As a valuable member of two Raiders Super Bowl-winning teams, Kenny King was part of many great moments in Raiders history. The latest came when he was bestowed the prestigious honor of lighting the Al Davis Memorial Torch prior to the Las Vegas Raiders game against the New York Giants at Allegiant Stadium on November 5, 2023.
King described lighting the torch as "a Hall of Fame" moment while admitting to having butterflies as he stood on the Allegiant Stadium mainstage facing the crowd and activating the torch.
"Standing there, it was a great feeling, being in front of Raider Nation. It is such a wonderful honor to be able to say I was an individual that was asked to do this," said King while still taking in the moment. "And to be in front I didn't want to make a mistake; it was a little nerve-racking, but it was fun. It's always great to be back in front of Raider Nation."
He reflected on when he got the call to light the Al Davis Memorial Torch, which is a tribute to Mr. Davis' legacy as the Raiders' longtime owner, Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee, AFL Coach of the Year, AFL Commissioner, and the architect of the Raiders' Commitment to Excellence in recognition of Mr. Davis' enduring vision that "the fire that burns the brightest in the Raiders organization is the will to win."
"When I got asked, I was completely honored. To have the opportunity to be one of the people to light the torch for the history of Al Davis and this organization, it is an honor."
King, a starter in the Raiders' offensive backfield in both Super Bowl XV and XVIII, was clairvoyant in his pregame assessment. "This team is going to totally dominate and the Raiders are going to go out there and take it to the Giants," said King before kickoff of the contest that resulted in the Raiders' 30-6 victory.
One of King's great moments while wearing the Silver and Black includes his heroics in Super Bowl XV when the Raiders captured their second World Championship of Professional Football in a 27-10 triumph over the Philadelphia Eagles. The Raiders, already up 7-0 thanks to a Jim Plunkett 2-yard pass to wide receiver Cliff Branch, faced third down and four at their own 20-yard line when Plunkett dropped back to pass and scanned the field from right to left. The quarterback then scrambled and nimbly moved to his left to find King getting open up the Raiders sideline.
Plunkett's perfectly lofted toss barely went over the outstretched fingertips of Eagles defender Herm Edwards and descended into King's catch radius at the 39. King then did the rest with his legs, dashing untouched up the left sideline, which happened to be the Raiders' bench location, with wide receiver Bob Chandler leading the way en route to the 80-yard score that put the Raiders up 14-0, an advantage they would not relinquish. The catch broke the previous long for a touchdown reception in a Super Bowl set by Baltimore Colts tight end John Mackey of 75 yards in Super Bowl V, a record that stood for 16 years.
"I'm running a simple little flat pattern and I'm the third option," King reminisced. "The play was mainly going to Bobby Chandler in the corner. The next thing I know I caught a lob, and it was right into my hands on the sidelines. At that point, there was no way I could drop that football in front of the Raiders bench and not be able to run 80 yards."
The Raiders began that 1980 season with a 2-3 record before going on a white-hot run, winning nine of their last 11 games to qualify for the postseason as a wild card. King recalled that rubber-hit-the road moment which turned the season around and resulted in the Raiders becoming the first team in NFL history to win a Super Bowl title as a wild card entrant.
"It just so happened that when Dan [Pastorini] broke his leg against Kansas City and Jim [Plunkett] came in and resurrected his career, everybody started clicking around each other," recounted King. "We believed in each other. Every week, our offense fought for defense, defense fought for offense."
Over his seven-year NFL career, King played in 10 postseason games, 97 league contests, including 85 with the Raiders, and accumulated 2,477 yards rushing and seven touchdowns plus 89 receptions for 715 yards and a touchdown. One of those regular season rushing scores was an 89-yard run against San Diego on October 12, 1980, at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, which established a then-record for longest run in Raiders history. San Diego had tied the score at 24 when King found a gap on the left side, which was manned by Gene Upshaw and Art Shell, and raced to the end zone.
"I think they were playing the pass," King told reporters in a victorious locker room after totaling a career-best 138 rushing yards in the 38-24 Raiders win which began the Raiders' surge to the title and propelled him to a Pro Bowl spot. "When they saw it was a run they forced inside because that's where the play was supposed to go, but I took it outside. When I first got through there I thought, 'Oh, man, this is lonely.'"
The Clarendon, Texas, native entered the NFL as a third-round pick (No. 72 overall) by the Houston Oilers in the 1979 NFL Draft following a stellar career at the University of Oklahoma. He carried the ball only three times for nine yards as a rookie before going on injured reserve, seeing limited action behind Earl Campbell, who won the Heisman Trophy, was the 1978 NFL MVP and went on to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
The Raiders made a draft-day trade in 1980 to bring King to the Silver and Black, in a transaction that included sending Raiders legend Jack Tatum to the Oilers.
"It was the last day of the NFL Draft in 1980 and I got a phone call from [Houston Head Coach] Bum Phillips and he told me that, 'Hey, things happen in life,' and I said, 'What are you talking about?' He said, 'We traded you,'" said King. "I just got traded to the Oakland Raiders and this was going to give me the opportunity to showcase my talent. Mr. [Raiders Owner Al] Davis made the move and I was out of Houston in 72 hours."
The new opportunity came at the right time for King, who was at a crossroads in his professional life.
"This was probably my last shot because I was seriously contemplating leaving football and going into the oil industry. I felt this was going to resurrect my career and it definitely did. Everything that I could imagine happened in that one move and Mr. Davis made it very clear when I first met him. He said, 'When I first saw you play, it was your senior year [at Oklahoma]. You split the secondary against TCU. And when I saw that, I knew I had to have you.'"
King was inducted into the Texas Panhandle Sports Hall of Fame in 2008 while in 2016, he had the fortune of sharing his Raiders glory with his hometown. He presented a gold football to his alma mater as part of the NFL's Super Bowl High School Honor Roll initiative recognizing schools and communities that contributed to Super Bowl history and positively impacted the game of football.
"To say that Kenny King is larger than life in the city of Clarendon is basically an understatement," the Clarendon School District responded. "He is very well respected by young and old alike, and it is a big deal when he comes to town. Yes, we are all proud to call King a Clarendon resident, but prouder still to call him a Bronco."
King, who in 1982 made the selfless switch from halfback to fullback to make room for a hotshot rookie named Marcus Allen, holds those formative years close, just as he does his time with the Silver and Black.
"To have the opportunity to play on two world championship teams with the Raider organization and to be able to say that I'm a two-time world champion, it is incredible," said King. "It is such a tremendous honor and I'm thankful that I'm a part of this organization. Once a Raider, always a Raider."
Get an exclusive look at the gameday entertainment from the Raiders' Week 9 victory against the New York Giants at Allegiant Stadium.