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James Jett Olympics
By LEVI EDWARDS | Digital Team Reporter

The 2020 Tokyo Olympics are currently taking place with the closing of the games coming on Aug. 8. The Raiders have a rich history among the NFL of taking Olympic heroes and molding them into the Silver and Black.'s Levi Edwards has put together a three-part series commemorating the Raiders' Olympians who have won gold. Those include:

  • WR Sam Graddy: Gold medalist 4x100m relay and silver medalist 100m, 1984 Los Angeles
  • WR Ron Brown: Gold medalist 4x100m relay, 1984 Los Angeles
  • WR James Jett: Gold medalist 4x100m relay, 1992 Barcelona

Nine-time Olympic gold medalist Carl Lewis was regarded as the greatest Olympian, track runner and athlete by many critics and peers.

But if you win a gold medal alongside him in the 4x100m relay, and even defeat "King Carl" himself in the qualifying trials to make the team, then what does that make you?

It makes you Raiders' legendary wide receiver James Jett.

"Of course that was like one of the most talked moments for me from a track standpoint," Jett casually recalled of beating Lewis in the trials. "Because you know, Carl Lewis was the king, so that in itself was a milestone.

"It was a crazy situation. And the crazy thing – I don't think I had my best race that day. But you know, it is what is."

Beating Lewis in New Orleans, Louisiana, was only one of a plethora of accomplishments the multi-sport athlete achieved in his career. Jett rose to promise at Jefferson High School in Shenandoah Junction, West Virginia. He decided to keep his talents in state, where he excelled as a Mountaineer on the track and the football field.

"It was I guess a combo thing between playing football and running track," he said. "I loved to do them both and I thought the track complimented the football as far as getting in good shape. As far as coming up through the ranks from high school to college, I was pretty much a home guy and I wanted to stay close to home.

"I ended up going to West Virginia which wasn't that far away, and pretty much the rest, it is what it is."

It sure is. He became a Mountaineer legend.

"I felt like I was right there with the rest of them. It was a great feat and a great accomplishment at that time in my life."

In his four years at West Virginia, he accumulated 1,384 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns with 1,620 return yards, totaling 3,076 career all-purpose yards. On the track, he was a seven-time All-American and qualified for the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona.

"It was kind of crazy because I can recall running against some guys back in '90, two years prior to that, and they were in a different league. So I wasn't really even thinking about it until it happened in '92," Jett said.

"It opened a hole that I could run with these guys and I was like 'Oh my goodness what is this? This is uncharted territory'. And then actually competing and then actually getting on to the team, which was crazy. It was mind boggling actually."

What Jett remembered most fondly about the 1992 Olympics was marching into the Estadi Olímpic de Montjuïc stadium for the opening ceremony. The track star was in awe of seeing "the big names and G.O.A.T.s" of the men's basketball "Dream Team" which was headlined by Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley and Magic Johnson.

Fifteen days after the opening ceremony, Jett's defining moment came – Aug. 8, 1992 – where he would be immortalized as an Olympic gold medalist. There was only one problem in Jett's defining moment. What should've been a joyous occasion became somewhat jaded and bittersweet to say the least for the Olympian.

After competing in the opening heats, Jett's spot was given to Carl Lewis, despite Jett initially making the team over him. While Jett didn't race in the Finals, it still couldn't take away his eternal status as a gold medalist.

"It was kind of different for me in a sense because I didn't get to run the final race like I wanted to – because of all the political part of it and of course 'King Carl' and all of that.

"It took away a little bit but I was still proud of myself and who I was. To be in that echelon and then to be among that same crew, to end up winning the gold medal. So I felt like I was right there with the rest of them. It was a great feat and a great accomplishment at that time in my life."

"It didn't hit me [before] and it just hit me right at once like, 'Damn man, you're playing for the Los Angeles Raiders.'"

If anyone knows anything about Al Davis, you know he loved speed. Jett was the perfect choice for him, picking him up as an undrafted free agent in 1993. That season, Jett wasted no time putting his Olympic speed to use. The wide receiver went for 771 yards and three touchdowns in his rookie season, and made the PFWA All-Rookie Team.

"One moment that really stuck out to me was I think my first year in the league," Jett recalled. "We were playing at home and I was out on the field. A timeout [was] called and at the time I was called out for staring around, and I looked at what was a lineman's helmet.

"Big ass decal on the side of this big Raiders' helmet. And it didn't hit me [before] and it just hit me right at once like, 'Damn man, you're playing for the Los Angeles Raiders.'

"I'm like tripping and I got nervous and I got cold chills and it was just crazy. It was just one of them moments. I said, 'Man shake it off, you're back in the game.'"

Jett would go on to develop a formidable wide receiver duo with Pro Football Hall of Famer Tim Brown, as both were the only two Los Angeles Raiders to still be on the roster when the Oakland Raiders played in Super Bowl XXXVII. Jett retired at the end of the Super Bowl run season, having caught a total 30 touchdowns in his 10 seasons as a Raider.

The kid from West Virginia also never forgot his roots. Jett gave his gold medal to a local bank in his hometown that kept it on display for years. The medal is now encased in his father's home.

With the 2020 Tokyo Olympics underway, take a look back at Raiders who previously competed in the Olympics.

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