yesterday, one of the people choosing picked CB William Jackson III out of Houston for the Raiders pick. I swallowed my gum too.  Don’t laugh; this is the hot name being thrown around by ESPN and their followers and if they blow off Ragland due to health issues, this may be the pick.  It would also be a little attempt at vindication for Reggie.

He had a monster bowl game against Florida St. and looked good in pre draft/NFL combine workouts. Many of the experts really don’t watch all the games so these big televised bowls and senior bowls are big deals to them. In reality he’s another free lancer who is a work out warrior and looks physically impressive. In tackling he’s somewhat soft and not one to like contact. I think this would be a bad pick and he’s a 2nd round project in my book.  I warned you on draft day about DJ Hayden and I’m warning you again.

Chris Jones DL Mississippi St.:

Another pick on the ESPN show was Chris Jones. If Shaq Lawson is there and the Raiders take Chris Jones then it’s a huge mistake.   Jones is a solid player but he’s had issues with conditioning in the past and he’s not a great pass rusher; he’s more of a run stopper. The Raiders have a ton of run stoppers; they need pass rushers. I think Jones is a good player but the Raiders need Shaq Lawson, not Chris Jones.

Karl Joseph S West Virgina:

He is still not recovered from his ACL tear and he won’t be 100% probably for a part of the season.  He is a thumper with a lot of explosiveness.  He was projected as a 1st or 2nd rounder but he’s been climbing.  He’s the best safety in a draft without super star safeties.  This isn’t a value pick; I like Joseph but I think you can get a good safety in the second or 3rd round at better value.

Leonard Floyd LB Georgia:

When you watched a Georgia game last year Floyd flies off the page. He has a lot of football talent and just isn’t an athlete. I wrote about him a few months ago and I like him. The problem is, Florida papers are talking about how Tampa Bay is gushing about him and how much they love him.   Many other teams also quietly like him.   It’s hard to think he’ll be there at #14, but if he is, they will take him.

Final Notes:

Remember that the draft isn’t a gift bag; 31 other teams are in this so you have to adapt to their choices. Keep in mind also that some teams are smart and some aren’t. Not every pick is a good one.

One tidbit that is going around the Bay Area though is that the 49ers LOVE Mackenzie Alexander the CB out of Clemson. The 49ers trading down isn’t out of the question now that they are in full rebuilding mode. Getting a DL and Alexander would be pretty amazing for them. I too love Alexander as a player.

Who ever the Raiders pick the hopes are that it’s a smart pick and not a crazy reach that filled the ghosts of drafts past. Some Raider fans will like any pick; some will hate any pick; but the even keel fans will look at the player and break down the need of the team and the skill set that they bring. As Reggie McKenzie said a few weeks ago, “we’ve done nothing yet. We haven’t won a thing and have work to do”. That is a good attitude to have entering this years draft.

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

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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.

“Forgotten AFL Greats of the AFC West”

This article is for the fans of the AFL especially the AFC West.  If you are a fan of these great teams, some of these players may be household names to you.  It’s so important that the history of the game is respected, and these great players are not forgotten.  This article is in honor of them, and the fans that watched the AFL.

san diego chargers 1960

San Diego Chargers:

Many think the Chargers uniforms of the 1960’s and 70’s are the greatest ever made and it’s hard to argue with that.  I love the powder blue.  What also can’t be argued is their dominating win in the AFL Championship game in 1963 sealing their argument as one of the great teams of the AFL era.  Their innovative passing game was nixed for a power running game, and it worked to perfection as the Chargers beat the Boston Patriots 51-10.

sid gillman

Sid Gillman:

Sid Gillman may be the greatest football coach of all time. He is the only coach in history that is in both the NFL and College football Hall of Fame. His coaching tree is the greatest of all time bar none. Bill Walsh, Al Davis, Chuck Knoll, Chuck Knox, Dick Vermeil, Don Coryell, Joe Gibbs, John Madden, Tom Flores, George Seifert, Dennis Green, Jon Gruden, Brian Billick and many others fall under his umbrella of greatness.

The vertical passing game of the Raiders was taken straight from him. Al Davis called him the Einstein of the NFL and he is the father of the modern passing game. There will never be another Sid Gillman. As John Madden recently said, “what some teams are just discovering, Sid Gillman was doing in the 60’s”.

Gary Garrison:

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San Diego’s version of Fred Biletnikoff was the great Gary Garrison. Lance Alworth gets all of the publicity but in reality the Chargers had another fine Wide Receiver. His nickname was the ghost. Sid Gillman literally called him an artist in regards to his amazing route running skills.   One sports writer said it was like watching a figure skater on a football field; his routes were so precise.

He is 5th and 4th all time on the Chargers reception and yards list respectively. He has more receiving yards than Kellen Winslow and Wes Chandler. He averaged an amazing 18.6 yards a catch which is second all time for San Diego pass catchers with over 120 catches.

Paul Lowe & Keith Lincoln:

With Paul Lowe and Keith Lincoln in the backfield, San Diego had one of the greatest 1-2 punches in pro football history. They helped lead the Chargers to their only championship in 1963. Lowe is the 2nd all time leader in rushing yards for the Chargers. He was the 1965 UPI AFL MVP, 2 times AFL All Star, and 2 times All AFL team. He was also voted onto the ALL time AFL team, 2 times comeback player of the year, and he’s the all-time AFL leader in average yards per carry at 4.9.   And he still holds the NFL record for 6 straight 100 yard games with 14 or fewer carries.

And oh by the way they had Keith Lincoln.  He went to high school in Monrovia California and went to Washington St. Originally he was a QB, and he was so good that he got two awesome nicknames; the Monrovia Meteor and the Moose of the Palouse.  He was a 5 time AFL All-Star, 2 time All AFL player, and is in the San Diego Chargers Hall of Fame.

Paul Lowe can still be seen today at the Chargers games. He is a season ticket holder and a fan favorite.

Kansas City Chiefs:

chiefs paint

The Chiefs have had an amazing history of talented teams with some of the greatest players to ever play football.  Buchanon, Dawson, Taylor, Lanier, Culp, Thomas, Holmes; the list goes on and on.  When eclectic head coach Hank Stram allowed NFL films to record him during the Super Bowl, he became the first NFL coach to wear a microphone. Stram was innovative and brought in the triple stack defense to hide his linebackers. When he had several WR’s injured against the Raiders powerful pass rush and great DB’s; he used the T formation and ran 60 times for over 300 yards leading KC to a stunning 24-10 victory over Oakland.   In that game, Len Dawson completed 3 passes for 16 yards.  In the AFL days they lead the AFL in playoff appearances tied with the Raiders.  Hank Stram was as great as the players he coached and boy was he fun.

Joe Delaney:

“I’ve played against the best–O.J. SimpsonGale SayersWalter Payton and (Delaney) ranks right up there with them…He is great with a capital G.”

Hall of Famer Elvin Bethea, Houston Oilers

He was just good people.

If you would allow me an exception, I wanted to add a player that didn’t play in the AFL days, but someone who isn’t remembered enough.  Just the mention of this players name can still bring a smile and a tear to some ex-players, coaches and fans eyes. He was headed for greatness.

His acts of generosity and kindness are still of legend. So are his acts on the football field. A Raider beat writer once said, “There is fast and then there is Joe Delaney fast”. He was a game breaking type of player who could catch the ball and run like the wind. With a strike shortened season and an eye injury, he only played 1 ½ years but he was amazing. He had 196 yards rushing against Houston and ran for 1121 yards his rookie year while getting the Rookie of the Year Award and making the Pro Bowl.

He once ran 75 yards for a touchdown but it was called back. Two plays later he ran for an 82 yard touchdown. Sadly, while trying to save 3 boys that were drowning, Delaney never got out of the water and died. He could not swim but he could not sit by and watch them die and do nothing. Only 1 of the boys made it. Joe received the US Presidential Citizens Medal from President Reagan and should always be remembered as being a real man, and a person that the NFL and their fans can be proud of.

Ed Podolak:

If you are a big fan of the AFL or a Chiefs fan, you are saying how come Ed’s on this list?  Well outside of KC many of today’s fans are clueless to how great of a player Podolak was. His occasional wildness off the field after his playing days gets some publicity at times but in reality Chiefs Running Back Ed Podolak was one heck of a football player. With his hooked bar helmet, he looked like a red bull chasing after people. He could catch, run, return kicks, and block. He was an all purpose back that could do it all.

He is the 5th all-time Chiefs RB in regards to rushing yards, and the 10th leading pass catcher of all time. He was also a quality return man that made many clutch kick returns. His wars against the Raiders and their bulldozer RB Marv Hubbard were must see tv and some of the most physical games ever played.

Jerrel Wilson:

wilsonphoto1

Nicknamed Thunderfoot, Jerrel Wilson was flat out one of the greatest punters of all time.  Often overshadowed in the all time punter conversation due to the greatness of Ray Guy, his booming and towering punts were a thing of beauty.  Ray Guy and Wilson transformed the punting game into an offensive weapon in regards to controlling field position.

He was a 3 time pro bowler and on the all AFL team, and in one year avg. 46.1 yards per punt.  He also did it in the clutch.  To punt when your team isn’t very good or if nothing is at stake is one thing but to do in when it counts is another.  His greatness should not be forgotten.

Oakland Raiders:

raiders 4

For a 25 year period, the Raiders winning % was far and away better than any professional sports team in the U.S.  In their first 20 Monday night football games they were 18-1-1.  In the greatest decade of the NFL; the 1970’s; they had the most wins.  In the NFL.com fan poll of the greatest teams ever a few years ago, the 1976 Oakland Raiders were voted the greatest team of all time by over 5.5 million NFL fans.

In QB Daryle Lamonica’s first 45 games as a Raider (after a trade from Buffalo) the Raiders were an unreal 40-4-1.  His successor; Ken Stabler; was 56-13 in his first 69 games.

For 3 decades 2 teams were almost always on top of the television ratings charts in the NFL.  The Cowboys and the Raiders.  The 2 teams people loved to hate.  For a time the Cowboys were America’s team and the Raiders were the renegades of the NFL with talent to back it up.  Those days seem light years away.  They moved to Los Angeles which slowly eroded their tough blue collar Oakland persona, and the violence at games along with the small crowds, eroded their mystique.  Their style of play changed and they’ve never been the same.  It’s sad because few teams in the NFL boast a higher level of talent in their great history.  No team in history was more crazy, wild, talented, and colorful as the Oakland Raiders.

(below is the article on the 1976 Raiders chosen as the greatest NFL team of all time)

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

Warren Wells:

(please support and follow the AFL Godfather on twitter @NFLMAVERICK   I got this video from his public page but I’d really appreciate if you’d support him.  He has great stuff from the past!  Thank you!)

“The greatest player I ever coached was Warren Wells. I never saw anyone that gifted and that fast”.

Former Raiders Head Coach John Madden

On December 6, 1970, Warren Wells made an unreal catch on the last field play of the game to beat the Jets 14-13.  His catch against 2 Jet defenders would make Houdini applaud.  Wells was that good.

This is still one of Ronnie Lott’s favorite all-time players. If you talk to any player of the 1960’s, the one player that always amazed them was Warren Wells. For a 3 ½ year period, he struck terror in the eyes of all teams.  He unfortunately was one of only 2 NFL players who were drafted and made to go to the Vietnam war in 1965.

He was as fast as lightning and just as gifted. Before the NFL changed the statistic criteria, Warren Wells was the all time leader in yards per catch at an inhuman 23.3 yards a reception. In one year he caught 47 balls for an incredible 27 yards per reception.   He and Daryle Lamonica; The Mad Bomber; were the originators of Al Davis’ feared vertical game.

Due to off the field issues and an ankle injury, Wells career was cut short. He straightened up his life after doing prison time during his younger days, and last year was honored by lighting the Al Davis torch at one of the Raiders home games.

http://www.raiders.com/media-vault/videos/Warren-Wells-Lights-Torch-in-Honor-of-Al-Davis/ffd9a538-97ff-4c2a-8785-29e2e4c64820

Tom Keating:

keating tom

He was the anchor of the famous “11 Angry Men” Oakland Raiders defense and was a key player of the 1960’s and 1970’s.   Tom Keating was one of the best defensive linemen in AFL history. He was a 2 time AFL all star and on the all time AFL 2nd team member. He played so hard that a story was written about him when the Raiders played the Packers in Super Bowl II. He was a part of the famous 1967 Raiders defense that caused a record 667 yards in losses on 67 sacks. They remain one of the greatest and most unheralded defenses of all time.

He was talented and tough.   Off the field he was a fan favorite and very happy go lucky. He was a bay area guy and lived and died here. Many feel that if he didn’t have such bad knees that he was a hall of famer for sure.

Dave Grayson:

dave graysonryreyr

There are many that feel Dave Grayson is a Hall of Famer.  Dave played for Oakland between 1965-1970.  He played for the Dallas Texans/Chiefs before that, and was originally signed by the Dallas Cowboys.  Grayson was an undrafted free agent out of the University of Oregon.  Tom Landry felt he was too small and not physical enough so he was let got and Hank Stram gave him a shot and he stuck.

Al Davis Traded for CB Dave Grayson in 1965 (he traded him for future actor Fred “The Hammer” Williamson) from the Chiefs and then traded for Willie Brown from Denver in 1967.  This allowed the Raiders to play the physical bump and run style that has been a trademark of the team for years.

When NFL and former Cowboys personnel guru Gil Brandt was asked who were the 4 best cornerbacks in Dallas history his first 3 were not a shock.  Mel Renfro, Herb Adderly & Deion Sanders.  “I also include Dave Grayson.  He didn’t play with the Cowboys but he’s so good I’m including him.”

Denver Broncos:

denver broncos uniform 1960
Houston Oilers v.s. Denver Broncos

 

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Boston Patriots v.s. Denver Broncos

A little known fact that may buy you a drink someday if you are a Denver fan is that many of the AFL teams didn’t have much money to start with. The Broncos first uniforms were actually mustard yellow and brown.  Why was that you say?  The reason they were that color is that the Broncos wanted to save money so they bought the used uniforms off of the University of Wyoming football team and used them for a year. It saved them thousands of dollars.  Wyoming were upgrading their uniforms so they were available. They then got a designer to make a new uniform the following season.

Frank Tribucka:

One of the many crazy and memorable stories of the AFL is the one about Bronco great Frank Tribucka.  Tribucka was the father of Notre Dame and NBA player Kelly Tribucka.  Frank was a Notre Dame legend.  At 33 years old he had played for several teams in the NFL, Canada, and AFL and he came to the expansion Broncos to be a coach after retiring.  During the last pre-season game they asked him to play to sell a few tickets.  He then started the next week as the Broncos QB and played for the next 3 years.

In his first year he threw for 34 interceptions (still a Denver Bronco’s record) but also became the first QB in NFL or AFL history to throw for over 3,000 yards in a season.  Against the Bills he threw for over 447 yards in a game; a Bronco record that stood for over 38 years.  Frank had a great personality and was very popular and will always be a part of the AFL lore.

Goose Gonsoulin:

Austin William Goose Gonsoulin

goose gonsoulin

Goose was as tough as nails. In a day and age where the game was so physical, he played in an amazing 61 straight games for the Broncos.  He is third all time in the AFL for interceptions with 43 and has the AFL record for most interceptions in a game with 4.  Gonsoulin is also still 2nd all time in Denver Broncos history in interceptions only 1 behind leader Steve Foley.  He was a 6 time AFL all star and was voted on the AFL’s all time 2nd team.

In his first 6 years with Denver, he had an amazing 43 interceptions, 542 return yards with 2 brought back for touchdowns.  A fun loving, true great of the AFL era.

Rich “Tombstone” Jackson:

Another guy that doesn’t get his due is Rich Tombstone Jackson. He was the first real great pass rusher in Denver history. He was very physical and Lyle Alzado of all people called him the toughest man he ever met.  Just another of the all time great players that never got his due.  He was way before his time and mastered the head slap and many other moves to the dismay of the NFL.

He was a 2x AFL All Star, 2x AFL All Pro and voted second team on the all time AFL team. As with many players of his day before modern knee surgeries, he tore his knee and had to retire early from football. Many believe he was the best pass rusher of that era and that without injury he was heading into the NFL Hall of Fame.  While Deacon Jones got all of the publicity, Jackson quietly tormented opponents.  It’s sad he’s never mentioned more.

Final Thoughts:

With so many people lacking any knowledge of the past in our social media mentality of today, it’s important for all of us to remember the great players of yesteryear. These are players from the AFC West but obviously the AFL had amazing teams and athletes from New York and Buffalo to San Diego.  My father talked to me often about the greatness of the AFL.  From the Titans and Texans, to the Bills and Raiders, AFL lore has so many amazing players and stories.  I hope that we never forget the greatness of the AFL and more and more groups are created to discuss such amazing memories that we enjoyed with our parents and grandparents.