Louis Riddick only suited up in the Silver and Black for one year, but it's also the only uniform that holds a personal significance to him.
In 1998, Jon Gruden was named the Head Coach of the Oakland Raiders by Owner Al Davis – Gruden's first head coaching gig – and it was also the year now-ESPN analyst Louis Riddick played for the team. A lot of firsts happened that year and 21 years later Riddick will get another first related to the Silver and Black.
The opportunity to call a live game on Monday Night Football.
According to Riddick, there's not a televised event in the regular season bigger than Monday Night Football, which he said during a conference call with the media Thursday morning, and he'll get to call a matchup between his former team and the division-rival Denver Broncos.
"Going out there is kind of … it'll be a trip down memory lane for me," Riddick said in a moment of reflection. "I played there for Coach Gruden in 1998, my first child was born out there in 1998 ironically against the Denver Broncos, the day we played the Denver Broncos in Oakland on September 20, 1998. So, this matchup has a little bit of personal history with me. A lot of personal significance to me, and to be able to call this game along with Steve Levy, Brian Griese in the booth, and Dianna Russini on the sideline it's really a dream come true."
Coming back to the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum will certainly be a unique feeling for Riddick, and with it there will be plenty of memories that come flooding back. When Riddick joined the Raiders in 1998, it wasn't the first time he met Coach Gruden.
"Jon was coming to Pitt as a wide receivers coach right when I was leaving, so I think he coached there in the '91 season at the University of Pittsburgh, which I graduated that spring of '91," Riddick explained. "So, when I first saw him out in Oakland he started screaming at me 'Pitt Panther!' that kind of thing, because we really go all the way back to then when he really first knew who I was."
That might've been the first time Gruden knew who Riddick was, but it wouldn't be for another seven years that he'd motivate him to be better, and that's the memory that resonates the most with Riddick when he thinks of his former coach.
"I think the thing that I remember the most about him is that he challenged me right from the get-go in that training camp – his rookie training camp as the head coaching job is concerned – to be the cerebral multi-dimensional player that I was," Riddick said." One time I remember in practice I was switching back and forth between free safety and strong safety and I got confused – because the assignments were a little different – and I remember screwing something up. He's coming out to practice, and I was standing there stretching, and he looked at me and said, 'What happened this morning? I saw you got confused.' And in his colorful language he said, 'You're too smart to get f-ing confused. Don't get confused, it's your job to not get confused.'
"It wasn't degrading, I didn't take it personally, I kind of knew what he was saying. That's one of the reasons why you're here and why you'd be a good player. He just has a nice colorful way of telling you and getting the message across to you, and he was always like that. Very sarcastic, but at the same time supportive."
Riddick is just one of a long list of players to share similar sentiments and experiences with Coach Gruden. He might come off one way in "Hard Knocks" and the NFL mic'd up videos you see, but at the end of the day he merely gets on his players because he genuinely cares about helping them become the best version of themselves.
While feelings of nostalgia and reminiscing about his playing days were at the forefront of Riddick's mind on his conference call, he also shared which matchup he's most looking forward to Monday night.
"For me it's probably Bradley Chubb versus Kolton Miller," he said with excitement.
When the two faced off during their first encounter last year, Miller held his own against Chubb, rendering him ineffective. Hopefully Miller can replicate the same results during Week 1.
With most of the fans supporting the Raiders this week, I'll be supporting Riddick as he experiences his first Raiders game from the booth, and maybe we'll get to hear a little bit more about his days with Gruden.