Hall of Fame 'Knocks': Bienvenida a casa, Senor Flores!

Hall of Fame 'Knocks': Bienvenida a casa, Senor Flores!

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By George Veras
Executive Producer, Pro Football Hall of Fame

First-person on-site accounts of the Class of 2021 Pro Football Hall of Fame “Knocks on the Door.”       

Tom Flores’ parents came from Mexico to Sanger, a small city in central California, to work the rich fields that fueled the state’s dramatic growth in the 1940s. He attended the University of the Pacific, starred at quarterback, and started out playing minor league football for the Bakersfield Spoilers, hometown high school to Hall of Famer Frank Gifford.

If not for the birth of the American Football League in 1960 and the Oakland Raiders, Tom would have been teaching history. Instead, he not only took this teaching skills to the hard knocks of football, but he also brought with him a gracefulness and humility that led him as one of only two Hall of Famers to win the Super Bowl as a player, assistant coach and head coach, the other being Mike Ditka.

And never underestimate Tom’s passion. After all, his biography is titled “Fire in the Ice Man.”

Tom had been on the roll call for Canton consideration for 26 years, and when he became a Finalist in 2021, he and his wife, Barbara, sensed a momentum shift. The Raiders organization and Latino community rallied behind the man who would become the third Latino in the Hall, joining Anthony Muñoz and Tom Fears, and the 26th former Raider.

It was for that reason current Raiders owner, Mark Davis, walked down the block with Hall of Fame President & CEO David Baker, just outside of Palm Springs toward the Flores home, after a secret rendezvous at a supermarket parking lot to go over their approach to the knock on the door. It was beautiful day as the sun was beginning to set behind the Santa Rosa Mountains, just behind the Flores home, adjacent to a perfectly manicured, lush green 430-yard, Par 4 golf hole.

Getting past not one, but two, gated entrances, with the help of the Raiders social media team that had advanced the sting with a request for a film crew to arrive at the house, Baker and Davis arrived at their destination. With a thunderous knock, Baker struck the gold-gilded door – prompting Davis to comment, “This should be in silver.” But the Raiders owner was beaming for this moment, for Flores’ legacy is tied tightly to that of his father, Al Davis.

Mark’s sense of Raiders history is acute, and he is now the first owner to stage a knock with Baker, adding to Raiders lore. After no answer on the first knock, Baker knocked a second time. The door opened, and … Barbara Flores. She recognized Davis but took a moment to lock into Baker. When she called to Tom to come to the door, she did not give away the guests. Good work, Mrs. Flores!

As Tom approached, walking gingerly with a cane, his eyes widened. He knew David Baker, and he knew the moment had arrived. When he saw Mark Davis, it really hit him.

Thanking Mark and “Raider Nation,” he then attentively listened to Baker’s oral baptism of those greats whom Tom would know who would be with at the Ray Nitschke Luncheon during Enshrinement Week in August and how special of a class he would be joining. It was hard to tell who was beaming more, Barbara or Mark; this was really a Raider Nation moment.

And for the impact on the Hispanic community, Tom said, “You know, I didn’t realize how much I meant to this community from the time I was playing in the ‘60s when folks were coming up to me all the time, (saying, ‘That community did not have a sports legend in America that they could call their own – not in baseball, basketball or football.’”

Well, hola, Hispanic America! Now is the time to celebrate. We’ll see you in Canton in August, when Coach Tom Flores is welcomed home.

Watch Tom Flores' "Knock"

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