Special teams coordinator Bobby April coaches at the Senior Bowl. Photo by Tony Gonzales
Raiders.com: What did you know about the history of the Raiders and was the history or tradition a reason why you signed on with the Oakland Raiders?
Coach April: Oh, Absolutely. I think anybody who is a fan, a sports fan even, not necessarily a football fan, understands the level of excellence. I was trying to look for a different word because Mr. Davis used Commitment to Excellence. The esteem that the Raiders as winners and a winning organization, just the nature of football…Jack Tatum was playing at Ohio State when I was in high school. I had nothing to do with Ohio State but Jack Tatum was my favorite player. When he played for the Raiders he was just…then I read his book…if I could play like that, if I could hit like that, if I could get to the ball like that. He kind of capsuled in my mind the way you were supposed to play football. Then of course he played for the Raiders and I think their whole team, the toughness, you couldn’t help noticing the way those guys played.
It’s an esteemed organization from the standpoint of the Super Bowl wins and the great players. I was born in ’53, you look at the genesis of when I started watching and playing football. Their teams are the who’s who of pro football players. And then coming up in high school in the late ‘60s and playing football in the ‘70s, they were so dominant and they had so many good players, and so unique in terms of the personalities of the players that you couldn’t help understanding that. When I coached in Los Angeles, I coached at USC, they were in Los Angeles at that time. Of course Marcus Allen was playing for them. We were right across the street. Some of our players, their dads were involved with the Raiders organization, Earl Leggett was a defensive line, Marv Marinovich was working somewhat as a strength coach, Todd was his son playing for us. There was a little bit of a connection in there.
The Raiders…I think any kid my age would identify with them in some way shape or form. For me it was Jack Tatum, growing up, when he played at Ohio State, he was so good. I coached with the Steelers, we came out here, Dick Hoke, who I had tremendous respect for, was a former Steelers player, played about 12 years as a running back, was on the coaching staff, was with the Steelers for 40-something years total. We were walking around the Coliseum before the game, we were just talking and he said, ‘Do you realize when the Raiders players the Steelers in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, do you know how many great players were right here on this field? That’s the thing I love about this game.’ Am I really a part of this legacy? I’m going to try to do everything I can to live up to it.
Coach April: I’ve coached in high school, college and the NFL. I think the thing that’s great about coaching is it’s what I wanted to do from the time I was a little kid or young, junior high type kid. To have a spirit of gratitude about being able to do it is a tremendous force for anybody. The thing I specifically like about coaching in the NFL is working with the players, trying to help them achieve their professional goals. That has two sides of the coin – when they’re not successful, you feel it; it’s painful and when they do, it’s the ultimate happiness. There’s an emotional tie to it as well, but that’s the part I like the most, trying to help a guy get better and realizing I have been really fortunate to even be in the position to try to help them. I want to do everything I can to honor that gift that I’ve really been handed.
Raiders.com: As a special teams coach, you are often the guy who puts them on the field for the first time, correct? A lot of times you’re dealing with a backup linebacker, backup defensive back. So, if they go on the field and cover kicks well, spring a return, do you get satisfaction from that?
Coach April: Yeah, I really do. You wouldn’t be human if you didn’t have some element of, what can it do for me? You just wouldn’t be human. So everybody has some of that. The longer I’ve coached, and I’ve always had this goal because my high school coach told it to me, that the greatest way to be an assistant coach is to always look through the eyes of the head coach. No matter what your area does, if you don’t win the game, it’s not a good day for the head coach. If you’re coaching the quarterbacks and he throws for 500 yards, if you win or lose, you can consider that a good day. But if those 500 yards and you didn’t do everything you could to help the team get the win, then you didn’t really do your job. So I’ve strove for that for years, my own ambition and everything else would always kind of get in the way of it, but I always was trying to climb, striving for that. The longer I’ve coached or the older I’ve gotten, the more I’ve been able to do that and the more gratifying coaching has become for me.
Raiders.com: In Buffalo there were some times when your units helped win a game, but I don’t think it was ever more evident than when DeSean Jackson in Philadelphia runs that punt back for a touchdown and that is the game-winning score. Rarely do you see a kick return or a punt return win a game for you…
Coach April: That was a magical game I think because it’s so close in Eagles history. You know those things expand, they’re larger than life. We were down by 21 and one play that got lost in there – David Akers kicked an unbelievable on-side kick and Riley Cooper, because it was coming down and it was coming down so close to the line, Riley Cooper, it was a great play. He literally got across, kept waiting for the ball to come down and caught it just as it crossed the line. Well we scored 28 points in under eight minutes. It was 7:49 when we kicked that. 28 points, that’s an awful lot. That [DeSean Jackson] kind of play, most people in a lifetime can’t feel that exhilaration. But those kinds of plays are magic.
Raiders.com: What are the most important goals and what’s the most important thing for you to accomplish as part of the off-season?
Coach April: Keith Burns and I need to come up with the most organized plan to create as much efficiency when we get these players in as possible. That’s all we’re working on right now. Trying to come up with the most efficient method, plan, to be executed with these players. When we get the players, obviously the goal will be to put the plan in place.
Raiders.com: How is your relationship with Coach Allen and have you guys worked out how special teams will fit into his practice and game plan?
Coach April: He and I had a very long meeting just the other day and we talked about a lot of those things and a lot of them have already been worked out. I have total confidence and total trust, and I just feel this about Dennis Allen anyway, that he’s a sound, solid football coach. We’re not going to forfeit any plays. No area is going to be diminished because really you have to strive to win every snap, every yard, every play, every everything, and certainly he knows how important those plays are. They’re big chunks of yardage, result in points. Fortunately we have Janikowski who has been fantastic.
Raiders.com: What are you most excited for this upcoming 2013 season?
Coach April: Trying to get the Raiders back into a team of prominence. For years they were maybe the team of prominence, certainly they were right at the top for years and years. Your memories of football growing up were the Raiders were always good and so many dominant players, it’s unbelievable. Working to get back to that level of prominence. I think that’s what the goal is and should be and it’s certainly mine and our coaching staff’s.
Raiders.com: What does the Raider Nation need to know about Bobby April?
Coach April: I’m going to push the envelope every day to get better. Whatever I’ve got, I’m not infallible that’s for darn sure, but this is a results oriented business and I’m every day going to try my very best to bring the best results. I’m an employee of the Raiders and my job, my task, is to bring it back to prominence. Nobody can be happy with four wins. To bring it back to prominence…you walk in here and there are Super Bowl rings. That’s a lot to live up to. If you’re not prominent, you’re unsuccessful and that’s the standard I think everybody here has.