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A Visionary: Al Davis
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Visionary.  Maverick.  Dynamic.  Loved.  Hated.  Respected.  All of these words can describe him, but there are so many more that can do it better.  Al Davis lived life with a purpose, and while not always seen by the public, that purpose was for the greater good. On Saturday he passed away at the age of 82.

Al Davis has been known recently as the eccentric owner of a once proud franchise that has fallen on hard times in recent years.  Unless you are properly aged like me, you probably don't know much else about the man.  He was first hired by the Raiders in 1963 at the age of 34 to become the general manager and coach.  He won coach of the year honors in his first year.  In 1966, he also hired a young assistant who would later go on to do great things.  That young man was "The Genius" Bill Walsh.  Al Davis was also the figure head that brought about the AFL merger that is what we now know of today as the National Football League. 

As the owner of the Oakland Raiders, Davis hired a young coach by the name of John Madden.  Over the next 10 years Madden compiled one of the best records of all time.  He won a Super Bowl for them in 1976.  Davis also was ahead of the curve when it came to race.  Davis saw none.  In 1978 he hired Tom Flores, who went on to win multiple Super Bowls for the team.  He also was the first owner in the modern era to hire a black head coach Art Shell. He also used his influence to get Eddie DeBartolo ownership of the San Francisco 49ers.  He was also well known for taking players that other teams didn't want, or thought were too old, and winning with them. Their names are endless; Lyle Alzado, John Matusak, Ted Hendricks, Jim Plunkett, Ronnie Lott, Jerry Rice, and Rich Gannon

Davis was more than the just owner of the team.  He did most of the scouting.  He negotiated contracts.  He knew the players.  He would sometimes call down to the sidelines from the owners box, and have them run certain plays that he would want to have run.   He made all personnel decisions.  He did the job of several men.  He will be impossible to replace.  He was the Oakland Raiders.

I actually had the priveledge of meeting Mr. Davis one day while riding the elevator at the Coliseum.  He was very cordial, he said hello and we shook hands.  By all accounts, it was a great encounter.  Al Davis was many things to many people, but to all people, he will be sorely missed.  He was a true pioneer for the sport of football, and he paved the way for the owners of today like Jerry Jones, and Robert Kraft.  The Raiders are wearing a silver shield decal with the letters AL inside of it on their helmets for the remainder of the season.  It's going to be a nice reminder of the man that was the face of this franchise for over 40 years.  The best way he could be remembered, is if the Raiders can find a way to get to the big game and "Just Win Baby"!


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