Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2011

Al Davis

I first heard about Mr. Davis from our coach and a couple of our veteran players on the New York Jets. They were very wary of him as an opponent. We were concerned he was trying to get more information prior to the game than was readily available. One day we were practicing in Shea Stadium, and there happened to be a person sitting all alone in the upper deck. A coach grabbed our equipment manager and said, "That's Davis. He's got somebody up there spying on us." It turned out to be a stadium employee having lunch.

I sat down with Mr. Davis for the first time at the Monmouth racetrack in New Jersey prior to the 1966 season. We talked about football, and very casually he said, "Well, Joe, when you get the ball in your hands and you're going back, who are you looking at? Are you looking at a linebacker, or are you looking at a safety?" I said, "Well, you know, it depends on the play, but I usually look at ..." And then I stopped cold. I just looked at him, and he just looked at me. And a big smile broke out on his face and mine, and we ended the football conversation right then. Of course he was trying to figure out what players I was reading. When I visited with him over the years, sometimes we touched on that and chuckled.

He was always sharp, always slick, full of energy, with that sparkle in his eye. He fell in love with the sport early on, and he was driven to succeed. He just loved it. I think he would have succeeded at anything he chose to do, but the sport captured him, and he was focused on getting those Raiders to win. He was a football man to the bone.

Namath was the Super Bowl-winning quarterback for the New York Jets