Gene Upshaw was the Oakland Raiders' first-round choice in the first combined AFL-NFL draft in 1967. The 6-5, 255-pound lineman had played center, tackle, and end while winning NAIA All-America honors at Texas A&I.
The Raiders' coaching staff decided left guard would be Gene's best pro position and Upshaw won the starting job in his rookie training camp. Upshaw’s size, it was felt, would help neutralize the effectiveness of Ernie Ladd and Buck Buchanan, two huge defensive tackles in Oakland’s division.
Gene held the guard spot for the next 15 seasons, starting in 207 straight regular season games until finally being forced out of action for one game in 1981. Upshaw returned the next week to play 10 more games in what turned out to be his final season. He was scheduled to play again in 1982, but an injury in the summer season put him on the injured reserved list for the entire campaign.
Altogether Upshaw played in an incredible 307 preseason, regular season, and post-season contests. Included in his 24 post-season games were three AFL and seven AFC championship games and Super Bowls II, XI and XV. Counting the AFL championship in 1967 and victories in Super Bowls XI and XV, Upshaw became the only player ever to start on championship teams in both the AFL and NFL.
Honors came frequently for Upshaw. He was named first- or second-team All-League or All-Conference 11 consecutive years, and he was named to play in seven Pro Bowls. Upshaw was an intense, intelligent, dedicated competitor who used his excellent size and speed to best advantage.
Extremely effective leading wide running plays; Gene was an integral part of the powerful offensive line that spawned the Raiders' lethal running attack of the 1970s. Recognized as a team leader, Upshaw captained the Raiders’ offensive unit for eight seasons.