During this morning’s NFL on Fox pregame show, studio analyst Howie Long, who played 13 season with the Raiders, said it about Al Davis, the Raiders owner who died Saturday at the age of 82:
“Back in 1980 as a senior at Villanova I had missed a couple of games because of, let’s say, an off campus misunderstanding. For some teams I’m sure that might have been a red flag, but for the Raiders and Al Davis, it was less of a concern. Going from Villanova, where there was a priest on every floor, to the Raiders locker room was, needless to say, a culture shock. One thing that became very apparent was that the Raiders’ mindset and the mystique of the football team, was defined by one man, Al Davis.
“He was omnipresent and being a Raider was all about one thing – winning. It was something Al Davis was consumed by 24/7 and as a player you knew that there wasn’t anything he wouldn’t do to give you the best possible chance to succeed.
“You were now part of a team, an organization that was an island onto itself. Putting on that helmet meant something to generations of players and if you weren’t part of it, you were the enemy. In many ways it was the Ellis Island of the NFL, players from schools like Texas A & I, Colgate and Maryland Eastern Shore or players that had been written off as done and yes, some players with a checkered past.
“But regardless of where you were from or what had happened in your past, once you put on that helmet you were a Raider and the only thing expected of you was to play and to win.
“There are many from this generation who will judge Al Davis by the last 10-plus years or by his many legal battles with the league. But what I would want today’s generation to know is that yesterday the NFL lost a titan, a man who more than any other helped shape the league and the game you see played today.
“He was an AFL maverick, forcing the NFL-AFL merger as commissioner, a successful owner and coach with the Raiders, winning three Super Bowl titles and an AFL Championship. He was also a pioneer, hiring the league’s first modern era African-American head coach in Art Shell and also the league’s first Latino head coach in Tom Flores.
“Yesterday, Al Davis lost the one battle he knew he could never win, the battle with time. There’s never been anyone like him and I’m confident in saying there will never be anyone like him in the future.”