There's nothing like being a Raider.
I have always known that to be true since my time with the franchise in the late 1990s.
From wearing the Silver and Black to playing in front of the raucous fans in the Black Hole, there are few football experiences that can top what it is like to be a part of Raider Nation.
As a kid, my Raider dreams started while watching Marcus Allen's spectacular touchdown in Super Bowl XVIII. Watching No. 32 zig-zag across the field on the way to the end zone not only captivated my attention, but it spawned a love affair with the team.
As a franchise that appeared to welcome the outcasts and misfits in the league, I appreciated how they embraced diversity at a young age. Watching Allen, Lester Hayes, Mike Haynes, Lyle Alzado and others play as a "team" while expressing their different personalities left a lasting impression on me — you do not need a team of robots to win championships.
Fast forward to my days as a player and later as a scout, I realized the wisdom in Al Davis' team-building ways. Although he did not mind fielding a team full of characters, there were definitely traits that he coveted in his players. He wanted prototypes at the position with the size and strength to dominate the opposition. In addition, he coveted speedsters with track backgrounds due to their athleticism and explosiveness.
As a track and field athlete at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, I was well aware of the track and field resumes of James Trapp, James Jett, Randy Jordan and others on the team. I also knew the history of the franchise with speedsters like James Lofton, Willie Gault, Calvin Branch and a host of other ex-track stars who have spent time with the Silver and Black.
During my days as a scout, I had several conversations with Hall of Fame executive Ron Wolf about building a team and he frequently shared lessons that he learned from Mr. Davis. The former Raiders executive and Green Bay Packers general manager told me teams should always kick the tires on former first-round picks due to their talent. Although it did not work out for them with a previous team, a change of scenery and a different voice (or coach) could unlock that player's potential. He cited how the Raiders have always specialized in this and named some of the greats as examples (SEE: Jim Plunkett).
Wolf also shared with me how teams should consider position changes for talented athletes who have not been able to carve out a successful career at another position. The Raiders successfully converted a number of notable players during Davis' tenure, including Sammy Seale, Ronald Curry and others. Wolf used that same mindset when he switched my position – wide receiver to defensive back – in Green Bay before I eventually landed with the Raiders later in my career. The experience not only extended my career, but playing on a different side of the ball helped me learn more about the game.
Considering how my football journey has been impacted and influenced directly and indirectly by my association with the Raiders, I believe a part of Al Davis lives on through me…
Once a Raider, Always a Raider