Raiders Legend Jeff Barnes signs autographs for fans of all ages. Photo by Tony Gonzales.
Raiders Legend Jeff Barnes signed autographs for two days over the weekend at the Hegenberger Raider Image store. Raiders.com had the opportunity to chat with the gregarious former linebacker for an interview. The amiable and effusive two-time Super Bowl champion embodies the great Raiders tradition. He considers himself a lifetime member of the Silver and Black and the Raider Nation.
Raiders.com:As a Cal grad, how meaningful was it to remain in the Bay Area and be drafted by the Oakland Raiders?
Jeff Barnes: Let me tell you how great that was by being a Cal grad, being in the Bay Area. I went to Hayward High, from Hayward, right down the road…Chabot Junior College…went there for two years, got a full ride to go to Cal. When I went to Cal I played with some of the great Cal players of all time. And then from there, I got drafted by the Raiders in the 5th round…Bay Area boy made good stays in the Bay Area. I was ecstatic. It was fantastic.
Raiders.com: Playing for Hall of Fame coach John Madden must have been pretty special. Do you have any noteworthy stories about him when you were drafted?
Jeff Barnes: When I got drafted by the Raiders, I just came right over to the Raider office…you know, Cal, Berkeley, Oakland, [are all] right next to each other. So I got in my car and drove to the Raider office. The secretary goes up to Mr. John Madden and says, "Coach Madden, Jeff Barnes is here." [Coach Madden replies:] "Yeah, I know, I just drafted Jeff Barnes in the 5th round." [Secretary:] "No coach, he's here, he's downstairs in the lobby." Once I got drafted, I was over in the Raiders office in five minutes. And the story he tells everybody is that we drafted Jeff and he was over in the Raiders facility in five minutes. The coach couldn't believe it, he had just drafted me.
Raiders.com: So, you were born in Philadelphia. Did you grow up rooting for the Eagles or have you spent most of your life as a Raiders fan?
Jeff Barnes: Well, when I was three, we moved out to California…came up here to the Oakland area…I went to the greatest high school of all, Hayward High…which is known for Jack Del Rio…and a couple other great ball players that played for the Miami Dolphins and a couple of other teams…great athletes came out of there. I had a great coach in Coach Clark. So you know, it's been a blast. That's why I'm here now in the Bay Area because a lot of fans know me, know my career. I do all kinds of autographs for the kids and different charities. I'm always out and about.
Raiders.com:Did you have* *any desire to play for the Eagles? How did it feel beating them in Super Bowl XV?
Jeff Barnes: It was amazing because I felt that before I was drafted, I might have had a chance to go the Eagles…and [then] I got drafted by the Raiders. Low and behold, when I played in my first Super Bowl, it was against the Philadelphia Eagles…Super Bowl XV. That was a great feeling. You know, I had my relatives in Philadelphia that came to the game. Reluctantly, they rooted for me, but were still Philadelphia fans. But it all worked out for the best and we won the Super Bowl that year. We beat those Eagles.
Raiders.com:Your team in the 1980 season became the first Wild Card team to advance to and win the Super Bowl. What are your thoughts on that remarkable achievement?
Jeff Barnes: You know, first Wild Card team…Mike Davis interception on the goal line in the Cleveland game that helped seal that for us and take us through the playoffs. I just had good people on my team, man. You had guys like Lester Hayes, Rod Martin…you know his interceptions. Rod Martin was my roommate. My class that I came in with in 1977, we had great ball players. We had a phenomenal class.
Raiders.com:Could you recall a particularly memorable moment?
Jeff Barnes:Well, let me tell you something. I have a whole bunch of memorable moments, man. We just don't have enough time. Let me tell you one or two. I was playing in my rookie year, playing down in Miami and they said, "Jeff Barnes get in there." I went in there on the goal line because I was a good goal line stand man when I was at Cal. So I get in there on the goal line and I hit the tackle, I [shift] the tackle to the side. And guess who was coming right at me? The quarterback just gave the ball straight to the fullback on a fullback dive. It was Larry Csonka. And all I could see [was] him coming right at me: his helmet, shoulder pads and two little bitty feet. That's all I could see coming straight at me. But you know, that was my first year. So I said, wait a minute, don't get nervous. You know, I said he's coming right at you like a freight train. So the first thing they teach you at the Raiders is [to] dive, cut them at the legs, dive for them. Because if I would have tried to take him on head on and tried to stand him up, I probably would have gotten the short end of the stick and I would have seen myself on the highlight film, him stepping on my chest going in. Oh no, so what I did was, I dived, I dived straight at his feet. I hit his feet [and] he fell over the top of me at the one-yard line. I looked up and said, "I got him, I'm here for another week." I said to myself, "I just tackled Csonka. Can you believe it?" But that's one of the highlights. I just have so many memorable moments playing against guys like Joe Montana, (John) Elway, Tony Dorsett. Those were the great ball players. When you play against guys like that, you have to play your best. And I think we did. We had guys behind us like Rod Martin and other great [players]. They're going to try to make the tackle at all times and you always knew you had help.
Raiders.com: How are you involved in the community?
Jeff Barnes: I work with different charities and different golf events. I work with a good friend and good ball player with the Raiders. He has his organization and we just had a golf tournament. Rod Martin and myself were there. Whenever they have a charity event that comes up, [I offer my help]. And I do things for the United Way, the March of Dimes and different charities. If they need me for anything, I'm there because [that's] what you [have to] do in this game. You know, I've been blessed. We get to give back and this is my way of giving back to the Bay Area and the community by helping out as much as I can. I get a chance to show off my Super Bowl rings. I was so lucky getting a chance to get one.
Raiders.com:How would you describe the Raider Nation?
Jeff Barnes: I'm an Oakland and Los Angeles Raider. That's the one thing about the Raiders fans: they never forget the great players of old. That's a reason why I love coming out here and doing stuff [for the fans].