SamGraddy_Gold_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.

Raiders.com'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

Speaking with gold medalist Sam Graddy over the phone, he reminisced over an article that was written about him years ago in the 1980s that he felt well represented "the way he was wired" as an athlete. In the headline of this feature piece done on Graddy, the journalist described him as "a mean sprinter."

That would also be the best way to describe Graddy's ability on the football field.

"Track is a sport where you really have to push yourself," Graddy said. "I learned at an early age to always go above and beyond what was required of me from my coaches.

"The determination, the preservation, the will to win – all of those were useful in me making that transition from track to football. That never give up attitude, I'm going to find a way to get it done and I won't be denied.

Graddy certainly wasn't denied respect every time he stepped on a track. The Georgia native didn't start running track until his sophomore year of high school. Up to that point he had only played football, starring at the tailback position. His senior year he went undefeated in track, winning a state championship and becoming an high school American, which officially made him a hot recruiting commodity for both sports.

"That never give up attitude, I’m going to find a way to get it done and I won’t be denied."

Graddy decided to attend the University of Tennessee, where good friend and fellow Olympian Willie Gault helped recruit him. Graddy and Gault excelled in both track and football. Together, they won a 1983 NCAA Championship in the 4x100-meter relay. Gault, like Graddy, had made the Olympic team in 1980, but was denied the chance to run due to the U.S. boycott of the summer games in Moscow, Russia.

While still enrolled at Tennessee at 20 years old, he would make the 1984 USA Olympic team. In historic, record-breaking fashion, he won gold in the 4x100-meter relay with future Raider teammate Ron Brown. He would also pick up a silver medal in the 100-meter dash, coming in second to relay teammate Carl Lewis, who won nine gold medals in his career.

"I certainly didn't take it for granted, I realized it was a big deal," Graddy said. "You can have Olympic talent but for whatever reason not reach the goal of participating in the Olympics and winning a medal.

"All the stars lined up for me to make the Olympic team the year I made it and be able to medal."

The duo of Graddy and Gault would later meet back up in Los Angeles five years later to play for the Silver and Black.

"It's one of the most special things that I've ever experienced because Willie really is truly the reason why I went to Tennessee and many, many years ago we formed a bond and a relationship," Graddy said.

"To have the opportunity to circle back and end up playing with Willie … was a special time."

"Here I am years later, catching touchdowns in the very stadium I ran track in, how odd is that?"

Graddy played three seasons for the Raiders from 1990-92 as a receiver and return specialist. Graddy is still fond of late owner Al Davis, who went out of his way to secure the Olympian. Davis even put Graddy through strenuous eye therapy to improve his hand-eye coordination, something that was revolutionary at its time. Graddy is forever grateful for his time with the organization along with all the memories and accolades he accomplished in Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

"I reflected and counted it as a blessing that I had the chance to play football in the very same stadium I won two medals," he said. "Here I am years later, catching touchdowns in the very stadium I ran track in, how odd is that?"

"I'm one of those guys that believes nothing happens in God's world by mistake and it was all meant to be."

Graddy would take his Olympic gold and silver medals and display them in a special case in his Atlanta, Georgia, home. The case which holds the two medals was crafted and designed by his father.

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

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