Basketball Hall of Famer Bill Russell, Raiders Legend Clem Daniels and Pro Football Hall of Famer John Madden pose for a photo. Photo by Allan Yuan.
Recently, Raiders Legend Clem Daniels was honored with the Alameda County Youth Development, Inc. (ACYD) Distinguished Community Service Award at the 2012 Clem Daniels Gala Tribute Benefit, organized by the ACYD and the Joe Morgan Youth Foundation. The former Raiders running back was joined by previous recipient, Basketball Hall of Famer Bill Russell and Baseball Hall of Famer Joe Morgan, Oakland Mayor Jean Quan, as well as members of the Raiders family, including Hall of Famers Willie Brown and John Madden, owner Mark Davis and Mrs. Davis, and legend George Atkinson.
The Oakland community paid tribute to Daniel's accomplishments as a leader in not only football, but in local businesses and throughout the community. "I was there mainly for him because of all the things he had done over the years, not only on the football field for the Raiders, but off the field," said Brown. "Clem was the one that inspired me to go into business when I came through the Raiders. Clem has done a lot for this community and it's unbelievable to think of the things that he's done over the years here in Oakland."
The all-time leading rusher in the AFL and four-time AFL All-Star, Daniels joined the Raiders in 1961, but it wasn't until Al Davis became a part of the organization that Daniels really began to thrive. "When Al got here in '63, we sat down in meetings and I began to picture in my own head the things that I could do within the framework of that system and I was just so excited," said Daniels. "I remember going back to my room and I called my mother in Texas, I said, 'mother, we got a guy here now and the whole world is going to know about the Raiders. This guy knows football and knows how to coach, everything is going to turn around here.' I became player of the year and Al Davis became coach of the year. That was the first time that we knew we had a thing going in Oakland."
Daniels developed a strong relationship with Mr. Davis from the beginning and maintained that relationship until the passing of Mr. Davis last year. "Starting the first year, when Al came in '63, we developed a close relationship, to the point where we would sit in his office many, many times and just talk," said Daniels. "We'd talk about life, talk about the things we'd like to get done within the context of the Raiders as far as the tradition. We would discuss issues in terms of the community, starting back in '63 when the civil rights movement was beginning to move in an up-bound spiral in terms of the participation of many, many facets of the community. We could discuss those issues openly, honestly with each other. I had a long-lasting relationship with Al right up until the end, a relationship I could appreciate."
Mr. Davis invited Daniels to actively participate in discussions regarding game strategy and ways to improve the team. "During my playing years, when Al was coaching, the first four years, probably the main thing I really appreciated about Al is that he would always come to me ahead of time and ask, what do you see, what can you do, what's going to work for us the second half," explained Daniels. "So he gave me an opportunity to participate, even an opportunity to express my ideas in terms of what I thought would work, about how we would be able to move on and win the ball games."
Daniels was also blown away by the amount of knowledge Mr. Davis had for the overall game of football. "He's the only coach that I've ever had that can coach every position on the field," said Daniels. "He had a wealth of knowledge of the fundamentals, of playing the game, he had an encyclopedic-type memory in terms of the history of the game. You couldn't talk about one issue that Al didn't have some sort of context of what you were talking about. These are the kinds of things that helped us develop the Raider mystique that people talk about and it was just a combination of work, history, [that] established the saying, 'Pride and Poise of the Raiders.'"
The relationship Daniels had developed with Mr. Davis was the type of relationship Mr. Davis cultivated with many of the players, and one of the many reasons such a large number of former Raiders players, coaches and staff joined in honoring Daniels. "I was just so overwhelmed in terms of their support," Daniels said. "I expected it, but when you see it, you know that they appreciate what you've done, they appreciate what you still do. The relationships that you maintain in terms of the tradition of the Raiders, Al Davis has always looked out for his players and with that context in mind, I wasn't surprised the former Raider players there because we've maintained that cohesiveness over the past 50 years and we've always known we'd be accepted as a Raider. Al Davis has always maintained that, it's been an ongoing relationship."
In addition to his relationships with the Raiders organization, Daniels worked closely in the Oakland community growing business relationships. "Before I had retired from football, I had established a business, my first retail store in Oakland," said Daniels. "I decided to stay in Oakland because if I had gone back to my home, I doubt very seriously that I would have been able to garner the kind of relationships from a business perspective that I did in Oakland. There was a good marriage between the Raiders and the community."
According to the event website, Daniels is also active in his support for local community organizations such as the State of California Youth Employment Task Force, Oakland Parks and Recreation Board of Commissioners, East Oakland Youth Development Corporation Board, Boys and Girls Clubs Board of Directors, Oakland Police and Fire Department Retirement Board and NFL Caring for Kids Program.
The tribute looked back at all of the ways in which Daniels has made a positive impact on the local community. And while Oakland embraces his past, Daniels looks to the future as he continues to embrace his relationship with the Oakland Raiders. "I had an opportunity to meet Reggie McKenzie and Dennis Allen and I really think we're on our way to do some real great things with this team, again," Daniels said. "The players are beginning to buy into what they're doing. It's going to take a lot of work and a lot of input, but I told both Reggie and Dennis last night that the former players were here to help them and I think for us to just be able to say that, I think it's very meaningful and benefits the future."