On Friday, former Raiders wide receiver “Swervin’” Mervyn Fernandez was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. The San Jose, Calif., native and San Jose State standout played all six of his seasons (1982 – 1986, 1994) in the Canadian Football League with the BC Lions in Vancouver, British Columbia. He played for the Raiders from 1987 – 1992.
According to his Canadian Football Hall of Fame bio:
“Fernandez became the first Lion to win the CFL’s Most Outstanding Player Award in 1985, when he had 95 catches and 1,727 yards for an 18.2 yards per reception average, along with 15 touchdowns. He was recognized as a CFL All-Star in 1984 and 1985, was a Western All-Star four straight seasons from 1982 to 1985 (with 1,000 yards receiving each year) and won Grey Cups with the Lions in 1985 and 1994. He made the most of his six seasons in BC, recording regular season career totals of 399 receptions, 6,690 receiving yards, an average of 16.8 yards per catch and 58 touchdown catches.”
“It’s a league that you can hone your craft in, keep playing some good football and hopefully get noticed or picked up by one of the NFL teams if you so choose, Fernandez said in a recent interview. “Some guys prefer to stay in Canada.”
The then-Los Angeles Raiders selected Fernandez in the 10th round of the 1983 National Football League Draft although Fernandez was under contract with BC through 1986.
“I want to prove myself. So many athletes from Canada have gone through the system and not produced,” Fernandez said in a Knight-Ridder article published on February 24, 1987. “I want to show people I can play this game, even though so far it has been in a different country.”
On March 5, 1987, the Associated Press reported that the Raiders had signed Fernandez to a four-year contract.
As a rookie, Fernandez He played in seven games and caught 14 passes for 236 yards. The 1987 season saw three games played by replacement players due to a 24-day players’ strike. Fernandez played in the last game with replacement players on Oct. 18, 1987. Fellow CFL star receiver and Canadian Football Hall of Fame 2019 inductee David Williams played three games as a replacement player with the Raiders and was on the field with Fernandez on Oct. 18, 1987. Williams returned to Canada in 1988 and resumed his starring role.
Fernandez saw action in all 16 games with one start for the Raiders in 1988 and caught 31 passes for 805 yards (26 yards per catch) and four touchdowns. In 1989, Fernandez enjoyed his best individual season in Silver and Black catching 57 passes for 1,069 yards and nine scores. In 1990, the Raiders went 12-4 and won the AFC West. Fernandez played in 16 games with 15 starts and caught 52 passes for 839 yards and five touchdowns as the Raiders advanced to the AFC Championship game. In 1991, Swervin’ Mervyn saw action in all 16 games with 13 starts and caught 46 passes for 694 yards and one touchdown. During his last season with the Raiders in 1992, Fernandez played in 15 games and caught nine passes for 121 yards.
Fernandez made his mark on Raiders’ teams that featured Bo Jackson, Marcus Allen, Tim Brown, James Lofton, Willie Gault and Dokie Williams.
He was traded to the San Francisco 49ers on May 8, 1993. After announcing his retirement on Aug. 7, 1993, while in training camp, Fernandez returned to Canada and the BC Lions with a deal that was announced April 7, 1994. The Lions went on to win the Grey Cup as Fernandez caught 25 passes for 282 yards and two scores that season.
As the Raiders prepare to play the Green Bay Packers in a preseason game at IG Field in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, on Aug. 22, and to celebrate his induction into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame, Fernandez has been making the rounds this week with Canadian media outlets and a visit to the Investors Group Field to meet with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
“When we were playing it was pretty crazy, we held about 60-70,000 people and we packed that thing and it was on fire,” Fernandez said. “They were pretty loyal. Everybody was having a good time, obviously winning divisions and championships, but they were having a great time. I still get some Canadian fan mail.”
Fernandez also said that playing in Canada is a unique opportunity for the Raiders and the NFL.
“Going to Japan and London is definitely more international than going to Canada, Winnipeg is far, but it’s not that far,” Fernandez said. “The game of football is the game of football. In Canada the rules are a little bit different, the field it a little bit bigger, obviously they’ll be playing NFL size. Just to have the brand there, something different for the players and the coaches, it’s a beautiful area and I think it’ll be nice for the league.”
For more information about the Raiders game in Canada next week click, here.