On his show on 95.7 The Game, Greg Papa answered any and all questions about his departure from the Raiders. It was definitely must listen to radio.
Marc Badain the President of the Oakland Raiders texted Greg Papa on July 2nd stating that they had to meet in person. Papa met Mark on July 5th and at lunch Mark said they were not going to bring Papa back. Greg wondered why now and Badain said he bought Greg a few years by defending him. I’m thinking this firing in late July is a big bite me to Greg. It’s near impossible for him to get a gig doing NFL games so late in the year other than a few here and there.
“On January of 2014 I heard the Raiders were going to interview Mike Shanahan for head coach. The interview didn’t go great so I didn’t think it would happen, but I said it was beyond my comprehension that Mike Shanahan could be interviewed because Al loathed him. Rod Woodsen and Bill Romanowski were campaigning for Shanahan to be the head coach and I couldn’t believe it”.
In his first meeting with Badain when he was first hired, Badain said that Greg had to patch things up with Mark Davis. Greg stated that he called Mark Davis early the next morning. He said the call did not go well after he said he would not apologize to Mark for his comments about Mike Shanahan. Davis hung up on him. Papa has admitted that he warned the Raiders that he would quit if Shanahan was hired and that put Mark over the edge. He said that he felt like he was public enemy number one after that and was taken off some of the things that Al had always wanted him to do. He saw Davis once and said hi to him and Davis ignored him and just walked on by.
Papa Calls Out Blogger’s/Podcaster’s With the Wrong Information:
Greg said the misinformation that was written about by bloggers was comically wrong. “I’m not much into social media but boy, some of the crazy stories were so wrong”. He stated that he never was asked to go to Las Vegas and he never said that he would not go. In fact he admitted that he would have gone and that flying to Vegas for the weekend and doing a game was no big deal to him.
Why Greg Is So Loyal To Al Davis:
Al was loyal to the end. Former Raider executive John Herrera probably said it best in a 2012 interview with SFGATE. “Al was so demanding. He would sometimes call you at 1 am just to see if you were on the ball and if you did what he asked you to do. There were no cell phones back in the day so we had to be around our home phones when we weren’t at work. Once he trusted you and knew you’d do a good job though, you had a friend for life. He helped people financially, personally and if you didn’t need help he made sure you got tickets when you wanted them”. These stories are still refreshing in a day and age when few can do something nice without posting a video of it on social media.
That’s the relationship Greg Papa had with Al Davis. Unlike the great Bill King, Al became close to Greg. Greg was the new guard in announcers. Fans started to change and most wanted their announcers to be more “homers” than objective and Greg fit right into that mold. He would criticize at times, but rarely was he super negative about the Raiders where Bill King at times would be brutally honest if they played poorly. Greg became very close to Al who appreciated his loyalty and some publications have stated that Greg was a possible front office hire for the Raiders in the future. “Al was like a second father to me,” Papa said. Many in the media said Greg was the semi mouthpiece of Al when Mr. Davis became very ill.
It must have been hard for Mark Davis to watch his father be so close to some people. The stories about how Al treated Mark at times are uncomfortable to listen to. Let’s face it; if Al thought a lot about his son he would have been in an important job in some capacity. Instead the only job Mark Davis has really ever had in his life is some minor PR jobs for the Raiders.
Who Is In the Wrong:
Probably no one. I don’t think that Mark Davis is a bad guy but he had pretty much little to no work history and now he owns an NFL team. To be fair, running a business is really difficult even with a lot of experience. Mark Davis wanted respect and loyalty from Papa and let’s face it; Papa doesn’t respect him.
I get what Greg is saying. I love my dad and I’m loyal to the nines. In fact in my first 2 years in business, 2 businesses my father despised wanted to work with us and I declined. Let’s be real; Mark and Al Davis probably weren’t Ward Cleaver and the Beaver, and Mark’s actions prove it. Like I always say, actions show a man’s heart, and their words are the B.S. to cover over those actions.
I greatly respect Greg Papa and I understand. You remember being down or just starting out and someone takes a chance on you and you make it and it’s something you never forget. In today’s world that type of loyalty means little to nothing to some people. People only look to see if that person can help them or not. To Papa it meant everything.
Greg also see’s one of the greatest minds in pro football history pass away and his new boss is his son who never had much to do with the team and has little or no job history in 6 decades of life. I’m sure underneath Greg wasn’t too happy, or impressed.
I feel bad for Mark in a way. I can also see Mark’s side and it must have been hard to watch Greg get so close to his father. I don’t blame Mark Davis for wanting to be his own man but I think there are a lot more motives to all these changes than that.
Greg Papa has now gone the way of Hue Jackson, Amy Trask and John Herrera. The changing of the Al Davis guard is pretty complete. The 300-pound gorilla in the room that no one wants to talk about is the complicated relationship between Mark Davis and his father. He wants to literally start over in Las Vegas while pushing the reset button. Davis needs to realize in the NFL world he has to earn his way and earn respect. With popular Greg Papa, he obviously didn’t.
Mark Davis is trying to find himself as a person and as an owner. Today’s cynical and shallow age is a hard place to do it in especially if you are in your 60’s. And what I found out is that a radio announcer would lose a job he loves beyond measure for the loyalty of a man, and the very person who is firing him for his loyalty is the son of that man. This is a lot deeper than anyone wants to admit.
The NFL draft has always been fascinating to me. It’s an amazing thing to see how teams choose who they want to create the foundation of their team. It’s not a coincidence though that with the greatness of the Raiders of the 1960’s into early 1980’s, most of their drafts were excellent getting at least 2 good starters in many drafts. Director of Player Personnel Ron Wolf was a key element of these drafts and he is now in the HOF. As John Madden said, “Al listened to only one person and that was Ron Wolf”.
To establish a great team you have to have excellent drafts. Back in the day, a guy that could scout and pick out a good player was worth their weight in gold. A recent ESPN study showed just how bad the NFL teams of today draft, especially missing on so many QB’s that it’s ruined some franchises for years. In the olden days they relied on game films and occasional interviews with the players and their coaches. Now they over analyze and see things that aren’t there and refuse to see things that are. Paralysis by analysis. If you look at something long enough you begin to see flaws.
For now though, and look to the draft picks that did work out well often leading to wins and championships.
#5: 1974 Draft:
1st Henry Lawrence T
2nd Dave Casper TE
3rd Mark Van Eeghen
4th Morris Bradshaw
Henry Lawrence was a pillar in the OL for 13 years for the Raiders with much of it being as a starter. He has 3 Super Bowl rings and in the last 2 Raider titles he was a starting tackle. Dave Casper is a HOF player and was one of the best all around tight ends in history. With his tough and physical blocking and his amazing hands; Casper, Biletnikoff, Cliff Branch, and Ken Stabler made one of the greatest passing combinations of all time.
Mark Van Eeghen took over for Marv Hubbard and could do it all. He wasn’t fast, but he was amazing at following his blockers and soon became one of the best all around RB’s in the NFL. A great pass catcher, Mark also was a key pass protector for his ability to pick up blitzing LB’s. Even though he ran for over 1,000 yards in the 1976 season, Oakland’s game plan was for Mark to be the lead blocker for most of the game and the speedy Clarence Davis (who ran for 516 yards the same year) would get the bulk of the carries against an older Minnesota Vikings team. The plan worked to perfection as Mark had an amazing game blocking and Davis ran 16 times for 137 yards. Van Eeghen ran for 73 yards and the Raiders rushed for 266 yards which is still the 3rd highest Super Bowl rushing game in history. You wonder if players of today would sacrifice like that.
In the 4th Round the Raiders got WR Morris Bradshaw who became a key member of their special teams unit for 8 years. He also was a part time starter with his best year being 1978 when he caught 40 passes for 552 yards.
#4: 1972 Draft:
1st Mike Siani WR
2nd John Vella OL
4th Cliff Branch WR
4th Dave Dalby OL
7th Alonzo “Skip” Thomas DB
To be honest you could interchange the #4 and #3 drafts and still have winners. What a problem to have. Mike Siani was a poor man’s Fred Biletnikoff and while he never lived up to his #1 status, he was a vital contributor in the Raiders passing game with many key pass catches in important games. John Vella and Dave Dalby were part of what many consider the greatest offensive line of all time. Their size and toughness wore opponents down. Dr. Death Skip Thomas was a key member of the famous “Soul Patrol” that many feel is the greatest defensive backfield in NFL history.
Cliff Branch will eventually get into the Hall of Fame but he remains one of the greatest deep threats the NFL has ever seen. During a talk show Raiders great Ken Stabler said, “I had a great offensive line, Casper, Biletnikoff who caught anything and Cliff Branch who could outrun half of the cars in the parking lot”. This amazing draft class is just another reason why the Raiders were so dominating.
#3: 1977 Draft:
2nd Mike Davis
4th Mickey Marvin
5th Lester Hayes
5th Jeff Barnes
8th Terry Robiskie
12th Rod Martin
Maybe this draft didn’t have the iconic talent of other drafts, but it definitely filled a lot of holes with excellent players. Mike Davis was a key member at safety and his interception against the Cleveland Browns in the playoffs helped propel the Raiders to eventually win a Super Bowl. Mickey Marvin was an excellent OL for years. Lester Hayes started out slow, but eventually became one of the best cover corners in the game and should be in the HOF. Jeff Barnes and Rod Martin were excellent LB’s that helped the Raiders shore up their defense after the Villapiano, Willie Hall and Monte Johnson era. Terry Robiskie was a great special teams player and backup RB.
#2: 1971 Draft:
1st Jack Tatum DB
2nd Phil Villapiano LB
4th Clarence Davis
5th Bob Moore
12th Horace Jones
“They changed the rules because of Tatum and Atkinson”, said HOF QB Fran Tarkenton on San Francisco’s KNBR radio. “The 5 yard chuck rule was created because of them and the other Raiders DB’s because the WR’s literally could not get off of the line against them. They were so physically imposing and strong.”
Jack Tatum hit harder than any DB in history and should no doubt be in the HOF. Phil Villapiano said, “Tatum’s shots just sounded different. His hits sounded like a car wreck”. George Atkinson added, “I once saw Jack hit Denver’s Riley Odoms so hard that I thought he killed him. It sounded like a car wreck”. He was a star at Ohio St. where Woody Hayes loved his hard hitting style and instinct to be where he needed to be, and he brought that to the Oakland Raiders. Jack’s timing was unmatched. If it wasn’t for the Darryl Stingley hit, Tatum would already be in the HOF. RIP to both of them.
A huge get was Phil Villapiano. Supposedly an undersized LB out of Bowling Green, most teams had him as being too small. Almost everyone had him as a possible 3rd round pick, but most had him going into the 4th round. The Raiders; who were the only team that would not share information with other teams; picked him in the second round. They knew that Phil was really 225 and not the 210 that everyone else said he was. Villapiano became a key element shoring up their back 7 on defense. He could tackle and stop the run, and with his lateral speed and timing he was a great pass defender. There are many that feel Phil should be in the HOF as well. His personality and fun spirit is classic Raider. The below video shows Phil Villapiano leading the Raiders on and off the field.
Clarence Davis was a fast and clutch player. His catch in the famous “Sea of Hands” game and his amazing performances in post season including his 137 yards rushing in the Super Bowl win against Minnesota are immortalized. Bob Moore was a solid NFL back up tight end and Horace Jones was an important defensive starter for four of the 5 years he played for the Raiders.
#1: 1968 Draft:
2nd Ken Stabler QB
3rd Art Shell T
4th Charlie Smith RB
7th George Atkinson DB
11th Marv Hubbard
Now finally the greatest draft in Oakland Raiders history, the 1968 draft. If you can draft 2 quality starters in your draft, usually your draft is considered pretty good. Draft 5 key starters and 2 Hall of Famer’s and I’d say your draft was awesome.
In 1967 the Raiders drafted HOF guard Gene Upshaw who would help anchor an amazing offensive line. In 1968, they chose other big pieces that would lay a foundation for their success in the 1970’s.
This draft was the key to the Raiders success in the 60’s and 70’s and this draft topped them all. They now had one of the greatest QB’s in history in Ken Stabler, and another HOF player on the OL in Art Shell. With Charlie Smith and Marv Hubbard they had a set of starting RB’s that could run and catch the ball. All 4 players were big parts of the success of the Raiders in the 1970’s and late 1960’s.
Then oh by the way add 7th round pick George Atkinson who was considered too small to be a full time safety. What teams didn’t get is that Atkinson was as tough as nails, hit like a ton of bricks, had a bad attitude on the field and was as fast as lightning. Early in his career he was a great kick returner on both punts and kickoffs and held records for a number of years in the return game. He was also the voice of the famous “Soul Patrol” defensive backfield.
So there you have it. These are the 5 greatest draft classes in Raiders history. The hope of all fans is that their favorite teams draft choices will reach their full potential and step up to be great players. In the following years we will find out how the draft choices of the new millennium rank. History shows us that if you consistently draft poorly, you will eventually erode your foundation and have to start over. If you excel in the draft, you create a winning team for years to come. When the Raiders had great drafts, they succeeded and were the winningest franchise in U.S. sports. When they didn’t, they failed and struggled breaking records for futility. Here’s to a future of great draft picks and great success to this amazing franchise.
Friends used to ask who do you want on a podcast or even to just have a beer with. The 4 people remain the same. Ken Stabler, Bill King, John Madden, and Phil Villapiano. Today I’m writing about one of the most popular Raider players of all time, and one of my dad’s favorites in Phil Villapiano. “Foo” was a Raider from the start.
From Day One:
When Phil Villapiano was drafted, most teams had him going in the 3rd or 4th round. The Raiders drafted him in the 2nd round out of Bowling Green which was a surprise to some. Many teams had Villapiano listed at only 210 pounds, being too small to play linebacker. Back then there was no NFL combines or official weigh ins, so most teams would share information with each other to save money and time. The Raiders refused to share information.
What the Raiders knew about Villapiano was that he was legitimately 225 pounds. He was an instinctive player who loved to hit. His speed laterally was excellent and a big part of his game. He could play every down and had great feel in pass coverage. In the same draft Oakland selected Jack Tatum, Clarence Davis, and backup tight end Bob Moore. With Tatum and Villapiano, they had 2 hard hitters to go with another that loved contact in George Atkinson. The Raiders added Skip “Dr. Death” Thomas in the following draft and their back 7 was as physical and skilled as any in the history of the game.
The Raiders offenses were awesome but most forget that in 3 Super Bowl wins the Raiders only gave up 33 points and had three great QB’s in Fran Tarkenton, Ron Jaworski & Joe Theismann running for their lives most of the time. In fact all 4 teams in last years AFC and NFC Championship games were in the top 5 scoring defenses in the entire NFL. It isn’t sexy but defense still wins championships.
Phil’s Coming Out Party:
In week 3 of the 1971 season, rookie Villapiano was thrown into the fire and he had to start due to injuries at linebacker. Phil had an amazing game on national television against the Browns in front of 84,000 screaming Cleveland fans. To the dismay of every fan outside of Oakland, Howard Cosell raved about Phil during the Raiders 34-20 win, making him a household name over night and announce another weapon for the hated Oakland Raiders.
A Key Member of the Raiders Defense:
Phil soon became a mainstay in the Raiders physical style of play. He could cover all parts of the field, and his violent play was just what the Raiders wanted. In front of the famous “Soul Patrol” and behind an aggressive and relentless defensive line, Monte Johnson, Ted Hendricks, Willie Hall, and Villapiano manned one of the more underrated LB crews and defenses in the NFL. Al Davis and Ron Wolf’s motto for their defense was one thing; the QB must go down, and go down hard. Raider fans loved seeing Villapiano slowly and methodically hitting his arm pad on the line of scrimmage letting opponents know that he was coming and he was going to hit somebody.
(A video showing the brutality of the Raiders defense and Phil Villapiano’s team “activities”)
The renegade Raiders were by far the king of bay area sports and they capped off their success in 1976 with a dominating performance in Super Bowl 11 with a win over the Minnesota Vikings, 32-14. There were some sweaty palms at the start of the game though. The Raiders took the opening kickoff and went down the field but kicker Errol Mann missed a 29 yard field goal. Later in the 1st, Viking great Fred McNeil blocked a Ray Guy punt for Guy’s first blocked punt in his career. Minnesota recovered it on the Raiders 3 yard line and Raider fans began to worry. On third down, Villapiano forced a fumble from RB Brent McClanahan which fellow LB Willie Hall recovered and the Raiders went on a long drive for a short FG. Phil’s key play changed the momentum of the game.
(Phil is even clutch during a fun time at the 2009 Biletnikoff Celebrity Golf Tournament)
The Wild Days In Oakland:
Along with their amazing winning ways, Oakland also lead the league in having fun. The Raiders off the field craziness was unequalled, with Phil Villapiano being the unofficial ring leader of all of the antics. The stories of the Raiders training camp days in Santa Rosa are of legend. So many fans enjoyed spending time with players at North Bay hotspots and one of their favorites to party with was Villapiano and Ken Stabler.
(Phil’s interview on his foundation to save the Jersey Shore after hurricane Sandy)
He would set up activities and games to break the monotony of training camp. And as many players have said, cheating was not only encouraged but a necessity. Players drank with fans, outcasts, and anyone else that was considered part of the Raider family. Hells Angels and the Black Panthers would befriend some Raiders, and even a few shady figures would emerge. While most celebrities loved glamorous teams like the Cowboys, actors like James Garner became friends with the Raiders of the 70’s along with owner Al Davis.
From paying a woman to run naked across the practice field, to setting a small fire to stop the monotony of training camp, the pranks were wild and Phil was usually the instigator. Phil once even helped put on a wedding at one of the restaurants with some of the Raiders helping with the direction and officiating of the nuptials. After passing the hat around they helped the couple go on a honeymoon. Of course the wedding was bogus, and to this day no one knew if the couple ever found out they really weren’t married.
Phil & the Raiders Legacy:
I fought with some old time NFL fans and writers last year who tried to downplay how good the Raiders were. We all know how I love facts so I was loaded for bear. Daryle Lamonica was 38-4-1 in his first 43 starts for Oakland. Ken Stabler was 50-11-1 in his first 62 starts and the Raiders were 18-1-1 in their first 20 Monday night football games. No offense, but if Derek Carr and the Raiders had those stats today, with the fervor of social media, they would be erecting statues for them.
The Facts About The Raiders & the 1970’s:
The Raiders won more games than any other team in the NFL in the 1970’s, the greatest decade in NFL history. During the 1970-75 dynasty of the Miami Dolphins, the Raiders were 4-2 against the mighty Dolphins including 2-1 in the playoffs. Against the Pittsburgh Steelers of the 1970’s, the Raiders were the only team with success owning a 6-5 record. They were 2-3 against Pittsburgh in the playoffs but one of those wins was the Immaculate Reception, and another was the 16-10 loss in Pittsburgh, where “somehow” outside the hash-marks the field had become completely frozen after the Steelers groundskeepers allegedly watered it down in the frigid cold of a Pennsylvania winter day. One of the few players Pittsburgh Hall of Famer Mel Blount struggled with was Cliff Branch. Al Davis got in an argument, yelling at Pete Rozelle before the game on the field saying how this now limited Cliff Branch’s speed. And they say the Raiders cheated!
In an online contest created by the NFL on their website, the 1976 Raiders were voted the greatest team in NFL history by over 5.2 million fans.
Phil was a big part of all this success. In fact most felt the Raiders were better in 1977 but Phil and OL John Vella had season ending injuries. The beat up Raiders were never healthy for the rest of the decade. Eventually he was traded to Buffalo not long after he made comments that the Raiders needed to stay in Oakland. He said that he never felt those comments got Al Davis mad, but Phil is a nicer guy than I am and I’m not so sure.
Phil is Just as Good Off the Field:
First off, congratulations to Phil who just won the Jersey Shore’s greatest Sports Personality in the last 50 years! We hope that this is not the last HOF he gets into. Again, please go to his Facebook page to support his Hall of Fame run.
When I first worked for the Muscular Dystrophy Foundation in honor of my cousin Celestina, I was so happy to see Phil Villapiano being such a huge contributor for them. Phil has lent himself to many charities and he is beloved by fans and organizations alike. Phil is in various Hall of Fames and his other charities include saving the Jersey Shore after hurricane Sandy and MDA & ALS.
He also has bravely offered his brain to CTE research as well. Players like Jim Plunkett and George Atkinson have discussed the issue and the struggles they are having, and Phil also has done several interviews on the effects that football has had on his body.
Phil joins the ranks of so many special Raider players. Their love of life, football and their fellow man is both inspiring and endearing. Born in Long Branch, New Jersey and raised in Asbury Park, Phil has left his mark on many hearts around the country. He has seen pain and tragedy but through it all he lives life with joy and a smile. Graduating from Bowling Green and making a name on the national scene in Oakland, he is more than a college icon, former NFL Rookie of the Year, 2 time all NFL player, or 5 time all AFC player. A lot more.
I was once asked on a podcast why the Raiders players relationship with the fans was so special because they said they just didn’t understand it. I said, “Most people look at the players as celebrity athletes. It’s their team. Even though I was too little to understand anything, in Oakland the Raiders were not celebrities but they were considered family. The players were underpaid so many worked, played and were socially active with the fans. They also genuinely enjoyed and cared for each other, and the players were a part of the community. From Al Davis who the NFL and most owners hated; to the great Bill King who the networks and the Warriors took off of tv for looking like the Devil; neither they, the players or the fans really fit in anywhere. Except in Oakland”.
“They worked hard and played hard and loved their families. They were outcasts and throw aways that made sense to no one. The players were always too old, wild, or too slow or not big enough. Al Davis would see their heart and take them in. Then you put them all together with an East Bay attitude under an overcast, grey sky in Oakland on a crisp fall day, and together they all made sense. They won and they dominated. The pride; the winning; the diversity in race and religion; it was the best relationship in sports. No stadium was louder, no bond stronger”.
From New Jersey to California, Phil has never lost who he was and who was there for the ride. His loyalty and love for fans and family is contagious. And anyone that could put a smile on my mom and dad’s face has my loyalty.
(The Amazing run of the Raiders; The Rebels of Oakland)
They say never meet your heroes, and when I first started my medical business in the bay area, I was able to meet some A-List athletes and celebrities that I admired. Most were ok, but a couple turned out to be arrogant, self absorbed and just plain strange and it hurt. Raider fans are lucky because for the most part they are never disappointed. Meet Lester Hayes or Jim Otto or Phil Villapiano, and they will have you leaving with a smile. Phil is a fan favorite due to his whit, love of life, and passionate heart. He’s never really received the credit he deserved on the field, but let’s be real, many Raiders haven’t. People forget the east coast media dominated sports at the time. I’m sorry but waiting this long for Cliff Branch, Lester Hayes, Jack Tatum and Phil Villapiano is unacceptable and I’ve told the NFL writers as such. (Don’t get me started on Ken Stabler). Phil is already in our HOF and I hope Phil truly knows just how special he is to the bay area.
So if you are having a rough day, open your favorite adult beverage and go on youtube and enjoy the Super Bowl and championship games all over again. Check out Phil’s interviews that will leave you inspired and always laughing. Reminisce about the players and friends and family that you shared these amazing times with. Remember loved ones that are no longer with us that you shared so much with and who started your journey as a Raider fan. The Sea of Hands; The Holy Roller; the Ghost to the Post; the Heidi Game; and all that winning. For me, every time I watch these videos and see the feelings of joy in the fans and the players, it’s as exciting as the Klondike, flying over the Atlantic, or the story of the White Whale.
How innocent were those days….how rich we are to have known them.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Tomorrow I will be writing about the solutions the Raiders need to be successful this year. But today I’m doing something much different.
I pride myself on being objective but today I’m writing as a fan. Yesterday I read a lot of social media after the Raiders 30-17 loss at home to the Baltimore Ravens. I’ll have to agree with many Raider fans; never have I seen so much anger and nastiness from Raider fans towards the team, players and other fans in all of my life. The last 10 days there has been a heaviness on so many people. With the Las Vegas shooting and the overall dysfunction of our country in general, we are a depressed mess.
Athletes Acting Badly:
I see the anger and nastiness on Twitter and it’s scary that people like this are living among us. Why do athletes listen so much? We see it almost every day on social media. So many 20 and 30 something athletes losing their minds on social media over fans or media who say negative things about them. The NBA is the worst. You see players constantly slap fighting with each other verbally like little spoiled Jr. High School girls over petty squabbles or imaginary slights.
The Golden State Warriors Kevin Durrant; who many around the team say is a tad eccentric; was hurt by such negativity and was even caught with a fake Twitter account that he used to attack fans and to defend himself. He later apologized. A grown friggin man worried about what mostly young fans said behind a computer screen. That’s some kind of insecurity.
That pales in comparison to what is going on with others. We now have a video going viral of a long time NFL offensive line coach snorting a “white substance” and sending the video to a female stripper. How many players like Adrian Peterson are exposed with bad lifestyles when so many look up to them. Steve McNair; one of the most respected players in the last 25 years and the 1994 recipient of the Walter Payton Award; was murdered by his 20 y/o mistress. Why? Because he was seeing another mistress.
(Below; Miami Dolphins Offensive Line Coach Chris Foerster snorting a white substance)
Some players in the NFL have some pretty insane lifestyles; I get that; but it’s out of hand how inappropriate they and society have become.
Raiders Fans & Players Behaving Badly:
Donald Penn was the darling of Raider fans last year. The year before on social media he was trashed for being old and that he wasn’t worth the money. He gave up only one sack to Raiders QB Derek Carr all year but unfortunately that sack resulted in Carr breaking his ankle. It’s all been downhill after that.
Penn held out but eventually signed for a 21 million dollar contract, and he’s struggled at times this year. Fan’s have made him know how upset they are about it on social media and Penn called out one of the fans. The fan showed up after the game and it got ugly.
Penn has had several young male Raider fans trash him online and he’s no stranger to battling with them. During the confrontation several Raider fans started taunting him calling out 21 million, and other fun loving things. Internet trolls trying to make a name for themselves on social media acting inappropriately; wow there’s a shocker. Players feeding into the negativity due to frustration and anger at a 2-3 start with the hardest part of there schedule still in their future has fueled the fire.
There was also a video that I’m not going to post of Raider fans urinating in the stands. Men are pathetic at times.
What the Hell Has Happened:
Our society is a train wreck of classlessness and selfish behavior. The arrogance is through the roof. People hurt others and don’t think twice about it. Anger and violence is acceptable to many and it’s seen in NFL fans behavior time and time again.
The anger of the team going to Las Vegas and the poor play has created a negativity that I’ve never seen before. Even as a kid when the Raiders were leaving to Los Angeles, we didn’t want to hurt the players and people for the most part weren’t angry; they were just very sad they were leaving.
The day Al Davis moved to Los Angeles is the day the magic of the Raiders died. They have never and they will never be the same. The innocence of that time is gone. The Raiders were the winningest TEAM in U.S. sports for 25 years (and it wasn’t close) and would soon lose their mojo in Southern California. When they left, most in LA didn’t bat an eye. Even the LA Times said good riddance.
The team has never been the same but neither have the fans. The Raiders have a nice niche of younger fans in Southern California but as Raider great Tim Brown said on 95.7 The Game, “not enough to support an NFL Team unless everything is going great”. In LA the violence of fans during a tumultuous time in society fueled the crime and anger at Raiders games, and it’s been continued to some in a new generation. In the first 3 months of 2016, 3 of my female Raider followers had been MURDERED by their partners. All 3 were from Southern California and all 3 of the males had past gang involvement and were vocal Raider fans. Obviously not all So Cal fans are bad or violent, but this was greatly disturbing.
How to Not Get Caught Up In It:
I’m not Pollyanna. Raider fans were always pretty vulgar and aggressive, but they were never like this. And Oakland never was the cesspool of violence that the media portrayed they were.
(Below: link to my article on Raiders v.s. 49ers Fan violence)
In reality some people have forgotten what it is to be a Raider fan and they are too caught up in the drama or the attention of it. It’s about loyalty and family. The Raider tradition is about winning and having high standards without trolling on the internet and attacking players verbally. And for God’s sakes it’s not about violence and not being able to control your anger like an 8 year old bully. Appreciate the tradition and the amazing success the team has had in the past and grow from that tradition to generation to generation. Life is tough but Raider fans always came through for each other.
It’s not about acting like angry pigs. It’s not about classlessness and disrespecting the players and those around you. It’s ok to say something about a players play if they are failing, but to attack them like an anger management flunky shows a new kind of low.
NO ONE; has told the truth about how bad the Raiders have been over the years like I have. So many trashed me online for being negative but I wasn’t negative. I was honest and right almost every time. But I also see improvement in this team with still more work in the front office and on the field to do. I’ve been honest. Many have been blind to my honesty and just believe what they want to believe. Facts > biased opinion. Being critical is one thing though; being abusive, vulgar and so angry is just weird.
What’s worse, is that many of the people that were so angry yesterday, were the same ones attacking fans and writers who questioned just how good the Raiders were at the beginning of the year. They change like the wind. They used to call others haters and now they hate. Often wrong, never in doubt. Some seem to always be attacking someone.
Yesterday was the 6th Anniversary of Al Davis passing. One of the 5 greatest and most important figures in modern football. And in all of my years of knowing about this amazing team and dynasty, I’ve never seen so many bad displays from fans.
I was too young to remember a lot of what happened in the Raiders early years, but I’m going to watch a bunch of Raiders videos from the Ken Stabler era tonight. So many things are messed up with fans behaviors that I just need normality. I need to see winning and I need to see loyalty. And I need to feel a team and a fan base acting as one with pure joy, win or lose. This has been an awful year for me personally and with all that is happening with the Raiders and the fans, I feel like crap and I don’t want to anymore.
Young fans always wonder why people love to talk about the glory days of the Raiders. It’s because it was life changing. It was special, fun and inclusive. No Racism; no violence; no anger in losing. It was a time of glory and family. Tomorrow I’ll talk about what is needed on this team and if they can salvage the dreams of this season. But for today, I’m celebrating the Raiders. I need this and I think others do too.
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.
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.
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.
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)
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.
Charger receiver Lance Alworth catches pass against the Raiders Dave Grayson and Nemiah Wilson. 1969 Photo Ron Riesterer
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.
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.
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.
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.
From Tennessee to North Carolina; from Los Angeles to Oakland; the heartbreaking news was released that former Tennessee Volunteer All-American and Oakland Raider great Mickey Marvin had passed away today at the age of 61.
Raiders announcement on the passing of Mickey Marvin:
The cause of death has not been released but in 2015 the tragic news had spread that Marvin had been diagnosed with ALS; Lou Gehrig’s disease. The news hit the college & pro football community hard.
Last year the Raiders honored Mickey with a lifetime achievement award through the Fritz Pollard Alliance Foundation. Even though he could not attend due to health reasons, he received a standing ovation.
Mickey was honored with his own golf tournament. He also was honored in 2016 by western North Carolina Congressman Mark Meadows when a proclamation in Mickey’s honor was read on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives and entered into the Congressional Record.
After a great career at Tennessee, the 6’ 4”, 270 pound Marvin was drafted in the 4th round of the NFL draft by Oakland and he was a mainstay in a long line of great Raider offensive lines. He helped them to 2 Super Bowl wins against Philadelphia and Washington. He played from 1977 to 1987 and in 120 games he started 108 of them. On the field at the guard position, he was physical, consistent and someone that Al Davis loved to have on his team because he knew he could count on him. Davis was so taken in by Mickey, that he told him 5 years into his career that when he could no longer play there would be a job waiting for him. Al Davis cut Mickey Marvin before the 1988 season, and true to his word, 3 weeks later Mickey was now a Scout for the Raiders. A position he held for 29 years.
On the field……..
People forget just how good Mickey was. In the biggest games he played his best. Much was said before Super Bowl XV by the east coast media that the likes of Mickey Marvin, center Dave Dalby and an aging Gene Upshaw would be no match for Eagles nose tackle Charlie Johnson and linebackers Bill Bergey and Frank LeMaster. The Raiders ended up controlling both lines of scrimmage on the way to a 27-10 defeat of Philadelphia. The Raiders gave up only 1 sack the entire game, which ended up to be nose tackle Charlie Johnson’s only tackle. The Raiders chewed up 231 yards rushing against Washington who at that time was thought to be the greatest NFL team of all time leading the way to a 38-9 dominating Super Bowl win. Mickey and Dave Dalby again were the unsung hero’s and in my book, are two of the finest OL that never got their due.
Off the field……..
Mickey helped anyone and everyone spreading a positive and passionate message that made people love him. He received countless requests from organizations asking him to share his passion and faith. Mickey Marvin put many smiles on peoples faces that will never be forgotten. He never turned down a fan’s request and even though he was a huge giant, kids and adults alike loved his positive and humble personality.
Here is a pastor’s wife blogging about meeting Mickey
Mickey was a man of great faith. He was in constant appreciation for what had been given to him, and he loved showing that appreciation through his kind actions and gracious spirit.
“Henderson County has lost a great champion,” WHKP’s Richard Rhodes said. “Mickey Marvin was a friend to all. In a day where most pro athletes aren’t who you want your kids to look up to, Mickey was. He was a true role model and a true friend.”
Henderson County (North Carolina) Manager Steve Wyatt said “People are always talking about the best sports rivalries, like Carolina-Duke basketball. In pro football, it was the Raiders-Chiefs rivalry for years,” Wyatt said. “Me and Mickey talked about that rivalry a lot, and when he talked about it, I was hanging on his every word. His face would light up when he started talking about it. I’ve seen old photos of Mickey in the trenches, covered in mud and with blood on him, and he’s grinning. He was in his element. He was a true warrior.”
“Then you meet him off the field, and he’s the nicest guy you could ever meet. I always thought Mickey was a better man than he was a football player,” Wyatt said.
I really like social media. It allows me to communicate and meet people that I would never have been able to in the past. But what I don’t like about our social media culture is how quickly we forget the past, and how clueless so many are to it. Some parents don’t instill the importance of those that came before us or the respect that we need to have for them.
That’s why I couldn’t go without saying a little something about another unsung hero that needs to be remembered. I know many football families will appreciate and respect this good man.
Mickey Marvin’s legacy will be seen in the memories on the field, and the inspiration and smile’s that he created through the friendships of so many people off of it. He was a loyal family man with over 3 decades of marriage, and the love of his family was always in his heart. He now become’s another sweet spirit in the lore of Raider football and I’m sure I speak for Raider & Vol Fan’s from all over in saying thank you. The NFL and the world need more Mickey Marvin’s.
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.
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.
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.”
a person, who is admired or idealized for courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities.
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 cherished member of the exclusive NFL Pro Football Ultimate Fan Association and was voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame as a fan. His brothers and sisters from this group are hurting from his passing.
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.
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 Raiders “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.
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”.
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”. A stranger from Tennessee even paid a house payment for Ron.
Ron grew up in Kentucky. As a kid he would watch the games and he became a huge Raiders fan. He came to California and got into the car wash business. The first Raider game he ever went to he was offered a ticket by someone and they made him a guest of their family. He then created the persona of the General and became an iconic fan of the team he loved.
Friends described him as blunt and to the point but also compassionate and caring. He helped everyone he met and had a goofy, fun side. 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 always was a positive influence. 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 in life, 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 created a legacy that will be cherished for a long time.
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. And during their darkest hour they still think of those around them and how they can make things better for others, with dignity and grace.
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 always do right. Be kind when others aren’t, and be level headed and open minded when anger fills the air.
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. Dare to dream and dream big with a positive way about you. And as Ron “The General” Rickard taught people; wear your teams colors proud, but wear your heart prouder.
For the first time in my life time, it seemed that most teams did fairly well at the 2016 NFL draft. One of those teams that did really well was the Oakland Raiders.
Many fans though have expressed their displeasure at certain picks, so let’s answer all the questions that people have in regards to these picks.
Value Pick v.s. Karl Joseph:
I got beaten up on Twitter a little bit when I was for the drafting of West Virginia Safety Karl Joseph. Like most people I had him as a top 30 player. My favorite DM on twitter was, “I thought you liked value picks; then how can you defend choosing Joseph?”
The answer to that is this. The Raiders desperately wanted Joseph in the second round. They also wanted Reggie Ragland. With the news coming that Ragland had an enlarged Aorta that would need yearly monitoring, Ragland dropped like a stone in the draft. There were several teams that wanted Joseph in the late first round and early second round. NO WAY was Joseph falling to the Raiders in the second round. The Raiders knew that to draft him they had to draft him earlier than expected. The hope was for Ragland to drop to them in the second round and he almost did; Buffalo nabbed him. But looking back Joseph is a really good player; probably a late first round talent that will greatly help your team. It was a risk they took and I would have too.
Emphasizing DL made me very happy. I’ve said it a million times; look at history; the DL is so important to Super Bowl winning teams.
Some say on social media, “where can you watch these players play? I follow all the experts and I don’t see film on these guys”. The answer is, WATCH THE COLLEGE GAMES! College Football has DOZENS of stations that show games not once; but several times in reruns. Almost all college conferences have tv networks. You DVR the games and watch the players you want to see. If you watch a game and the player plays great or the announcers say he stands out you pay attention to them. If the player never gets mentioned but is drafted you say wow; I didn’t even remember this guy.
Our fathers began taping & recording famous games audio and then when VCR/VHS came out they taped the games. My dad has the Holy Roller on tape; a friend of mine’s dad has Notre Dame’s stunning upset of UCLA to snap their 88 game winning streak on a tape recording; from 1974! I have hundreds of games transferred to DVD in my large library at my home. If you are a sports & history junkie, start your own collection.
For example 2 years ago I taped 3 games with an up and comer in the NFL draft, WR Tre McBride from William & Mary. I fast forwarded and when you get the hang of it you can watch a players plays in 10-15 minutes. There are 128 college teams in Division 1 only, and many more in D II and DIII. NFL is a passion for people; college football is a religion. Here in silicon Valley you can live stream anything and also don’t have to worry about regional games only being seen. We’re techies and you learn things.
With that being said let’s look at the Jihad Ward and Conner Cook picks below and all of the critic questions should be answered.
I’m not a fan of this pick. I thought the Raiders drafted him too early and even then I’m not a fan. He’s more athlete than football player. The after draft comments were interesting. When Raiders coach Jack Del Rio was asked if Ward was raw he snapped that he wasn’t. “The defensive line isn’t like playing QB”. When GM Reggie McKenzie was asked, he stated, “he’s definitely raw but we are not looking at him having a redshirt year. Hopefully if we coach him up he can be ready to contribute something this season”.
I don’t like quoting Pro Football Focus but to the few that defend this pick; PFF comments on Ward, “he had the 69th overall grade of edge defenders”. PFF then went on to say he may end up being a good run defender. Later on they say he may be a good pass rusher. (see why PFF drives some people crazy?)
I watched Illinois several times and to be honest I barely remembered him. This was a reach at best in my mind. I think the Raiders were shocked too when Austin Johnson; stud DL out of Penn St.; and MLB Reggie Ragland was taken before their pick. With Alabama DL’s AShawn Robinson & Jarran Reed; as well as Clemson CB stud Mackenzie Alexander still on the board; this pick makes no sense in my mind but who knows. He’s a good story and I hope he does well.
3rd Round: Shalique Calhoun DL (75, Michigan St.)
Michigan St. was in so many featured games even the casual fan saw them often. Calhoun was a stud on a very physical and talented defensive line that at times carried the Spartans and kept them in games. He had 27 sacks for his career and 44 tackles for loss. He’s a playmaking pass rusher that needs to bulk up a bit and improve his run stopping skills. Some scouts say he’s too passive. I don’t think he’ll have a middle ground. Could be a diamond in the rough or struggle. I think the positive greatly outweighs any negative. Great Pick!
4th Round: Connor Cook QB (100, Michigan St.)
The Raiders traded up to get Cook at #100. This one still has Raider nation scratching their heads. Let’s look at the facts.
History again is so important. All of those people guaranteeing the Raiders will move up in the first round every year forget that they’ve never done it in 57 drafts yet every year they predict it. Look at history. Well this pick was ALL about Ron Wolf and his history.
When Reggie was learning under Raider and Green Bay Hall of Fame GM Ron Wolf, the Packers drafted QB’s all the time. I’ve said it for years. Every team should draft a QB every year in the late round.
Even with Brett Favre as their starter, Ron Wolf and the Packers drafted Mark Brunell (5th round), Aaron Brooks (4th round), and Matt Hasselbeck (6th round). These 3 became key NFL starters for other teams. (In a famous John Madden story, when Al Davis asked his staff about drafting a young Alabama QB with bad knees, Al’s staff said no. He then asked Ron Wolf who said yes; Ken Stabler was then drafted).
Wolf had an amazing eye for QB’s and ALL three of these picks were eventually traded for key draft picks and players who helped create a winning organization keeping talent flowing.
Some have now said trade Carr. Ridiculous; I personally don’t like Cook and don’t think he’s going to be a starting NFL QB; he’s not accurate in the medium and short game. Some teams like him though. He’s also not exactly a leader type at times as was seen in some of his comments when he was injured and missed the Ohio St. game. Some experts and teams will disagree with me but that’s my take. Some have said his personality is a turn off and he needs to greatly mature to be a leader in the Pro’s.
This was a Ron Wolf type pick that will eventually be trade bait if he pans out. If not, he can then be a backup. Matt McGloin will be on trade watch this pre season. In today’s QB world with so little talent, teams are willing to risk money and picks on projects that they think they can make into something special and some will want Cook; maybe badly. If your starting QB goes down though, your team is in trouble.
5th Round: Deandre Washington RB (143 Texas Tech)
I’m a Big 12 guy and I’d like to thank Deandre Washington for being such a fun player to watch these last 4 years. I hope he does well. Most had Washington either a 6 or 7th rounder; few had him in the 5th round; and a handful even had him going undrafted.
This is a productive player who plays hard every play. He can catch and run and was a work horse back for the Red Raiders. He returned kicks as a freshman. Many scouts complained that Washington may be a system guy at Texas Tech. The Big 12 is known for bad defense and wild west offenses so some question his numbers. He’s also only 5’ 8” 205 and many scouts said he will struggle pass blocking. He is not a speed merchant but he’s fast enough and he’s tougher than he looks.
I like Washington but my pick here was Paul Perkins who I like a little more. Many had Perkins going in the 3-5th round. Washington is a bit of a reach but time will tell if he pans out. I think he can be a situational player and a good pass catcher. A tough guy that plays confident with football smarts. Fans will enjoy this guy this season.
6th Round: Cory James LB (194 Colorado St.)
At 6’ 225 lb. James has been a consistent 4 year starter for the Rams. They moved him to MLB in his senior year but he is too small for that position in the NFL. He was also used as an edge rusher on passing downs and showed speed and athleticism. Some experts have really trashed this pick and I don’t know why. A project who should do well in special teams and will be a good backup.
7th Round Vadal Alexander T/G (234 LSU)
My SEC friends are asking how in the heck did this guy make it to the 7th round. Most had him going 3-4 round and this is a great pick. Alexander came to LSU around 370 and even at 6’ 5” he looked too bulky. He’s lost 30 pounds as a 4 year starter and was all SEC last year. He played guard and then later switched to tackle in college. He is a masher in the run game with crazy strength. He lacks athleticism and good foot speed which is why teams dropped him so low. He has inconsistent mechanics and needs work but this guy should be a solid backup and even get a few snaps here and there in time. Huge potential. This is the type of pick that winning teams make. Huge upside. He’ll be projected as a guard in the pro’s for his lack of foot speed but he has the potential to really help this team as a backup. I am shocked he lasted so long.
There you have it; it seems that there is still a need for an MLB but remember that many things can still happen in the off season, pre season and even salary cap cuts before the season starts. Overall I really like this draft. Pick for today and for the future.