With the passing of Buffalo Bills superfan Ezra Castro AKA Pancho Billa, the NFL fandom was reminded just how fragile life can be. Fans and players of all teams came together to mourn a man that loved his team, family, & everyone that came in contact with him.
Thirty nine years is not enough for most people, but in those years Ezra gave a lifetime worth of kindness and love. After every kind act shown to him, Ezra was shocked & often humbled at the kindness that people gave him. He never got that people thought he was a big deal and downplayed his importance. In a social media world where the need for attention and self importance is the norm, Ezra was a regular guy and a breath of fresh air.
When Greg Dresko and I did our podcast with Ezra, it was obvious he did not feel good but he rarely cancelled anything. Even on his bad days he would do interviews with a smile. After our podcast I created a prayer night for him that Greg & I promoted. Literally thousands of people got involved praying for Pancho and all of those battling cancer. We did a second one not too long ago that was also greatly supported. People really cared and it was inspiring.
Buffalo was the perfect team for Ezra. It is a team that is set back in the time of the old AFL. A team that has not yet been ruined by the greed of NFL owners who’s only loyalty is to the money they can make. They have an old stadium, the second lowest ticket prices in the NFL, and a raucous loyal fan base. While everyone else changed, Buffalo didn’t. It is a special place.
With fancy, expensive stadiums pricing out many fans, the Bills are stuck in a wonderful time warp that allows for a foundation that continues to come to the games year after year. A loyal following that braves bitter cold and wind to support their Bills. From Jack Kemp to Joe Ferguson, to Jim Kelly to Andre Reed, the Bills rich tradition is steeped in a blue collar us against the world mentality. What an amazing place.
I don’t think any fan base or team other than Buffalo could have survived losing 4 Super Bowls while still coming back with dignity and grace. Through all of the jokes and taunting, winning 4 conference championships is still among one of the greatest achievements in NFL history & they are very proud of it.
Ezra & the Spirit of Buffalo:
In true Buffalo Bill spirit, Pancho Billa battled until the end. Just like Steve Tasker making an amazing play in a Super Bowl that had long been lost, Ezra never gave up. Adversity was what Ezra faced each day after being diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. Even in his darkest days he would show a positive, caring spirit that inspired so many. We DM’d each other on Twitter and his last message to me was a smiling emoji with a halo over his head. He knew. He also though remained positive asking people to never quit praying for a miracle. Giving up was never an option.
In reality the biggest gift Pancho Billa gave to people was the way he handled his illness. Even with social media bringing out the worst in people, he showed a spirit of pride and kindness that touched so many. He remained positive at the worst of times inspiring us all to not take ourselves too seriously. In a world where many get angry at the drop of a hat, he showed a calm passion and compassion for others during his fight.
The Power of NFL Fans:
Ezra reminded NFL fans everywhere that we are not gang members or part of a football militia that should hate anything not affiliated with our teams. He showed that in reality we are all on the same team of life and that football is a fun outlet & family to belong to. Happiness, health & supporting each other during the best and worst of times is what life is about. We all saw how our hearts are more powerful than any owners money or new stadium. It’s about the fans and the amazing relationships that we create from being fans. The simplest of things.
How I’ll Remember Ezra & You:
What I’ll remember most about Ezra, was how he brought everyone together. For a moment in time fans in New England and Oakland were on the same team. Dallas and Philly fans prayed for a miracle together and people began to realize all of the petty arguments and hate was not what being a fan was about. It’s a willingness to help when hope is hard to find, and being there to support and love someone during great times as well as their darkest hour.
Many of you have really touched me with your sincerity and compassion and I’m very proud of everyone. Your kindness touched Ezra and helped him and his family get through such an unspeakable tragedy. As much of a gift people felt Pancho was, he felt the same about you. He brought out the best in all of us and it sure felt good.
How to Keep His Legacy Alive:
If you really want to keep his legacy alive, lets be like him. Give as much as you can to others and show kindness with a calm spirit. As Ezra once said, “don’t bring flowers to my funeral. I hate flowers. Bring backpacks full of school supplies for kids”. Think of others first, and show love and appreciation and support to one another. Most of all do it without judgement or opinion. Love completely without complete understanding. What an amazing legacy that would be. And nothing would be more pleasing to the great Pancho Billa.
1-21-19 IN THE SPOTLIGHT WITH ACTRESS ROSANNA ARQUETTE✨
I love nothing more than talking to talented and creative artists with a story to tell or a cause they feel passionate about. Recently on a quiet Sunday morning, I had the pleasure of speaking with the Actress, Rosanna Arquette.
She is not only talented, creative and beautiful, but the actress; along with the entire Arquette Family; has found a way to keep the spirit of their beloved sister Alexis alive. Rosanna, along with her siblings David, Patricia, and Richmond created The Alexis Arquette Family Foundation in memory of their sister Alexis Arquette and is committed to the care and support of the LGBTQ+ community.
Alexis, who was transgendered, passed away on September 11, 2016 and was a bright light with a beautiful heart and an artistic soul. While speaking with Rosanna I realized how much she and her entire family deeply miss Alexis and want to keep her memory alive.
Rather than remembering her on the anniversary of her death with sadness, Rosanna explained “we have a big dance party every year on September 11th to celebrate her life” in just the way Alexis would want it with a lot of laughter, music and memories.
The actress also shared with me that they are trying to raise money for the Foundation explaining “Patricia was working on that (raising funds) last week, and that’s what we’ve all been trying to do and its not been easy.” This is something they are currently working on for the Foundation, so it will continue to provide counseling, medical intervention and services for those in need.
The Alexis Project is a true partnership between The Alexis Arquette Family Foundation and the Violence Intervention Program, also known as VIP, at the LAC+USC Medical Center. For more information on how you can support The Alexis Arquette Family Foundation & The Alexis Project visit AlexisArquette.com
For more information on Rosanna Arquette go to RosannaArquette.com to see interviews, videos, photos and the many projects she is currently working on.
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.
“Hanx” gets it. When so many athletes and celebrities get very full of themselves due to their fame, Tom Hanks knows his place in this world. He never looks down on people and treats people with respect and that is rare among the rich and famous. Tom Hanks is a true Oakland Raider fan, and a good guy.
(Below the late Michael Clarke Duncan thanks Tom Hanks for his humble support)
As I said in many writings, some Raider fans don’t fit in with the rest of the NFL fandom, and neither did Tom. In interviews he talked about growing up and how he was disliked by students and teachers alike, and that he was geeky and unpopular. Even though he was extremely shy, he was also the one that would blurt out something funny during a film or class activity. He said he was responsible, and didn’t get into much trouble though. He purposely would go to plays by himself always reading the program and then engulfing himself into the story and the moment. He worked hard at his craft.
He went to Skyline High in Oakland during the early to mid 70’s when there was a lot of turmoil in society. He then went to Chabot College in Hayward before going to Sacramento State. He loved the Raiders his entire life.
The NFL and Hollywood:
I did a lot of research on the NFL and Hollywood and it’s pretty amazing how many players have been in the movies and on the television screen. In the 1970’s Merlin Olsen was epic as Jonathon Garvey on the Little House on the Prairie Series with Michael Landon. He was so naturally talented as an actor they gave him his own short lived series in Father Murphy. A member of the fearsome foursome in family television.
Then you have the great Alex Karras who also was a gifted actor. He played the father on Webster and was in Blazing Saddles and Victor Victoria. A little known fact is that he was the one of the final cuts to play Carlo Rizzi in the Godfather.
(below is Ben Davidson as Rexor v.s. Arnold Schwarzenegger in Conan the Barbarian. Ben and Rexor have become cult icons with a huge following)
The Iconic Jim Brown was in the Dirty Dozen and many other films, and Vikings running back Ed Marinaro was amazing in one of the greatest shows of all time, Hill Street Blues. There are a lot more that in the future I will write about. No team in history though has more people in the big or small screen than the Raiders.
Raiders Invade Hollywood:
Fred Williamson is the Raiders and NFL icon all-time when it comes to Hollywood. The “Hammer” and ex-Raider has been in over 115 movies and tv shows and is still working at 80 years old. Carl Weathers, the former Raiders linebacker became famous playing Apollo Creed in the Rocky classics. Ben Davidson was in the M.A.S.H. movie as well as Conan The Barbarian. He also made waves when he did a porn movie (he was fully clothed and did no sex) which got him hate mail from across the country. Many other Raiders have been in films and television and they were hugely popular on talk shows and commercials. Even with the Raiders glory years decades past, Tom Hanks put the icing on the cake in honoring his team in the 1996 film, “That Thing You Do”.
In the late 80’s and early 90’s Tom Hanks was at a crossroads. After his meteoric rise, he had 4 straight flops and was looking to get back on top. In 1992, he asked talented director Penny Marshall for a chance to play Jimmy Dugan in the movie “A League of Their Own”. Dugan was a washed up ex-baseball star whose career was cut short by his drinking. Marshall; who is as soft and sweet as a cactus at times; gave him the part and made him earn his way through the movie. Tom Hanks hit a home run in this classic, and from there went on to do some of his timeless films.
In 1996, Tom took to writing and directing his first film in “That Thing You Do”. A sweet movie about a musical group going from garage band to stars. He needed to choose a place for the musical numbers that had history and that could show how the 1960’s music scene really was during those times.
Hanx chose the famous Palomino Club in North Hollywood. In keeping with the history of the club, he honored ex Oakland Raiders LB Phil Villapiano by naming it after him. Villapiano’s became a key place in the film. Here is the famous fight scene from the movie at Villapiano’s.
Here is Tom Hanks mentioning Villapiano’s on the Red Carpet with his lovely wife Rita Wilson.
Why is This So Important and Where is Villapiano’s?:
What’s funny is that online movie fans have argued, what venue was used as Villapiano’s and where is it? I’ve searched various sites and did some digging and the site for Villapiano’s eventually was found out to be the iconic Palomino’s, and he couldn’t have picked a better place to name Villapiano’s. This place was once called The Grand Ol’ Opry West. Just like the Whiskey a Go Go and many other LA hotspots back in the day, this launched many a musical career and was the place to be.
The history of this place is historic. In true Raider form, the Palomino was originally called the MuleKick. Before the Palomino opened in 1949, the MuleKick was a blue collar neighborhood bar that was frequented often by the ex-country and western film actors and stuntmen of the 1930’s and 1940’s that mostly lived there. The clientele was friendly but gruff, hard working and hard drinking. Country Music Star Hank Penny bought the place and changed the name to the Palomino.
Many famous stars like Patsy Cline, Johnny Cash, and Willie Nelson performed to packed crowds. Below is a rare shot of Willie Nelson performing at the Palomino in 1970.
Merle Haggard, Bob Dylan and even Elvis Pressley would play unannounced sets to the crowds whenever they would drop in. In the 70’s and 80’s it became a haven for the Hair Band and rock band era with many of the hottest bands in the country playing there. Bands like Quiet Riot and the Red Hot Chili Peppers would hone their craft and create a groundswell of support, launching their careers.
(Below is a great performance from the Palomino Club by Jerry Lee Lewis with a very candid interview of the “Killer” afterward.)
Tom Hanks knew the history of the Palomino, and it was a match made in heaven to choose this venue to call Villapiano’s. Hanx grew up in the east bay during the Santa Rosa Oakland Raiders training camp days and no team was as hard drinking and hard living as the Oakland Raiders and their ring leader Phil Villapiano. Ben Davidson, Phil and Ken Stabler would have fit in this bar like a fish to water.
For anyone that grew up in the 1970’s, they remember how the Raiders were everywhere. Their winning was done in such a charismatic way that it attracted fans, the NFL, and Hollywood. For Tom to use Phil’s name in the movie just shows how much he loves the team of his youth.
So grab a glass of your favorite adult beverage, put on your favorite Raider jersey and check out “That Thing You Do” if you haven’t already. And most of all give a toast to Tom Hanks and Phil Villapiano and all of the Raiders of the past. And enjoy the fact that Tom Hanks immortalized the Raiders and Phil Villapiano, in a way only Hollywood can.
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.
When Ken Norton was released from being the defensive coordinator of the Oakland Raiders, it started the ball rolling. According to some reporters, the ball is still rolling.
With Offensive coordinator Todd Downing being the scapegoat to all of the Raiders offensive problems, he is probably gone. He definitely didn’t do a good job, but there was a lot of blame to go around. People forget the main reason to hiring him was to make Derek Carr happy before negotiations to his huge contract. Carr loved the hire. Todd Downing was not ready for the job but it is what it is.
The blame is also being given to OL coach Mike Tice now which is puzzling. He’s a good coach and I feel something is fishy here and we will talk about this in a bit.
Going back to Downing, Some complained about the play calling but Derek Carr has the final say on what plays are called. He can audible any time he wishes but usually doesn’t. You can’t blame Downing without giving blame to Carr. And that’s the tip of the iceberg on offense and defense.
Is Del Rio Still The Answer?:
When JDR was hired, only a few would say that the hiring of Jack Del Rio was not as great as many thought. Most Raider fans loved Jack Del Rio; “in Reggie we trust; in Jack we trust!” was all you heard all off season on social media. Now the same loyal soldiers are carrying pitchforks and torches.
As is the norm, I took ton of heat for my article on Jack Del Rio when he was hired but many of the things I warned fans about are now coming to fruition. It was a safe hire but there were many others I liked more.
To refresh our memories, Jack Del Rio went through 19 coaches during his 9 years at Jacksonville. Usually when coaches are fired and the head coach isn’t, that means the blame is being put on the coaches instead of the head coach. (Insert Mike Tice’s name here). In 2016 when Mike McCoy kept his job for the Chargers, most of his staff was fired. John Pagano the defensive coordinator of the Raiders was one of them. Frank Reich the Offensive coordinator of the Eagles was also fired by the Chargers, who before their Qb’s injury was the #1 offense in the NFL. His staff was sliced and diced but Mike McCoy Survived another year before he was fired.
Gary Radnich of KNBR 680 and KRONTV fame, is a media icon in the bay area and he never says insider information unless he has facts to back them. When Norton was fired Gary said he knew people in the Raiders front office and there were grumblings about Del Rio. The complaints were mostly about the same issues he had at Jacksonville. Jack was a control freak and didn’t let the coordinators or other coaches do what they wanted. Jack also manipulated people so that he deferred blame to some players and coaches when things didn’t go well. The magical kingdom was crumbling.
The question is will the Raiders give Jack Del Rio three years of free money to go away and get nothing in return? It’s hard to think they will do this but crazier things have happened.
Every teams fan base is pretty much the same. The New York Giants fans last year raved about their front office and coaching staff when they made the playoffs. Now after a terrible season, the fans want their entire front office fired; which most will; even though this was the same coaching staff that lead them to the playoffs last year. I guess they all have Alzheimer’s now and forgot how to coach. The fact that they had more injuries than any other team in the NFL might be more of the reason but that would be too easy. Many fans give all the credit to the players when they win, and all the blame to the coaches when they lose. And if the player is on the field but not playing well, then he has to be hurt. Personally I don’t get it.
And the fact that the Raiders played the 2nd easiest schedule in the NFL last year and had to struggle to barely beat some of these teams with 7 last minute wins means nothing I’m sure. This year they had the 2nd toughest schedule. There are many other reasons but I’ve talked about it at nausea in previous articles. Firing Downing is not going to bring a Super Bowl to Oakland.
Will Jack Del Rio Survive:
As I said previously, it’s hard to think that the Raiders will pay Jack Del Rio 3 years of salary to go away. I think he gets one more year. They have other problems too. The Raiders are near the poorest team in the NFL. The Las Vegas stadium is a mess. If the new GOP tax plan passes, it eliminates any public funds to be used for NFL stadiums. This means the Raiders would have to somehow be grandfathered in, but that will take time and may never happen. That means they may now have to come up with 750 million more dollars. It could get ugly real quick.
At the end of last year there was so much hope, and now there is lots of turmoil. This is the era of the salary cap and this is how things can change so quickly. With the Raiders making changes and getting an easier schedule next year, I see them coming back and having a good season. In reality I hope this makes more fans appreciate the 3 Super Bowl Titles the Raider greats of the past won. Daryle Lamonica was 40-4-1 in his first 45 starts as the Raiders QB. Ken Stabler was 56-13 in his first 69 starts. Oakland was 18-1-1 in their first 20 Monday night games. That’s why the Raiders of the past are so revered. It’s not that easy folks.
On a cool winter bay area night after a 20-17 loss to the Dallas Cowboys, Derek Carr grasps hands with players from both teams on the field. He leads them in prayer thanking God for all that they have been given in life and for their continued safety. His disappointment though is obvious. Carr had fumbled out of bounds in the end zone on the Raiders last play of the game for a touchback. With that, a bad season officially got worse. Less things have to happen to make Justin Bieber win an Oscar than for the Raiders to make the playoffs. And in reality they don’t deserve it.
As he walks off the field Carr hears the manic responses that are so prevalent after an NFL game, win or lose. Some fans are cussing, and there is the occasional you suck, mixed in with a supportive word. As he leaves the field, two young fans ask for his autograph and he obliges instantly with a grin. Just like the times when he visits children in hospitals or does some of his charity work, he always does it with a smile. The life of Derek Carr has it’s up’s and downs.
History of Domination:
It was a history lesson for some and a reminder for others. Two of the most storied franchises in history were meeting in Oakland. It wasn’t Stabler v.s. Staubach but it still meant something extra.
The network showed that for 2 ½ decades, the Raiders and the Cowboys were NFL royalty. They always topped the NFL in tv ratings and they were must see TV. The goody America’s team with the cheerleaders and the too much makeup Texas look, against the bad boy Raiders and the cheerleaders who looked like the girls your mom warned you about. The NFL world stopped when the Raiders or the Cowboys played. When it looked like the Raiders and Cowboys were destined to play in the Super Bowl in 1978, the Raiders were derailed by several key injuries and a little event called the Rob Lytle fumble in Denver in the AFC Championship game. When the Broncos won, the network and the nation groaned. They wanted to see Oakland v.s. Dallas. The Cowboys dominated Denver 27-10 in a boring Super Bowl. What might have been.
(below are the condensed highlights. Click on the YouTube Icon on the bottom or double click on the video. The NFL will only allow viewers to watch it on YouTube)
What Do the Raiders Have in Derek Carr:
Four years ago some of us said the truth about Derek Carr. He’s got a good arm, is accurate when not rushed, and is a good leader. He also has limitations that may not improve with time. Even the melodramatic Chris Collinsworth said the same thing. He showed a shocking statistic that Carr’s QB rating was a whopping 60% less when he was rushed. He’s been that way since his Fresno St. days. I remember him literally imploding against USC. His psyche is a little fragile at times and he has to become more Brett Favre and Ken Stabler and less Bert Jones and Alex Smith. He needs to be a little more confident and borderline cocky but that isn’t in his makeup.
Even with the rules making breathing around a WR a penalty, the QB situation in the NFL is at an all time low. With this in mind, the Raiders are lucky to have Carr but they also have to realize he has limitations. Just look at the over-hyped Dak Prescott. He was the media darling last year but rarely did the game fall upon his shoulders. When they won though, he got the credit often. Cowboy fans fought with me online when I said how overrated he was. Well, with Ezekiel Elliott out for 6 weeks, the games were put on his shoulders and he failed. Even when they won, he struggled. People don’t think he’s elite anymore. It shows the Carr’s of the NFL world are very valuable. When you ask people who want to get rid of Carr what their choice is to replace him, many shrug and say I don’t know. One guy said just keep looking. This is why “geniuses” in the social media world will never run an NFL team.
If I were the head coach or GM, I would go back to the Daryl Lamonica tapes and show Carr and the Raiders who they should be. The more things change the more they stay the same. This zone blocking scheme was created for a quick, fast OL and needs to be trashed yesterday. The Raiders ran for 122 yards last night with 47 of them coming from Carr’s scrambles. The Raiders are not a zone blocking team.
What they are is a huge, physical, bruising OL and they need to go back to being that. Collinsworth pointed out something I’ve been writing about all year. They have no offensive identity.
They need to go back to being a physical power rushing team that throws deep. During their glory days, often the Raiders would throw deep on their first offensive play of the game just to let teams know that Warren Wells, or a Cliff Branch or a Tim Brown was going to beat them some time that day and they better not forget it. You send a message that you will throw deep at any time and from anywhere. In one year the Raiders were in the top 5 for rushing and passing. That’s balance.
Oakland needs that identity. With a solid running game they now can use the play action pass and look downfield. Carr can excel in that type of offense. Carr is a solid B to B+ quarterback and in today’s game, those are getting harder to find.
I’d also tell Carr I could care less if you throw 4 interceptions. Stop worrying about reactions on social media, in the media itself, as well as perceptions and stupid stats. I want that ball going deep. Use those speedy WR talents to the limits. No one respects the Raiders deep throws anymore and it’s obvious Carr is playing not to make a mistake. Carr has been lucky the last 3 weeks. He’s thrown 6 passes literally right in the hands of defenders who just dropped the balls. He did it again last night with 2 more passes that defenders dropped which were thrown right at them.
It’s comical to have 3 super fast WR and not throw deep. And stop blaming everything on OC Todd Downing. I agree he’s not the answer but Carr wanted this guy as OC and the Raiders did it for Carr.
In regards to play calling, Carr can change the play any time he wants. Even an average fan can see when the two safeties are crowding the line that you don’t go with a run play; you throw the ball. Unfortunately on a few occasions last night, again no audible was called. The QB is the coach on the field and Carr needs to be that. Right now sometimes he’s not. Carr is the highest paid player in the NFL and the excuses have to stop and he needs to get to the next level.
Do you think John Elway, Brett Favre, or Ken Stabler ever worried about an interception or would ever let a play happen if they didn’t like it? Gunslingers in the NFL have one thing; a short memory; and a whole lot of wins. They are control freaks who play the game like they are playing chess. Carr needs to have that mentality. When he gets flustered he looks like Alex Smith at times, hoping something bad doesn’t happen. Carr works hard and he’s a good NFL QB but if he wants to be very good he has to improve his control of games.
Were the Raiders a One Hit Wonder?:
No, but they also weren’t as good as their record last year. At 12-4 the Raiders played the second easiest schedule in the NFL; and 7 of those wins were last minute or even last second games. They beat a lot of bad teams, with a lot of effort. This year they have the 2nd or third hardest schedule and it shows. You can’t just get by against good teams. You have to beat them. The Raiders had improved last year but no where near as much as their record said they did.
Teams have adjusted to the Raiders and now they have to adjust. OC Todd Downing will almost certainly be gone but Carr still has to evolve and improve. As Marshall Faulk said, you want the big boy money then you have to play like a big boy. Next year Carr will be 27 and in the prime of his career. Many teams would love Carr but due to his huge salary and guaranteed money, he’s their quarterback for the present no matter what. John Elway often had little talent around him and even without a consistent run game, he was one of the all time greats. Derek Carr is not going to be at that level. What he is though is a solid QB who struggles against a rush. Not an uncommon problem but it means that a good running game is imperative to his success.
In reality the Raiders have a long way to go. They still need a lot of help on defense and their drafts outside of the 2014 draft have been borderline train wrecks. Until they have a consistent pass rush and can stop the run on a daily basis, it doesn’t matter who plays in the defensive backfield. And on offense the Raiders have to be tougher. Carr has to have more of a killer instinct and just let the ball go. It’s hard to see that happen though with his personality. He needs to know you can be a good guy off the field but a different one on it.
As Carr answers the last of the mundane and never ending questions of the media last night, he leaves with an obvious disappointment on his face. He looks forward to seeing his wife and kids I’m sure. And when they are fast asleep he will still be awake and fumble over and over all night long in his head with the outcome always being the same. And with the next game being against a tough Philadelphia team in cold weather and a slight chance of snow on Christmas day, he’s gone to bed with better thoughts. The life of Derek Carr has it’s up’s and downs.
There are many other players that didn’t make the list but these are the stories that I found and they are quite disturbing. Some of you will remember these names, but some stories I’ve never heard of. Let’s get into the sad darkness of these individuals lives & tales of evil.
#10 Billy Cannon: (Oilers 1960-63, Raiders 1964-69, Chiefs 1970)
This player makes the list for the uniqueness of his crime. One of the greatest players of his generation, Billy Cannon could do it all. When #1 LSU played #3 Ole Miss, both teams had only given up 1 touchdown in 7 games. Losing 3-0 late in the game, Cannon took a punt 89 yards breaking several tackles to give LSU the lead which most consider the greatest play in LSU history. He then made the game winning tackle. After an amazing career at LSU where he won the Heisman Trophy & lead the Tigers to the National Championship, he was the 1st overall pick in the AFL draft. He had great success at Houston & Oakland & ended his career in Kansas City. He then became a dentist.
Cannon had a thriving dental practice but also had great debt due to gambling & bad real estate investments. He & others became involved in a counterfeiting scheme that printed over 6 million dollars in $100 bills. He was caught & did 2 1/2 years in prison. After prison, he eventually got his dentist license back and become one of the most important medical people in the prison system running the dental program.
He died in 2018 and was much beloved by all who knew him. He was re-elected into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2008 and for the most part was forgiven by all. He remains the nicest guy by far on this list. Below is the 1964 Billy Cannon football card from his 1964 season in Oakland that I have in my collection.
Keith Wright was given 234 years in prison which is the longest sentence ever given by any athlete in history. A once promising player out of Missouri, after his NFL career fizzled out, he did a full fledged life of crime. He had 19 felonies including several home invasions, forced sex acts/sexually assaulting one victim and then making her go to the ATM after, kidnapping, and false imprisonment.
#8 Eric Naposki: (Patriots 88-89, Colts 1989, Barcelona Dragons 1991-92, 96-97)
UConn Product Eric Naposki had a short stint in the NFL but some nice runs in the short lived World Football League. In 3 1/2 seasons with Barcelona he recorded 16 1/2 sacks along with several blocked punts and field goals. He also had a dark secret.
In May of 2009 he was arrested for the 1994 murder of Bill McLaughlin who was famous for creating a machine that could separate plasma from blood and also simplify the dialysis procedure. He and his partners collected over 8 figures for their invention.
Naposki had become the boyfriend of Nanette Packard Johnston who before they met at 26 and with 2 kids; put up an ad in the personal section that stated, “Wealthy men only-I know how to take care of a man if he knows how to take care of me”. The newly divorced 52 year old McLaughlin fell for her immediately. She moved into his mansion and she talked him into letting her be his bookkeeper.
McLaughlin was eventually found dead at home with 6 gun shot wounds to the torso. Johnston & Naposki were eventually arrested for murdering McLaughlin for his life insurance. After embezzling over $500,000.00 from McLaughlin’s estate, Johnston was arrested and convicted for taking the money from his estate but as is in Orange County she was given a suspended sentence. A cold case detective opened up the case 15 years later and after talking to more witnesses, eventually helped get Johnston & Naposki convicted. To this day Naposki claims innocence & is still trying to get out while both of them serve life sentences in prison.
#7 Jovan Belcher: (Kansas City 2009-12)
Jovan Belcher at best was a long shot to make the NFL. He was not drafted and was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Kansas City Chiefs. In time he made the team and even started. His acts of kindness were of legend and he was adored by fans and players alike. He met and began living with his girlfriend Kasandra Perkins. She was only 20 and eventually she got pregnant by him.
As time went on Jovan eventually lost his starting job as the Chiefs middle linebacker. After several concussions and threats by the Chiefs coaching staff telling him that his days were numbered if his play didn’t improve, Jovan changed and the pressure was getting to him. He felt bullied by coaches. He drank heavily, and popped pain pills due to the injuries he had sustained because he didn’t want to miss any playing time. Many friends said he was forgetful, moody, and very much not himself. After his death it was found that he had pervasive CTE due to the numerous concussions he suffered. The Chiefs refused to comment on his health or how they handled him.
As with some pro athletes, Jovan had another girlfriend on the side. After their baby was born, the fighting increased between Kasandra and Jovan. One day after a huge fight, Jovan took a .40 caliber hand gun and shot Kasandra 9 times, killing her. He kissed her forehead and said he was sorry. His baby was in the house and his mother who was staying with them called 911. Below is the horrible 911 call. Please don’t listen if you are sensitive.
He then drove to the Chiefs practice facility and was seen by head coach Romeo Crennel and GM Scott Pioli along with other staff members. They pleaded with him to calm down. Sadly Belcher got on his knees, made the sign of the cross on his chest and said he had to go. He then shot himself in the head in front of everyone. Friends to this day remain shocked at this tragedy. Belcher was 25, Kasandra 22. To their credit, the NFL elected to give their child all of his benefits.
#6 Darren Sharper: (Packers 1997-2004; Vikings 2005-08; Saints 2009-10)
NFL players and sexual assault allegations are far from strangers, but Darren Sharper took it to a new level. The 5 time pro-bowler and Super Bowl winner with the Saints, was enjoying success as an analyst on the NFL Network. This good looking, popular player was on the party trail and loved the ladies. He was known as a smooth talker who definitely liked to play at night.
What people didn’t know is that Sharper and 2 of his friends were serial rapists. They would use various drugs including GHB (the date rape drug that scrambles your memory) to drug and sexually assault over 16 women in 4 states. In one binge, they sexually assaulted 4 women in 24 hours.
Another time Sharper admitted to meeting a man and 2 women at a club and when they went back to his hotel, he drugged all 3 and sexually assaulted the 2 women. Thankfully many went to the hospital immediately after and through the use of rape kits and interviews, Sharper and his friends were arrested. Even with the first couple of allegations, Sharper shockingly got off the charges. When he was finally convicted, he did a plea bargain to only do 9 years in jail. The judge was so outraged at the sentence she changed it to 20 years in Federal prison. The judge and the DA also scolded the police departments and the justice system for it’s protection of Sharper citing his celebrity and fame from being a pro football player as being the reason.
#5 Jim Dunaway: (Bills 1963-71; Dolphins 1972)
“Big” Jim Dunaway is one of the greatest Buffalo Bills players of all time. Dunaway played between 1963-1971 for Buffalo and ended his career in 1972 getting a Super Bowl ring with the perfect Miami Dolphins team. He was ranked as the 28th best Bill of all time by a local Buffalo publication. He was a 4 time AFL all-star, 2 time AFL Champion, and many thought he should be in the pro football Hall of Fame. Alas his story reads somewhat like another Buffalo great, OJ Simpson.
After a nasty divorce and long legal battle in 1995, his ex-wife Nonnie got ½ of his NFL pension, 800 acres of land on their dairy farm, and $1800/month spousal support. Jim was outraged at the decision and felt he was screwed. In time it was found out that Jim had a woman on the side that he spent several thousands of dollars to keep happy. In 3 years he spent over $81k on her, and the judge wasn’t pleased. Dunaway tried to hide his money and also filed bankruptcy while appealing the decision.
It dragged out and it got ugly. One day Dunaway said that he went to his old house to get some clothes. He stated that he and his ex-wife were cordial and supportive and it was a typical visit. Later that day though, Nonnie Dunaway was found in their half filled pool dead. After an autopsy it was found out that she had drowned, but only after someone had crushed her skull before throwing her into the pool. Even though Jim was the only one to see Nonnie that day, the grand jury for some insane reason didn’t think there was enough circumstantial evidence to arrest him so they did not even pursue going after Dunaway. The police had no other suspects.
Dunaway’s distraught kids were outraged. They stated publicly their father had killed their mom and filed a civil lawsuit against Jim. In 2002 the Jury found in favor of the kids and he was ordered to pay over $579k in damages. Jim was upset at his children for not believing him but they relented profusely. Almost everyone close to the situation thought Jim got away with murder. Jim Dunaway died in 2018.
#4 Rae Carruth: (Carolina Panthers 1997-99)
One of the most chilling 911 calls I’ve ever heard. Rae Carruth grew up fast and self absorbed and made many mistakes in life. Even as a young adult his pension for selfish behavior was the norm. He was a star at Colorado and during his sophomore season his Sacramento girlfriend had his son. Carruth had nothing to do with the son until his girlfriend filed for child support. After talking with Carruth, she agreed to take ½ of the child support due to her as long as Carruth became a more responsible father. He agreed but failed to do it.
Carruth, like many athletes was no stranger to the dating world. He casually dated Cherica Adams and eventually she became pregnant. That was unacceptable to the narcissistic Carruth who demanded she get an abortion. He told others that he didn’t want to pay any more child support. She refused to end the pregnancy.
He paid $50,000 for a friend of his to kill Adams on a dark road. While she followed Carruth after going to the movies with him, Adams noticed he stopped right in front of her so she couldn’t move. A car came up beside her and while Carruth had her blocked, the gunman shot at her multiple times. After the shooting stopped, Carruth coldly drove off with the deed done. The problem was Adams was not dead. Below is the actual 911 call of her harrowing experience after being shot. She soon would lapse into a coma and die a month later giving birth to her son.
Shockingly Carruth was given bail and told if the baby or Cherica died, he had to turn himself in. When Cherica died a month later, a manhunt ensued. He was found hiding in a trunk of a car with $3900, chocolate, and urine in bottles.
Their son, Chancellor Adams, was born with cerebral palsy due to the lack of oxygen. Thinking that Carruth would come off bad in his trial, his lawyers never let him take the stand. He arrogantly said he did nothing wrong even though his assailants turned against him and exposed their plot. Carruth was convicted of conspiracy to commit murder and other chargers but was not convicted of first degree murder which would have probably given him the death penalty. All but one juror voted for the 1st degree conviction. Carruth was released in 2018. In a final insane act of selfishness, Carruth threatened to sue for custody of his son after he got out but he eventually he didn’t do it.
#3 OJ Simpson:
This one is too well known to get too deep into. OJ lived a secret life while being loved by all. He was an abusive tyrant that most of the country felt got away with murder. The murders were beyond violent and sick. He and Rae Carruth have some serious issues. Simpson was released from prison earlier this year after serving a 9 year sentence in Nevada for unrelated crimes. I’m sure he will look for Nicole and Ronald’s killer on some golf course somewhere.
#2 Robert Rozier: (St. Louis Cardinals 1979; Hamilton Tiger-Cats 1980; Saskatchewan Roughriders 1980; Oakland Raiders 1980)
Robert Rozier was born in Alaska, and moved to California. He played High School ball during the glory days of the Rancho Cordova dynasty in Sacramento California where they were considered a national power.
Rozier was drafted in the 9th round and showed potential after a quality career at California Berkeley playing defensive end. The promise was wasted when it was found out he was also a heavy drug user. After several run in’s with the law, the Cardinals dumped Rozier after 6 games. Rozier played in Canada and had a cup of coffee with the Raiders before being released, never being able to conquer his demons.
Feeling lost, he began doing petty crimes and joined an African American cult based in Miami called the Temple of Love. After befriending the leader Yahweh ben Yahweh, he changed his name to Neariah Israel.
There was one problem in joining this group. To join the “brotherhood” you had to kill a “white devil” and bring back a body part to prove you did it. Rozier wanted to be an overachiever and he brought back 7 body parts from 7 different people. He eventually admitted to killing 7 white people people and delivering the victims body parts to please his leader. After being arrested on Halloween of 1986, he agreed to turn on his leader and became a witness for the government and enter the witness protection program. Even being a witness after a plea bargain, he was sentenced to 22 years in prison for his murderous spree.
After serving 10 years, Rozier was placed in the witness protection program. Due to the third strike law, he was sentenced to 25 years to life after writing 29 bad checks. He’s now serving his time in a California prison.
#1 Randall Woodfield: (Green Bay Packers 1974);
The I-5 killer. One of the most notorious criminals in the annals of the U.S. was the I-5 killer, Randall Woodfield. His story is bone chilling. Randall had severe problems even at an early age. He was a good high school and college football player but he often would get into trouble for petty crimes including flashing and indecent exposure. Even with his issues, the Packer’s felt he had potential and they drafted him, but he continued to have questionable behavior. With more trouble with the law due to his crimes, Woodfield was cut and placed on the practice squad. He played for the semi-pro team Manitowoc Chiefs where borderline players trying to make the Packers team often played.
The Packers put up with a lot but eventually they could not handle his many problems. After more arrests with flashing women, he was sent home by the Packers who refused to have anything more to do with him after this.
Woodfield went back home in Portland, Oregon and he started doing severe crimes. He made women perform sex acts by knife point and also robbed them. He eventually was caught and was given a 10 year prison sentence, but his crime spree was just starting. After he got out of jail, a classmate of his was brutally murdered and even though the police felt he did it, Woodfield was never charged due to a lack of physical evidence.
In the beginning he was dubbed the “I-5 Bandit” and his reign of terror was felt in California, Oregon and Washington along the I-5 corridor. The crimes worsened. When he was finally caught, he was linked to over 44 murders, and 60 sexual assaults from 1979-81. He is now doing life in prison and even today he is one of the first people they look to in many unsolved cold cases in California, Washington and Oregon. Most in law enforcement think he killed and raped dozens more people.
There you have it. The worst of the worst criminals in NFL history. Their stories give a disturbing reminder that things and people aren’t always what they seem. Be careful who you look up to.
With so many expectations, the Raiders are a disappointing 3-5 half way through the 2017-18 NFL Season. Let’s look at why this has happened, and how and when it can be fixed.
You heard a whole lot of Raider fans using the expression, “In Reggie We Trust” this off season. Many are now looking for him to either be fired or put on the hot seat.
I’ve written about McKenzie in the past. He’s done some good things but he’s also had some really bad signings and drafts. For every Derek Carr & Khalil Mack, there are the DJ Hayden’s, Jihad Ward’s and Clive Walford’s. Reggie has missed on several high picks and it’s hurt the Raiders.
The Raiders philosophy of trying to fix the defense with DB’s is wrong. They’ve been doing it for years. The Raiders need to stop pouring money and high draft picks into DB’s, and start building a dominating front 7. If you can’t rush the passer, you can’t stop teams in today’s NFL.
Khalil Mack’s contract is now up and Oakland must pay him. This will make things even harder for the Raiders and they can’t have so many misses in their signings and their draft picks.
The Raiders need a physical front 7 that can stop the run and get to the passer. They need to draft and sign players to fix this part of the defense. McKenzie has to dump many of the contracts that are coming off the books in the off season including Reggie Nelson, Sean Smith, and David Amerson. They need to get tougher as well.
I’d love to see the Rams disgruntled stud DT Aaron Donald on the Raiders. He may be the most dominating player in the NFL today. A pass rushing DT would be my first priority. If I’m GM the teams defensive identity would be a physical one that gets to the QB. On offense I’d run a power running game with an emphasis on throwing deep. With their financial belt tightened you better be right on who you sign and draft.
Jack Del Rio:
Another popular phrase this off-season was in “Jack we trust”. Now many are questioning whether he is a winner and if he’s a good enough leader.
When Jack was hired, I was of the few that really wasn’t into this signing. Del Rio is a very popular coach with the owners and players. He’s likeable, says the right things, and makes sure the guys writing his checks are happy. He also has limited success. In 12 years of coaching Oakland and the Jags he has only 4 winning seasons and one playoff win. At Jacksonville things got worse the longer he coached. In his last 4 years coaching the Jaguars he was 23-36 and was let go during his last season with them.
Del Rio is usually very loyal to his players and coaches and is not one to throw anyone under the bus. That is a good trait, but he’s also not good in press conferences during bad times. His “I don’t know what happened” comment in press conferences have a bad look to it and fans of the Raiders like it as much as Jacksonville’s fans did before.
The Raiders have to get an identity and stick to it and that is Jack Del Rio’s job. Bill’s head coach Sean McDermott has built an image in Buffalo that is equal to his. He’s also gotten rid of players that didn’t buy into his philosophy. The Bills are now tough, physical on defense, and have a good running game. Buffalo does not have a good QB and they are last in the NFL in passing offense but are 5-2 and they straight up believe.
Are the Raiders a pass happy team that doesn’t care about the run? Do they want to be a power running team that can throw deep? Do they want to be a physical defense that gets to the QB? Choose an identity and follow it.
Del Rio also has to be more authoritative and take control. Saying it’s my fault or saying we have to work on a better scheme is a lot better than shrugging your shoulders and saying I don’t know what happened. Some in the media have said he’s played a big role in the defense and it hasn’t helped. If the Raiders struggle for the next season and a half, his job won’t be his anymore.
Even some in the media are now saying Derek Carr might be overrated. That’s way too simple. The truth is Carr is a good but not great NFL QB. He’s also a QB that gets rattled under a pass rush. Carr’s interceptions have got to him mentally. He’s now throwing to the check down receiver much more than in the past, and he’s trying to pinpoint passes in between defenders instead of airing it out and throwing deep. Some have said the Raiders threw deep more than anyone last year and that’s not true. The Raiders were 11th in completed passes past 20 yards and 12th over 40 yards.
There were more than a few bad passes yesterday that were caused by the pressure Buffalo was putting on Carr. He looked like he did when he was a rookie at times. He anticipated the rush instead of feeling it and it showed. Last year he was the best protected QB in the NFL and he thrived. This year the OL has struggled and so has he. NOT a coincidence.
Raiders OC Todd Downing is also getting trashed by many and he deserves some of the heat. He’s made few changes to the offensive scheme and the rest of the league has changed a lot to defend the Raiders. For instance on the turnovers yesterday, each play Buffalo played in the face of the Raiders WR. Instead of airing it out, Carr nervously went for the check down passes or tried to pinpoint the ball in between defenders.
Marshawn Lynch struggled his last year with Seattle, and he’s still struggling. He looks like a 31 year old RB and RB’s usually don’t get better or faster with age. He’s taken a lot of punishment over the years.
The Raiders have solid RB’s that can run, block and catch the ball but the Raiders have to run more. Some fans tried to say after yesterdays game, “see; look how bad the Raiders RB’s are”. Well they ran only 14 times all game with DeAndre Washington leading the way with 6 carries for 26 yards. The Raiders are an amazing 26th in the NFL for the number of rushing attempts so far this year. Last year they ended the year with the 11th most rushing attempts.
Unless Downing steps up, a new coordinator is needed. They also need to back to the power blocking scheme and run the ball down teams throats. Marshawn Lynch enjoys the zone blocking scheme for his OL but it hasn’t worked. The identity of the offense should be a power running game and then use the deep ball with the play action pass. You can’t blame Todd Downing with poor play calling and not get on Carr. Carr is the coach on the field and he’s got to audible more. He has the final say on what play will be called. Part of being a QB is calling a great game and he was fooled a couple of times when the Bills showed blitz but didn’t.
Where do we start. At the start of the year some publications said that the Raiders had the worst LB’ s in the NFL. The Raiders still have 17.5 million guaranteed until next year with CB’s David Amerson and Sean Smith. Reggie Nelson’s 4.25 million will be off the books too. Amerson struggles guarding the deep ball and Smith has struggled with everything. Reggie Nelson is on his last legs and Karl Joseph still struggles defending the passing game. Gareon Conley’s rookie year is pretty much not going to amount to much and that’s another round 1 pick that didn’t help much their first year.
The Raiders defensive line still can’t create a pass rush or stop the run. Khalil Mack had only 2 tackles yesterday with no sacks and was kept out for a small part of the game without any injury. The team has only 12 sacks in 8 games and it’s the same old story, different day.
Fans posting that the Raiders have this amazing amount of talent on defense and all they need is good coaching are ridiculous. They need talent big time on defense. Ken Norton Jr. and Jack Del Rio may not be the answer to fix the defense, but until they improve the talent, NOTHING is going to change.
Blow it up. Get an experienced, quality coordinator. The Raiders want to win now. Mario Edwards Jr. has his moments but he’s not the answer so far. Jihad Ward was a bad pick. Keep Navorro Bowman but they need more help at LB. Let Amerson, Nelson and Smith walk. They have to get a DT that can put pressure on the QB and stop the run adequately. The Raiders have been fooling themselves on the defensive side of the ball for years. What they’ve done for 15 years hasn’t worked. It needs to be fixed yesterday.
Most feel it will take 10 wins to ensure a playoff spot this year. If that is true, Oakland will have to go 7-1 the rest of the way. The Raiders have games left at home with Dallas, Denver, and the Giants and have to play Kansas City, San Diego and Philadelphia on the road. In regards to the struggles the Raiders had with the weather in rainy Buffalo, that is a beach party compared to playing in Kansas City and Philadelphia in December. This doesn’t include a game in Mexico with the Patriots right after the bye week.
Next week the Raiders play at Miami which is always a tough game for them. Realistically they will have to play amazing football the rest of the season to get to the playoffs. The offense can be improved to a point this year with some adjustments but the defense needs a lot more help that must be addressed in the off-season.
The Raiders players have a good attitude saying that they are going to work hard and stay committed. They are sticking together and not throwing blame to each other. They also can’t think about playoffs but they do need to think about the next opponent.
The Raiders will have to play amazing football the last 2 months to make the playoffs. The off season darlings of the NFL are in trouble. The castle that looked so sturdy is now having it’s foundation checked for damage. Time will tell how much work will need to be done to fix the team and if they do it right.