Defensive Tackle : Tom Keating
Keating was drafted by the Kansas City Chiefs in the fifth round of the AFL Draft. He was also drafted in the fourth round of the NFL Draft by the Minnesota Vikings.
The Chiefs dealt him to the Buffalo Bills before the season began and he spent the next two years appearing in nine games as a reserve. The Bills won the AFL title each season.
Buffalo then traded Keating to the Raiders before the 1966 season. He earned a starting job right away on one of the AFL’s best defensive lines.
Oakland had four Pro Bowlers starting with Ben Davidson, Ike Lassiter, Dan Birdwell, and Keating when he earned the honor in his first season with the Raiders. The unit would lead Oakland to an AFL title in 1967.
Not only were they stout against the run, but the quartet helped the Raiders collect 67 sacks that year. It was perhaps Keating’s finest season, as he was named to the Pro Bowl and became the first Raiders defensive tackle to be named First Team All-Pro.
After two more solid seasons, Keating appeared in just 15 games between 1971 and 1972 because of injuries. He joined the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1973 and backed up Ernie Holmes and Hall of Famer “Mean” Joe Greene. Pittsburgh would lose to Oakland 33-14 in the playoffs that year.
Keating then went to the Kansas City Chiefs for two years. After spending the 1974 season starting next to Hall of Famer Buck Buchanan, his 1975 season was bereft by injury and he played in nine games before deciding to retire.
His two Pro Bowls are still the second most ever by a Raiders defensive tackle. Many Raider fans may remember Keating for a unique four-point stance that was similar to Hall of Famer Bob Lilly, but he was also the point man on the team.
When many new players joined the team, they were sent to live with Keating. His house was also where the party was at most times. Raiders would frequently congregate at his residence, which helped the team develop a close bond amongst one another.
The wild stories on the rebel Raiders seemed to go down at Keating’s house more often than not. He was one of the most popular teammates for good reason during that era.His play on the field exceeded his leadership off the field at times.
“He’s a great defensive tackle,” Chiefs nine-time Pro Bowl offensive tackle Jim Tyrer once said about Keating. “When they play him head-on the center, he occupies three players. The center knows he’s there and both the offensive guards have to be aware of him, because he can go either way around the center and then they have to help.”
Tom Keating is a member of the All-AFL Second Team, alongside of Buchanan, and is one of the greatest Raiders ever. He and his best friend Ben Davidson lined up together for years and dominated opponents with athleticism, intelligence, and teamwork.
These themes were just part of Keating’s leadership as a Raiders team grew up together and became ingrained into football folklore.
Defensive Tackle : Chester McGlockton
McGlockton was drafted by the Raiders in the first round of the 1992 draft. After playing off of the bench as a rookie, he earned a starting job in 1993 and held the rest of the time he was with the Raiders.
He made the first of four consecutive Pro Bowls He had 29.5 sacks and averaged 61 tackles per season over that time while being regarded as one of the best defensive tackles in the AFC.
He left the Raiders after 1997, his last Pro Bowl year where he had a career best 64 tackles, to join the Kansas City Chiefs. The Chiefs moved him to defensive end and he appeared in just 10 games because of injury.
After two more uneventful seasons with the Chiefs, McGlockton moved on to the Denver Broncos in 2001. He spent two years there and scored the only three touchdowns of his career. Two came off of interceptions and the other off a fumble recovery.
The New York Jets signed him as a reserve in 2003, where he would retire at the end of the season. Of his 51 career sacks, 39.5 came with the Raiders. It is the second most ever by a Raiders defensive tackle.
The great Bill Pickel was considered for this slot, but the four Pro Bowls McGlockton had is the most by a defensive tackle in Raiders history. He is certainly one of the better defensive tackles the team has ever had.
Bill Pickel, Otis Sistrunk, Darrell Russell, Dave Costa, Bob Golic, Art Thoms, and Dan Birdwell deserve mention.
Defensive End : Ben Davidson
Davidson was drafted by the New York Giants in the 1961 NFL Draft, but went undrafted by the AFL. He was traded to the Green Bay Packers and was a reserve on a Packers team that won the 1961 NFL Championship, the first of five won by Hall of Fame coach Vince Lombardi.
He went to the Washington Redskins for the next two years, playing as a reserve, before joining the Raiders in 1964. After beginning the year on the bench, he quickly worked himself into the starting lineup and would remain there the rest of his career.
He missed two games that year, the only games he failed to play in throughout his entire career. At 6’8″, Davidson was one of the biggest men in profession football. He was also one of the toughest.
For all the strength and grit Davidson had, he was also incredibly athletic. He could hurdle 6’6″ Kansas City Chiefs offensive tackle Jim Tyrer on his way to the quarterback.
Davidson was an important member of a great Raiders defensive line where he, Ike Lassiter, Tom Keating, and Dan Birdwell would all go to the Pro Bowl in their careers. While they were all excellent pass rushers, they were equally excellent versus the run.
He made the first of three straight Pro Bowls in 1966. He and Keating lined up next to each other and were almost impossible to block. The duo went to the Pro Bowl two straight years together and were both named First Team All-Pro in 1967.
He was the first Raiders defensive end to be named First Team All-Pro, an honor no other Raiders defensive end would achieve until Hall of Famer Howie Long did it in 1984 and 1985. Davidson and Long are still the only defensive ends in franchise history to accomplish this.
After his final Pro Bowl in 1968, Davidson remained a consistent force until he retired after the 1971 season to focus on his burgeoning businesses off the field. His three Pro Bowls is second to Long as the most ever by a Raiders defensive end.
After football, Davidson acted in some legendary movies like M*A*S*H, Conan the Barbarian, Behind the Green Door, and Miller Lite commercials. He has also excelled in real estate while still maintaining a close bond with Raider fans by tailgating with them.
While Davidson and his best friend Tom Keating were known for creating havoc on the field and go on long road trips via motorcycles off the field, he also helped the league by playing within the rules.
In 1976, the NFL made a rule that prohibited a defender from “running or diving into, or throwing his body against or on a ball carrier who falls or slips to the ground untouched and makes no attempt to advance, before or after the ball is dead.”
The inspiration came from a play in 1970 where Kansas City Chiefs Hall of Fame quarterback Len Dawson ran down field. He soon slid on the ground and waited on the referee’s whistle.
Davidson barreled into Dawson helmet first. While the play was within the rules, a minor brawl broke out between the Chiefs and Raiders over the play with Chiefs wide receiver Otis Taylor squaring off on Davidson and led to the rules eventual emplacement.
The play resulted in offsetting penalties and forced the Chiefs to punt after it took away a first down that would have sealed a Kansas City victory. It helped lead the Raiders to tie the game and eventually win the AFC West.
The Raiders were known as rebels in that era and Davidson was one of the players most mentioned. His huge frame drew much of it even if Davidson played within the rules, but he would also do whatever it took to win.
Ben Davidson is a great Oakland legend for several reasons. He brought a winning attitude to a young team and helped develop the franchise to becoming a consistent winner. There is no question that he is one of the greatest members of the Oakland Raiders ever.
Defensive End : Greg Townsend
Drafted in the fourth round of the 1983 draft by the Raiders, Townsend ended up contributing mightily in his rookie year. He backed up Hall of Famer Howie Long and Lyle Alzado that year and the trio combined for 30.5 sacks.
Townsend had 10.5 sacks in the regular season, then 4.5 in the post season as the Raiders would win Super Bowl XVIII. He also had a safety and fumble recovery of 66 yards for a touchdown that year.
He spent the next two seasons as a pass rush specialist and collected 17 sacks. He started in four games during the 1986 season and had 11.5 sacks while recording another safety.
The 1988 season saw him start 11 games and get 11.5 sacks while scoring touchdowns on both a fumble recovery and 86 yard interception return. He became a full-time starter in 1990 and responded with a Pro Bowl season after collecting 12.5 sacks, getting a career high 67 tackles, and scoring the last touchdown of his career off a fumble recovery.
Townsend made his last Pro Bowl in 1991 after getting a career best 13 sacks and picking off the last pass of his career. His sack totals dwindled the next two years, getting 12.5 total, but he did see some time at defensive tackle when injuries hit the Raiders hard in 1993.
He joined the Philadelphia Eagles in 1994 and had a career low two sacks in 12 starts. Townsend rejoined the Raiders in 1995 and appeared in four games. It was the only season of his career he failed to record a sack.
He retired at the end of the season with 109.5 career sacks, which is currently the 16th most in NFL history. The 107.5 he had with the Raiders is the most in that franchises history.
His three touchdowns off of fumble recoveries is tied as the most in team history, and his two sacks are the second most in Raiders history. His 13 forced fumbles are also the second most in Raiders history.
Greg Townsend is one of the best pass rushers to have ever played for the Raiders, let alone one of the finest defensive ends in the franchises history.
Ike Lassiter, Derrick Burgess, Lyle Alzado, Anthony Smith, Tony Cline, Lance Johnstone, and John Matuzak deserve mention.
Linebacker : Rod Martin
Martin was drafted in the 12th round of the 1977 draft by Oakland, the 317th overall selection. Just five men drafted behind him played in the NFL.
Martin played just one game as a rookie, but started to earn a lot of playing time in his second year by starting half of the season. Oakland was impressed with his intelligence and solid all-around play.
After starting all of 1979, he did not start in six games in 1980. This inspired him to get better just as the Raiders reached the playoffs as a Wild Card team.
Bookending Hall of Fame linebacker Ted Hendricks, the duo helped the team reach Super Bowl XV. Facing the Philadelphia Eagles, Martin became a nightmare for Eagles quarterback Ron Jaworski.
He made three key interceptions to help lead Oakland to a 27-10 win. No other player in Super Bowl history has had three picks in a Super Bowl, and his three career swipes is tied with two others as the most in Super Bowl history.
He was somehow not named MVP of the game, despite such excellence.
The 1983 season was one of the best in his career. He led the NFL with two touchdowns off of interceptions, had a career high four picks, and chipped in six sacks.
He was named to his first Pro Bowl. Oakland reached the playoffs, where Martin had a sack in their AFC Championship win. In Super Bowl XVIII, he came up big again for his team.
Besides recording another sack, he recovered a fumble and made several key tackles. One came on a fourth-down play, where he stopped Hall of Fame running back John Riggins short of a conversion in the Raiders victory.
He was honored as First Team All-Pro in 1984, as well as being named to his last Pro Bowl. Martin had a career high 11 sacks, recorded a safety, and scored off a 77-yard fumble recovery.
Martin stayed in the starting lineup until after the 1988 season, where he decided to retire.
One of Martin’s special abilities was reaching the end zone once he got his hands on the ball, which he did six times. Only Terry McDaniel’s seven exceeds his total for a team record for a defensive player.
While the Raiders have had a few late round picks help them, none have been better than Martin.
His four touchdowns off of interceptions is the most by a Raiders linebacker and tied with three others as the second most in team history. Martin’s 14 career interceptions are the second most by a Raiders linebacker.
The ten fumble recoveries he had are the second most in team history. The two he returned for touchdowns is tied with five other Raiders as the second most in team history and his 33.5 quarterback sacks, the seventh most in team history, tops the list of sacks by a linebacker in Oakland history.
While many NFL fans remember him for being superb in Super Bowls, Raider fans got to enjoy him for 12 seasons and several will say Rod Martin is the greatest linebacker in team history.
Linebacker : Dan Conners
Conners was the Raiders second round draft selection in the 1964 AFL Draft. He was also the Cleveland Browns fifth round choice in the NFL Draft.
After appearing in just five games as a rookie, he spent 1965 listed as the third-string middle linebacker behind starter Archie Matos, a three-time Pro Bowler, and Bill Budness. Budness was drafted two rounds after Conners the year before.
Matos left the Raiders after 1965 and Budness was named the starter. Conners soon supplanted him and began a run of three consecutive Pro Bowl years by taking one of his two interceptions for a touchdown.
His 1967 season was one of Conners best. He had a career high three interceptions, returning one for a score, and had a career best four fumble recoveries. He took one fumble for a touchdown of 73 yards.
Though his Pro Bowl run ended in 1968, Conners had a solid 1969 season. He took his lone interception for a career long 75 yard touchdown return and recovered three fumbles. One fumble was returned for a score, the last touchdown of his career.
Conners continued to start for Oakland until 1974, where he retired at the end of that season. His three Pro Bowls is the most ever by a Raiders middle linebacker.
Conners 15 interceptions are the most ever by a Raiders linebacker, and his three touchdowns off of interceptions is the most ever by a Raiders middle linebacker. His two touchdowns and 16 fumble recoveries are the second most in Raiders history.
Dan Conners was a play maker in his 11 seasons with the Raiders. He is the best middle linebacker the team has ever had.
Archie Matos, Matt Millen, Monte Johnson, and Greg Biekert deserve mention.
Linebacker : Phil Villapiano
Villapiano was drafted by the Raiders in the second round of the 1971 draft. He earned the starting job at left outside linebacker immediately and would hold it the next six seasons.
His 1972 season saw Villapiano pick off a career best three interceptions, returning one 82 yards for the only touchdown of his career. Villapiano then made the Pro Bowl in 1973, an honor he would earn until 1976.
Oakland would win Super Bowl XI in 1976. Villapiano had a solid playoffs for the Raiders by getting a quarterback sack in both the AFC Championship and Super Bowl victories. He was the only Raider to sack Hall of Fame quarterback Fran Tarkenton in the Raiders 32-14 Super Bowl win.
Villapiano’s 1977 season was cut short after two games because of injury. He came back the next year and recorded a safety while playing right outside linebacker. After playing for Oakland in 1979, he joined the Buffalo Bills.
Villapiano spent four years with the Bills, playing as a reserve on an excellent Bills linebacking unit. His last two years were riddled by injuries, playing just 13 games over that time.
Retiring after the 1983 season, Villapiano’s four Pro Bowls is still tied with Hall of Famer Ted Hendricks as the most ever by a Raiders outside linebacker. Though he was most noted for his excellent run defense, the 11 interceptions he had are the third most ever by a Raiders linebacker and his 17 fumble recoveries are the most ever by a Raider.
Stout, consistent, and tough is how many remember Phil Villapiano. He was a leader on and off the field as well. He is unquestionably one of the best linebackers in Raiders history.
Gus Otto, Willie Hall, Gerald Irons, Jeff Barnes, and Winston Moss deserve mention.
Strong Safety : George Atkinson
Atkinson was drafted by the Raiders in the seventh round of the 1968 draft. He played well enough to win the American Football League’s Rookie of the Year Award, but was beaten out by Paul Robinson of the Cincinnati Bengals.
Atkinson led the AFL with 36 punt returns for 490 yards and two touchdowns. He also led the AFL with a kickoff return average of 25.1 yards on 32 attempts. He played cornerback on defense and swiped four passes, returning one for a touchdown, and recovered a career best three fumbles in just six starts.
The Raiders noticed how well he tackled, so Atkinson was moved to strong safety in 1969. While his kickoff duties lessened to just 16 attempts, he still returned 25 punts and picked off a pair of passes. He returned one for another touchdown.
He was named to the Pro Bowl in each of his first two years. The AFL officially merged with the NFL in 1970, and the hitting prowess of Atkinson quickly garnered the notice of his newer peers as well.
Though he returned just four punts that year, he did handle 23 kickoffs. He would be asked to return just five kickoffs for the rest of his career, because he was too valuable on defense.
In 1973, he led the NFL with 41 punt returns. After returning just 12 punts the next two years, he never fielded another punt in his career.
His tackling and fierce attitude was stuff of legend for Raiders fans in the “Black Hole”. He was a fan favorite because Atkinson would do whatever it took to win.
He also drew the ire of opponents. After knocking Pittsburgh Steelers Hall of Fame wide receiver Lynn Swann unconscious in 1976 on a play away from the ball, a player Atkinson gave a concussion on a hit the year before in the AFC Championship Game, Steelers called Atkinson part of the “criminal element” in football.
But hitting opponents hard wasn’t Atkinson’s only skill. He frequently intercepted passes and returned a pair of fumbles for touchdowns. He was a play maker who left everything on the field.
That 1976 season may have been the highlight of his career. Though he failed to intercept a pass for the first time in his career, the Raiders defense became stingy in the AFC Championship Game, which carried over in helping them win Super Bowl XI.
He played one more season for the Raiders before retiring. He did attempt a comeback in 1979 and appeared in six games with the Denver Broncos before retiring for good.
His 26 interceptions for 382 yards are the most ever by a Raiders strong safety. His 30 career interceptions ranks fifth best in team history, and his 448 yards rank sixth.
Not only is George Atkinson one of the greatest Raiders leaders in team history, he is the best strong safety to have ever played for them.
Warren Powers, Howie Williams, Charlie Phillips, and Mike Davis deserve mention.
Free Safety : Jack Tatum
Tatum was a first round draft pick of the Oakland Raiders in 1971. He was the 19th player picked overall. Tatum did not start playing organized football until his tenth grade year. By the time he left Ohio State University, he had a career that later had him inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.
Tatum made an immediate impact upon his arrival in the NFL. One game, he knocked out two Baltimore Colts from the game. Hall of Fame tight end John Mackey was one of the players.
He intercepted four passes that year, and returned them for 136 yards. Tatum intercepted four passes the next year as well, gaining 91 yards on returns. He also set an then-NFL record by returning a fumble 104 yards for the only touchdown of his NFL career.
By 1973, Tatum was one of the most feared and respected free safeties in the NFL. He missed the first game of his career that year, but was named to his first Pro Bowl squad.
Tatum would go on to be named to the Pro Bowl team until 1977. In 1977, Tatum snared six interceptions, and returned them for a career high 146 yard. He was a key ingredient to the Raiders team that would go on to win Super Bowl XI.
He was traded to the Houston Oilers prior to the 1980 season and responded by intercepting a career high seven interception for 100 yards despite not starting one game. He helped the Oilers win the AFC Central Division Championship.
Houston, coincidentally, would then lose to the Wild Card Oakland Raiders in the first round. Tatum retired after that game.
His 164 yards returned via fumbles ranks 16th All-Time in NFL history, and his 736 yards returned by interception ranks 38th All-Time in NFL history.
Tatum’s 636 yards off interceptions ranks first in Raiders history. It is 12 yards more than Dave Grayson, the player he replaced at free safety.
No matter how one looks at Tatum, he in part of some of some of the most memorable moments in the NFL’s history. The famous “Immaculate Reception”, at the end of a playoff game in 1972, started when Tatum laid out Pittsburgh Steelers running back John Fuqua. Most fans recall Hall of Fame running back Franco Harris gathering the caromed ball and taking it for a game winning touchdown.
In Super Bowl XI, Minnesota Vikings Wide Receiver Sammy White was leveled by Tatum on a crossing pattern, but the Vikings great held onto the ball. During a 1978 pre-season game, Tatum hit New England Patriots Wide Receiver Darryl Stingley in a play that would paralyze Stingley for life.
He happened to play on a team that was called the “Bad Boys” of the 1970’s NFL. It was a unique roster full of characters.
Tatum was nicknamed the “Assassin” due to his hard hitting ability. The hit on Stingley, coupled with the Raiders already established reputation, gave Jack an unfair label of being a dirty player. He was vilified by casual observers, and anti-Raider media types after this play.
Tatum once said, “I always wanted to hit someone hard, and if they got hurt, that was just part of the game. But you always wanted them to be OK.” Tatum admitted his hitting prowess “borderlines on felonious assault.”
The game was much rougher back then. Yet the media continues to try to spin this fabricated tale that Jack was a cheap shot artist. “They said on ESPN that I hit Stingley in the back and that’s just a lie,” Tatum said. “It’s amazing to me that they lie like that when they can just look at the hit. They have it on tape.”
Even then-Patriots Head Coach Chuck Fairbanks said the hit was far from dirty. Propaganda machines like ESPN are probably a big factor as to why Tatum has yet to be inducted into Canton.
Many media types tried to say he was remorseless about this play. Tatum has expressed sorrow on televised interviews, only to have that part edited out. “I feel sorry for what happened to him,” said Tatum, “I tried to apologize to him a number of times, but people around him wouldn’t let that happen.”
Sports Illustrated’s Paul Zimmerman, a Hall of Fame voter, are part of other big reasons why Tatum has yet to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. It is sick, and unfair, that Tatum is being labeled for one play. A play no one wants to remember in its reality, rather to fabricate this villainous imagery.
This play is the main reason the NFL went from the 10-yard chuck rule to the current five-yard rule. Tatum was once part of the NFL as part of the Uniform Code Enforcement Team, commonly known as the “fashion police”.
There needs to be one major enforcement. This on the media who lie. Tatum may have hit guys hard, but that is the way the game was played then. He played within the rules and was not flagged nor fined for his hit on Stingley. That is the reality.
Tatum is a player many look up to. Hall of Famer Ronnie Lott is on record for idolizing Tatum. That is another reality.
It is time for the voters to do away with spun fabrications and deal with reality. Just look at his statistics if you want to have disdain for his impact. Jack Tatum deserves his place in Canton.
David Grayson, Vann McElroy, Eddie Anderson, and Tom Morrow, whose eight consecutive games with an interception is an NFL record, deserve mention.
Cornerback : Lester Hayes
Hayes was drafted by the Raiders in the fifth round of the 1977 draft. Though the Raiders were the defending champions with an excellent defense, Hall of Fame head coach John Madden was so impressed with Hayes that he had the rookie start in a few games.
He earned the starting job the next year and would hold onto this honor the rest of his career. After four interceptions in 1978, he began to gain league-wide notice the next year by picking off seven balls and taking two in for touchdowns.
The 1980 season is considered the best of his career. Hayes led the NFL with a career best 13 interceptions and returned one for a score. He was named the NFL Defensive Player of the Year, helping lead the Raiders to a Super Bowl XV victory.
Hayes was named First Team All-Pro for the only time of his career that season, as well as beginning a run of five straight seasons where he would go to the Pro Bowl.
Business began to really pick up for Hayes and the Raiders during the 1983 season. They acquired Hall of Famer Mike Haynes to bookend Hayes and give the team the best cornerback tandem in the NFL.
The duo helped the Raiders reach Super Bowl XVIII, where they shut down the Washington Redskins passing game so effectively, the defense was allowed to concentrate on the vaunted Redskins game in the Raiders 38-9 blowout win.
Haynes went to the Pro Bowl three times opposite Hayes, who went twice himself. Hayes missed two games in 1988, the first games he missed since his rookie year. He retired at the end of the season.
He is a member of the NFL’s 1980s All-Decade Team. He is on the second team behind Hall of Famers Haynes and Mel Blount. Hayes is the only Raider to ever be named NFL Defensive Player of the Year.
His 39 interceptions is tied with Hall of Famer Willie Brown as the most in team history. The four touchdowns he had off of interceptions is the second most, and his 572 yards off of interceptions are the second most by a Raiders cornerback, ranking fourth best in franchise history.
The images of Stickum all over his body is as memorable as the unusual stance Hayes took before the snap of the ball. When the NFL banned Stickum in 1981, after Hayes stuck to 13 thrown balls the year before, it was called the “Lester Hayes Rule”.
He has been a finalist for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame four times and a semi-finalist six times. It seems the “only true Jedi” will one day join Willie Brown and Mike Haynes as a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Cornerback : Terry McDaniel
McDaniel was the Raiders first round draft pick in 1988, where he was the ninth overall selection. He was expected to be the next great Raiders cornerback, following legends like Willie Brown, Mike Haynes, and Lester Hayes.
His rookie season was cut short to just two games, but McDaniel quickly rebounded to become a top defender for the team. He scored the first touchdown of his career in 1990 by taking a fumble recovery 42 yards to seal the teams initial victory that season.
Though the 1991 season saw no interceptions by him, the only time besides his rookie year McDaniel failed to pick off a pass, it was one of his better years. He had a career best 77 tackles and two forced fumbles.
That was followed up by his first Pro Bowl season the next year. McDaniel made the Pro Bowl five straight years and scored at least one touchdown in four seasons.
His 1994 year may be his very best. McDaniel set career best marks of seven interceptions, three fumble recoveries, and three touchdowns. Two came off of interceptions, another career high mark.
The 1997 season saw him miss the first three games of his career since his rookie year. He then would join the Seattle Seahawks as a reserve the next year, appearing in nine games.
McDaniel did swipe one pass and took it 43 yards for a touchdown. He retired at the conclusion of the year and is all over the Raiders records books.
His five touchdowns are the most in franchise history and his two off of fumble recoveries are the most ever by a Raiders cornerback. His seven touchdowns lead all Raiders defenders and his 34 interceptions for 624 yards are both ranked second best in team history.
Though Terry McDaniel has yet to follow Brown or Haynes into Canton, he certainly is one of the best cornerbacks in team history.
Fred Williamson, Kent McGloughan, Lionel Washington, Nemiah Wilson, Skip Thomas, Eric Allen, Phillip Buchanon, and David Grayson deserve mention.
Punter : Ray Guy
Guy was a first round draft pick of the Oakland Raiders in the 1973 draft. He was the 23rd player picked overall.
He is the first punter to ever be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame and is considered the greatest punter to have ever played college football and has a trophy named after him. The Ray Guy Award is given annually to the best collegiate punter in the nation.
Guy is the first punter to ever be drafted in the first round by the NFL. His impact was immediate. He was named to the Pro Bowl as a rookie, when he averaged 45.3 yards per punt.
He would be named the Pro Bowl Punter every year up until 1978. At the 1976 Pro Bowl, Guy became the first punter to hit the Louisiana Superdome video screen.
In 1979, he was named to the UPI All-Conference Second Team, and the Newspaper Entertainment. Association All-NFL Second Team. He was named to his final Pro Bowl in 1980 after averaging 43.6 yards per punt. He also booted a career long punt of 77 yards that year.
For some unknown reason, he was not named to the 1981 Pro Bowl, despite punting a career high 96 times and having a 43.7 average. He was named to the UPI All-Conference Second Team.
Guy booted the ball over 70 yards in four of his seasons, and kicked five balls over 60 yards in one season alone. His shortest season long was 57, in the strike shortened 1982 season. That season also was the only season of his career when he did not average over 40 yards per punt, finishing with a 39.1 average.
He ended the last three years of his career averaging 90 punts per season and retired after the 1986 season. Guy did more than just punt for the Raiders. He threw three career passes, completing two for 54 yards. He also rushed for 43 yards on 11 attempts.
In 1976, Guy was asked to kick an extra point, but missed. Ray only had three punts blocked in his entire career, and never had a punt returned for a touchdown. He led the NFL in punting three times and also kicked off for aging kicker George Blanda, a Hall of Famer.
He was an integral part of the Raiders. He also was on three Super Bowl winning teams in Oakland during his career.
The highlight of his Super Bowls was in 1983. His punt in Super Bowl XVIII pinned Washington inside their 12 yard line, which led to a Raiders touchdown via a turnover the next play.
Guy was also named the punter on the National Football League’s 75th Anniversary Team, the Super Bowl Silver Anniversary Team and as a member of the NFL 1970’s All Century team. He was inducted into the Bay Area Sports Hall of Fame.
If you saw Ray Guy, you must be scratching your head right now as to why he isn’t yet in Canton. His punts were legendary. Other teams would test the balls that he punted for helium, due to the heights his punts attained.
I had thought, after seeing placekicker Jan Stenerud inducted in 1991, that the voters were FINALLY recognizing the importance of special teams. In 1994, Guy was the first punter to be nominated, but he still has not been elected.
I find myself often questioning the football knowledge of several voters. Some claim to be “purists”, saying that specialist do not belong because they only get on the field for a few plays each game.
Still, isn’t Canton’s reason for existence based upon what players do once on the field? There is NO DOUBT that Ray Guy helped the Raiders win many games.
Even if you disregard his statistics, you cannot look past his impact on football at all levels. Guy belongs in the Pro Football Hall of Fame right now!
Jeff Gossett deserves mention.
Punt Returner : Tim Brown
When the Raiders used the sixth overall pick on the 1988 draft, they knew they were getting a player who did more than play wide receiver. Brown’s career at wide receiver would last 17 years, grab 1,094 passes, attend nine Pro Bowls, and should one day be inducted into Canton.
Yet Brown showed in college he was excellent at special teams so well, he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2010. The Raiders decided to let him play there in his first nine years, mainly as a punt returner. But his rookie season showed he was great at returning kickoffs as well.
He led the NFL with 41 returns for 1,098 yards at an average of 26.8 yards per return. One return was taken 97 yards for a touchdown. Brown would be asked to return kickoffs just nine more times in his career.
While also returning a career high 49 punts, Brown was named to the Pro Bowl as a rookie. His 2,317 all-purpose yards led the NFL.
The first four years with the Raiders saw Brown mainly used as a punt returner, though his role on offense enlarged yearly. He did get hurt in the first game of the 1989 season so seriously that he missed the rest of the year.
He returned to the Pro Bowl in 1991 after averaging 11.4 yards on 29 punt returns. He took one return 75 yards for a score and caught 36 passes. He began a string of five straight Pro Bowls in 1993 after returning 40 punts and scoring off a 74-yard return.
His best year returning punts was in 2004, where he averaged 12.2 yards on 40 returns and led the NFL with 487 yards. After 68 returns over the next two years, he returned just 25 punts the rest of his career. He did take one a career long 88 yards on just 6 returns in 2001.
He did leave the Raiders in 2003 and joined the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for one season before retiring after the 2004 season.
He ranks fifth best in all-purpose yards, fourth in punt returns and fifth in punt return yards in NFL history.
Brown holds the Raiders records for all-purpose yards, punt returns and yards, receptions, receiving yards, and receiving touchdowns. His 667 points leads all non-kickers in Raiders history.
Though he was never named First Team All-Pro, his nine Pro Bowls are the second most in Raiders history. He is on the second unit of the NFL’s 1990s All-Decade Team and was a finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2010.
It is just a matter of time for Canton’s call, but Brown is the best punt returner in Raiders history and holds this spot until he is enshrined.
George Atkinson, Claude Gibson, Phillip Buchanon, Desmond Howard, Neal Colzie, and Greg Pruitt deserve mention.