Sanger, California, is a population of a little more than 25,000 people 190 miles south of Oakland.
Flores, part of Sanger High School's Class of 1955, was raised in the rural Fresno County town and was a Sanger Apache way before he was being hoisted up on the shoulders of his players after winning Super Bowl XV. The legendary trailblazer is still deeply dedicated to his Sanger roots and has left behind a legacy for the town of Sanger and their largely Hispanic community.
"A lot of people embrace the Raiders because of him," said Sanger resident Pablo Mora. "You go down to different places all across California and even across different states, and Raiders fans are everywhere. They should embrace Tom Flores as one of their own and as a Hall of Famer."
Pablo Mora is one of the many Sanger residents for whom the career and character of Tom Flores has had an impact. Mora has been a groundsman for Sanger Unified School District for more than twenty years, and his pride and admiration for the Raiders stems from the hometown hero a town has rallied behind for many years now.
Using Flores as an inspiration, the groundsman found a way to artistically express what the Silver and Black icon means to his community. So much so that he hand painted Flores on the field that bears his name:
"We get a lot of excitement from the kids when they see the field and see how pristine it is when they're walking out there," Mora said. "We've also had quite a few coaches from the visitors team that were really impressed with our work. It's not just myself; it's a team effort. I'm just the pivot guy."
When Coach Flores wasn't selected for the Hall of Fame in 2018, Mora and the Sanger community, who felt Flores deserved national attention, were shocked. It motivated Mora to combine his two passions — field painting and the Raiders — to make a fitting tribute for the coach and create more exposure for Flores.
Mora didn't have to look far for a likeness of Flores: There is a plaque dedicated to him placed at the north entrance of Tom Flores Stadium where the Apaches play. He then hand-drew Flores' face from the plaque and painted it onto the field.
Though Mora and Flores have never met, Flores reached out to Mora through a friend of his to commend him on a job well done and how much he appreciated it.
"When I started it was really quiet, and no one was really talking about it, so I just wanted to bring it out there," Mora added. "It just came out right. You just let your hands do the work, and God will take care of the rest."
Sanger High School isn't the only school in the district to pay tribute to Flores. Washington Academic Middle School used chalk art as a beautiful, colorful nod.
Flores' impact on his community expands so much further than what he's accomplished on the field, but off as well with the Tom Flores Youth Foundation. The foundation's mission has been to serve elementary youth in the Sanger Unified School District by fostering growth and development of students in the areas of athletics, arts and sciences. The foundation has raised over $475,000 since its inception.
Despite the Super Bowls, the historic benchmarks and his Hall of Fame candidacy, Tom Flores is still just a kid from Sanger – and Sanger couldn't be any prouder of the coach they claim as their own.
"He's really deserving, obviously with his stats as a coach, as a player and as an assistant. He's a very special person."
With his selection into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, take a look back at photos of Raiders legend Tom Flores' historic career with the Silver and Black.