Wide Receiver Amari Cooper, Raiders Legend Fred Biletnikoff and Wide Receiver Michael Crabtree
Each year the Fred Biletnikoff Award is presented to the "nation's outstanding college football receiver," by the Tallahassee Quarterback Club Foundation, Inc., and after previously not having an award winner wear the Silver and Black in a decade, this year the Oakland Raiders have two -- Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree.
Last week during the team's alumni weekend, the two wide receivers stayed on the field after practice at the team's Napa Valley Training Complex to spend some time with the man the award was named after, Raiders Legend, Pro Football Hall of Fame wide receiver, and Super Bowl XI MVP Fred Biletnikoff.
Biletnikoff is the second-leading receiver in Raiders history, catching 589 passes for 8,974 and 76 touchdowns during his 14-year career as a Raider, and his impact on the game has not been lost on either Cooper or Crabtree.
"He [Biletnikoff] was a really great receiver and that award was something that I really wanted, that I really sought after my whole career in college," said Cooper. "It was nice to finally meet him."
Cooper won the Biletnikoff Award last season and had quite the impressive showing in 2014 with the Alabama Crimson Tide, hauling in 124 receptions for 1,727 yards and 16 touchdowns en route to an SEC Championship and a spot in the inaugural College Football Playoff.
"It means a lot to just be in the NFL," Cooper said. "To play for the team that Fred Biletnikoff played for is just a great feeling to try to continue that legacy."
While Biletnikoff had not met Cooper until last week's on-field meeting, his relationship with wide receiver Michael Crabtree goes back nearly 10 years.
As the first of just a pair of two-time award winners (Justin Blackmon 2010,11) Crabtree met Biletnikoff on a multitude of occasions, and he and the Biletnikoffs remained close even after the standout receiver left the collegiate ranks.
"**Plenty of times," Crabtree said when asked if he'd met Biletnikoff before. "I won the Biletnikoff Award twice. I know his wife [Angela] real well. He's like my pops and she's like my mom. My mom still talks to his wife. It's great."
Prior to Cooper and Crabtree joining the Raiders, the team had not had a Fred Biletnikoff Award winner since Randy Moss played for the team in 2005 and 2006, and Biletnikoff for one is glad the wait is over.
"It's great," Biletnikoff said. "I'm excited about it. It means a helluva lot to me to have both of these guys on the team, with both of them winning the award."
The Biletnikoff Award is designated for the best college receiver, but now that both Cooper and Crabtree are in the NFL, Biletnikoff expects them to continue the play that earned them both the award in the first place.
"I have big expectations of those two guys and I'm so happy they're playing together and they're going to be a part of this team," Biletnikoff said. "They're going to make a big difference with this team, they really are."