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Raider Nation Origin Stories: Meet Keith Smith, known as 'Crusader Raider' from East London, England


How did Keith Smith, born and raised in East London, become a diehard fan of an NFL team nearly 5,400 miles away?

Well, it's a love story, of sorts.

Smith's now-uncle, an El Centro, California, native, jumped across the pond to London, England, in 1942. While overseas, he fell deeply in love with a British woman – who happened to be Smith's biological aunt. At the conclusion of World War II, the two newlyweds moved back to the U.S. – living in Pomona, California, together for 57 years.

In 1980, a young Keith Smith made his own trip over the Atlantic to visit his aunt and uncle who had become big fans of the Silver and Black.

Before coming to America, he'd never seen a football game, in-person or on television. The only way he and his brother were able to consume American football was by listening to low-quality radio broadcasts. Following the first time he set his eyes on the Silver and Black up close, he was hooked for life.

"It wasn't just my family, but it was the players in the 80's," Smith said. "If you think of the characters we had on this team, and the commitment that they had and the coaching we had at that time, there was a uniqueness about them. A mystique about the Raiders. It was so different from any other team.

"I think that's what drew the attention to them. They were a hard, aggressive team, but they fought together as a team."

Over the past 43 years of Raiders fandom, he's attended over 200 games, including 95 trips from London to the U.S. He's also attended the four games the team has played in his backyard, the last being a 24-21 victory over the Chicago Bears inside Tottenham Stadium during the 2019 season.

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In the stands, Smith has easily stuck out among the crowd. It isn't too common to find a man with a posh British accent roaming around "The Black Hole." This led to the birth of Smith's alter ego, one that's reached worldwide fame and admiration among the Nation.

Many Raiders fans may not know who Keith Smith is, but they know who "Crusader Raider" is.

"One day I spoke to my wife and told her, 'I want to represent England and I want represent the Raiders at the same time,'" he recalled. "She created my uniform."

His iconic uniform, based off the St. George flag, had the Raiders shield placed in the middle of the red cross. Now over two decades sporting the regalia, he has hundreds of patches sewn into the custom flag. The patches represent games he's attended, as well as Raiders fans across the globe and different charity organizations he's involved with.

"The costume and the uniform developed, and people got to know me," he said. "Now I come to Las Vegas, and people know 'The Crusader Raider' and they know the story. In the early days it was pretty brutal and pretty hard, because if you turned up to the Oakland Coliseum on a Sunday night or a Monday night game and you're in red and white, you're going to be in trouble.

"But thankfully 20 years on, I would say the majority know who I am and have traveled well. I just love the fact I can represent my country but also represent the Nation. We are truly worldwide."

He's also used his Crusader Raider persona as a platform to help people with intellectual and physical disabilities worldwide – a cause he has been dedicated to since he was 16 years old. During his trips to the U.S., he visits classrooms to do learning exercises with children which includes having them read postcards he receives from Raiders fans across the globe.

Smith is amazed at what he's been able to do as Crusader Raider. He never would've thought the persona that has brought him great joy would forever link him to the historic NFL franchise.

"It's hard to put into words something that can impact your life for 43 years and make such a huge difference," he said. "You develop that by being who you are and being personal, wanting to help others. That's how the character developed, and I enjoy being Crusader Raider and everything that it means."

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