The players and Raiderettes pose for a photo with Hall of Famers John Madden and Willie Brown. Photo by Tony Gonzales
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The Oakland Raiders participated in the 15th Annual Madden-Mariucci Battle of the Bay Bocce Tournament at Campo di Bocce in Livermore, Calif. LS Jon Condo, WR Isaiah Williams, DT Christo Bilukidi, OL Jason Foster, LB Nick Roach, CB Chimdi Chekwa, DB Coye Francies and safeties Usama Young and Reggie Smith participated in the bocce tournament and had the opportunity to meet Raiders Legend and Hall of Fame Coach John Madden.
The Madden-Mariucci tournament benefits a number of local charities and has raised nearly $4 million over its existence. "We've benefited several charities in the Bay Area over the 15 years, but recently it's been Special Olympics; it's been Juvenile Diabetes Research," said former NFL head coach and current NFL Network Analyst Steve Mariucci. "It's been Tri-Valley Football teams. We buy helmets for the football programs. John and I thought that since there's such a push for this concussion thing in the National Football League, that we would benefit these high schools by purchasing helmets. The Mariucci Family Foundation, which next week in fact, we have a football camp that we host for Down Syndrome kids. So that's the majority of where this money goes. We're nearing the $4 million mark. That's a lot of money and we're really proud of that."
Mariucci was impressed with the number of Raiders players, coaches, staff and Raiderettes representing at this year's event. "It's fantastic," said Mariucci. "I know this is a busy time of year for the sports teams. Of course, the Raiders and 49ers are in OTAs. But the Raiders managed to bring…of course Reggie McKenzie is here, he was here last year. Dennis Allen is here. Some of the assistant coaches have been here. Players here. It's fantastic. They signed the bottle and we auction it off. And the Raiderettes are here - can't forget about the Raiderettes. It's fantastic."
The nine players get ready to play their bocce match. Photo by Tony Gonzales
The players were happy to attend and support the various causes. "In general, it's always good I think to get in the community and do what you can to support good causes whether it's Special Olympics things or high school football programs," said Roach. "Do whatever you can to show the community that supports you that you also support them."
The large group of Raiders participants gave the players an opportunity to get to know each other outside of football. "It's cool being with your teammates because you get to see a different side of them," said Roach. "Obviously at work we're all concentrating on the same thing, just practice or meetings or whatever it is. Outside of work you get to see a different side of guys whether its jokesters or the guys who kind of keep to themselves, married guys all stand in the corner together."
They bonded on the bocce court, winning the one game in which they played. "We just played one game in the tournament," said Young. "We got [the win] in overtime. Isaiah came through in the clutch with the 'W.'"
Unfortunately, the Raiders squad did not move on to the playoffs, but Coach Madden kept the Raiders in the game, as his team ended up winning the whole tournament. Prior to Coach Madden's win the players and Raiderettes had the honor of meeting the legendary coach. Foster also had a chance to speak with Coach Madden one-on-one. "It was an amazing experience," said Foster. "It's one I will remember for the rest of my life being able to talk to him, Mr. Coach John Madden, about the offensive line. It was a very humbling experience for me."
The guys share a laugh with Hall of Famers John Madden and Willie Brown. Photo by Tony Gonzales
Raiderette Brandi, who has idolized Coach Madden since she was a child, was thrilled to meet the Hall of Famer. "I was so excited to see Madden," said Brandi. "I have loved him ever since I was a little girl and getting to even shake his hand was surreal. It totally made my year as a Raiderette. I'm still so excited. I can't believe that happened."
Participating in an event organized by the Hall of Fame coach gave the tournament a little extra meaning. "It's awesome," said Roach. "Honestly, I think every kid growing up nowadays has heard of the whole John Madden legacy of the football videogames, but that's probably the only reason they know him. I think that our age group still is able to remember him as a Hall of Fame coach of this team and to get to see him in person is pretty crazy."
Although the Raiders bocce skills were a little shaky, they enjoyed their time supporting charities, meeting Coach Madden and Mariucci. "We have great support from the Raiders and Hall of Famers," said Mariucci. "It's John Madden plus. It's an event for all the pro teams in the Bay Area, but the Raiders right now seem to have the greatest influence on everything."