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Reggie Kinlaw rekindles memories of being anchor for the Silver and Black

Reggie Kinlaw, who proudly wore the Silver and Black from 1979-1984, was bestowed the honor of lighting the Al Davis Memorial Torch on December 14 in front of 60-plus thousand prior to kickoff of the Las Vegas Raiders versus Los Angeles Chargers contest at Allegiant Stadium.

"It was great!" said Kinlaw of lighting the torch in honor of, and in tribute to, Al Davis, who declared that "the fire that burns the brightest in the Raiders organization is the will to win." 

"I'd like to thank Mark Davis for giving me this opportunity to be a part of Mr. [Al] Davis' memory. When I lit that torch, I took a peep on the field and I had a flashback of seeing him walking up and down the field and greeting every player, saying, 'Kinlaw, have a great game, get after these guys and just win.'"

He was accompanied by his wife, Terri, on the Allegiant Stadium mainstage during this monumental occasion.

"It was great having my wife there, she was happy for me," Kinlaw related. "We always think of football, family and fun. That's what the Raiders organization is all about, family. When we played, we were all about camaraderie, not just on the field but off the field as well."

Kinlaw remains close to the Raiders, in both location as a Las Vegas resident and in duty, as his time spent on the field and in the locker room still resonates. "I was there for six years," said Kinlaw, who played eight NFL seasons, his last two with the Seattle Seahawks. "And those six years were the best years of my life because I met so many great people. Not only the players, but also the front office. Al Davis, he was a legend from coaching to being a commissioner to owner and his goal was to just win. He remains in my thoughts and mind.

"The coaching staff, Tom Flores, his first year, 1979, that was my draft year. Earl Leggett, my defensive line coach, one of the best defensive coaches I ever had. I have guys that I played with; we stay in touch all the time. We have group texts and stuff like that. And we always say, 'Once a Raider, Always a Raider' or 'Raider for life.'"

Although his defensive linemates — Howie Long, Lyle Alzado, Greg Townsend — maintained a higher profile, it was Kinlaw who was the anchor of the Raiders 3-4 defense and key member of the 1980 and 1983 Super Bowl-winning squads. The Miami native accomplished this despite being the roster's smallest defensive lineman and lightest nose tackle in the NFL, tiptoeing to reach 6-foot-2 and requiring a week's worth of Thanksgiving meals to top the scales at 250.

Instead of mass, Kinlaw utilized strength, quickness and guile to control the middle. He was able to showcase those talents in the biggest of games, where his work was both recognized and appreciated by those in the know. He certainly caught their attention, and praise, following the Raiders' 38-9 victory over the Washington Redskins in Super Bowl XVIII.

Reggie Kinlaw in Super Bowl XVIII
Reggie Kinlaw in Super Bowl XVIII

A Sports Illustrated recap of the game summarized Kinlaw's influence, even asserting that he, not Marcus Allen of the Super Bowl record-setting 191 yards rushing, 74-yard run and 209 all-purpose yards, should have received additional hardware.

"The whole Raider operation wouldn't have worked against the Redskins if 245-pound Reggie Kinlaw, a small, swift middle guard in an era of pachyderms, hadn't played inspired football and patrolled the middle like a minesweeper," wrote venerable NFL writer Paul Zimmerman, adding that Raiders defensive coordinator Charlie Sumner "…helped design the defense that set Kinlaw a yard off the line and had him chasing down John Riggins' tackle-to-tackle thrusts. … The issue already had been decided when Allen broke his big run. And as brilliant as he was, it was a defensive victory for the Raiders. … My MVP would have been Kinlaw."

Raiders linebacker Rod Martin confirmed the game plan. "We made sure he [Riggins] couldn't get outside of us. … Reggie was controlling the center and shutting off everything in the middle."

Even the opponent was chronicled concurring with that assessment. "Reggie Kinlaw to me was the MVP of the Super Bowl," said Redskins quarterback Joe Theismann, who was on the other end of six sacks and two interceptions. "Reggie Kinlaw controlled the interior part of that line, which is really where we hung our hat."

Added Redskins running back Joe Washington, whose college career at Oklahoma overlapped with Kinlaw for one year: "He made a lot of tackles. He messed up a lot of plays. He had a lot to do with other guys making big plays behind the line of scrimmage. He really had a great game. He was the major force on defense."

Kinlaw has his own recollections of that Super Bowl played in his home state of Florida. "When the clock hit zero at Super Bowl XVIII, you're a two-time champ, how special is that feeling," he noted. "It was very special because I had at least 40 of my members of my family there, because I'm originally from Miami, so that was kind of close. A lot of people got a chance to watch me play. I had some high school buddies there that I played ball with and one of my buddies said that's the best game he'd ever seen me play. The way we played and the way we shut down Riggins and their wide receivers, and the way Marcus ran the ball, Cliff caught the balI, it was just unreal. That was an amazing night."

Kinlaw was a similar force on another grand stage when the Raiders defeated the Philadelphia Eagles, 27-10, in Super Bowl XV to capture their second World Championship of Professional Football. He was reunited that season with his college roommate, running back Kenny King whom the Raiders acquired prior to the season.

Reggie Kinlaw with his wife, Terri
Reggie Kinlaw with his wife, Terri

Though he was born and raised in the football hotbed of Miami, Kinlaw yearned to relocate so he attended college at Oklahoma, which had set up virtual residence in Southern Florida via annual appearances in the Orange Bowl. He returned home to play in three Orange Bowls, including a 14-6 win over Michigan in 1976 that helped give the Sooners the National Title, and was inducted into the bowl game's Hall of Fame in 2015.

The Raiders came calling, selecting Kinlaw in the 12th round — the 320th of 330 players chosen in the 1979 NFL Draft. Raiders personnel executive Ron Wolf — now a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame — had an affection for No. 62, this 230-pound college middle guard who kept jumping off the tape.

"The player I'm most proud of in all my years drafting with the Raiders, it was the 12th round pick, Reggie Kinlaw from the University of Oklahoma," Wolf recalled years later. "Reggie comes in and right away established himself as a starting nose tackle on defense and we're talking about a guy who physically was not supposed to be able to do that, 6-foot-1, 244 pounds, and he can lift this building, that's how strong he was, just a natural gifted football player.

"To this day I admire that young man. Of course, he's not a young man anymore but I really admire what he did and what he accomplished because the whole thing was against him, size, but he had the speed and the strength, the athleticism, and he's a remarkable football player. To me, the best guy I ever drafted for the Raiders."

Kinlaw relived that draft moment while expressing the supreme confidence usually reserved for first rounders. "My dad always said, 'You start something, you finish, OK?' Kinlaw recalled. "And size don't matter. It's what you got here, the heart. And that's what I banked on all my career.

"When I got to the Raiders and you see players like Art Shell, Gene Upshaw, Dave Dalby, Cliff Branch, Raymond Chester, Dave Casper, Ted Hendricks, I can go on, and on, and on. When you play with those type of guys on the field, you got to step your game up and you got to bring your all. And that's what I tried to do. You throw out the 12th-round draft choice and you throw out the money, the 245 pounds, I'm a Raider. We play hard, we play to win. That's why I was here. To do that."

While in the NFL he was considered an undersized performer for his position group, such was not always the case during his sports career, according to a news report which offered an ironic twist regarding Kinlaw and girth. A Miami journalist chronicled how Kinlaw was a 182-pound eighth grader, which put him some 40 pounds over the limit to play Pop Warner football.

"The coach told me, 'All my linebackers weigh 145 pounds,'" Kinlaw shared with a reporter. "That was about two, three weeks before they started practicing. So, I went on a diet. When it got down to the first game of the season, I missed it by one pound. I lost something like 40 pounds. From that day on, I said whatever I do in football, I want to succeed."

After retiring from professional football, Kinlaw was involved in several business interests and spent time coaching at the prep level, tutoring the defensive line. He preceded the Raiders to Las Vegas, moving to Southern Nevada in 2014. Upon receiving NFL relocation approval in 2017, the Raiders immediately began immersing themselves in the community and Kinlaw was front and center, regularly representing the organization at civic functions as well as events and activities that impact the valley's youth and underserved public.

One week, we see Kinlaw distributing holiday meals while another, he is speaking to Clark County-area high school football players who are participating in a team-sponsored football camp, then at a PLAY-60 clinic. The next week, he is participating in Nevada Reading Week and engaging with veterans and assisting with food giveaways. His social calendar continues to include honoring local high school coaches with the Tom Flores Coach of the Week Award and interacting with children from local Boys and Girls Clubs during Raiders Junior Training Camps.

"The public gives to you, coming to games and supporting the team and it is important to give back," Kinlaw said. "That's very important to me and the Raiders organization."

In addition to his support of community endeavors, Kinlaw continues to be a go-to invitee at corporate events. He's a sought-after Raiders Alumnus during gameday suite visits and autograph signings, showing that Raider Nation appreciate his efforts both during and after his playing days.

Get an exclusive look at the gameday entertainment from the Raiders' Week 15 victory against the Los Angeles Chargers at Allegiant Stadium.

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