Behind the Bronze: Fred Biletnikoff
Only 267 bronze busts reside in the Hall of Fame Gallery inside the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. They "immortalize" the greatest players, coaches, and contributors that this game has produced. Each week during the 2011 NFL Season we will sit down for a Q&A with one of these legends.
Fred Biletnikoff, Class of 1988
Just the normal things like going out to play golf, and doing a little fishing in British Columbia a couple times a year but that’s about it really.
LAST BOOK YOU READ:
A western by Louis L’Amore.
I like oldies music. I like the music back in the late '50s, '60s and into the '70s a little bit, but mostly the '60s old-time Rock N’ Roll.
“A River Runs Through It,” and “Lonesome Dove,” those are my two favorite ones.
I like everything from Italian food like ravioli and sausage to a fried bologna sandwich on white bread with mayonnaise sometimes. There’s not anything I don’t like. I love food. Whether it’s going out and eating dinner or doing a little cooking at home it’s something that interests me. Osso buco is one of my favorites or even just plain old barbecuing and making barbecue ribs.
FAVORITE NFL TEAM AS A CHILD:
It was the Philadelphia Eagles because my favorite player was always Tommy McDonald, which even today he doesn’t believe that.
FAVORITE NFL STADIUM OTHER THAN THE OAKLAND COLISEUM:
I liked playing in Shea Stadium against the Jets, in Kansas City at Municipal Stadium, the old baseball field, and also like going up to Denver to play at Mile High Stadium.
WHY DID YOU PICK NO. 25 (AND BRIEFLY WORE 14)?
When I went to Florida State I was a running back and was allowed to have the number 25, which I chose because that was Tommy McDonald’s number. Then I switched to wide receiver after my freshman year but wore number 25 my entire career there. When I arrived at Oakland number 25 wasn’t available, Claude Gibson who was a defensive back had it, so I chose number 14. After about a year or so Claude got let go and Mr. Davis let me wear number 25.
DID YOU HAVE ANY PRE-GAME SUPERSTITIONS?
I always had to have everything in place when I got to the locker room on game day and really taking my time to get ready for the football game. I wanted everything to be right. There weren’t any uniform restrictions back then so I would cut my jersey under the arms and my pants behind the knees so it wasn’t so tight. I wanted to look good before I went out onto the field.
WHAT’S BETTER ABOUT THE NFL TODAY THAN WHEN YOU PLAYED?
I keep trying to figure that out but I really don’t know. I really feel that the parity that they were looking for is there now but I don’t know if that is good or bad.
WHAT WAS BETTER ABOUT THE NFL DURING YOUR CAREER THAN THE GAME TODAY?
I feel that the games when I played were a lot more competitive. If you went through the rosters in the NFL and AFL from when I played every team had Hall of Fame players on them which I don’t feel the teams today have that. I think you see one or two future Hall of Fame players here and there but when I played every team had future Hall of Famers and they were great players.
|Watch: Fred Biletnikoff recalls his favorite NFL moment.
FAVORITE ATHLETE EVER IN ANY SPORT:
For years I was a big boxing fan and Emile Griffith was a favorite of mine. In baseball I obviously liked Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris, also Joe DiMaggio, even though I was a young kid, he was always a big favorite of mine. In football everybody loved Jim Brown and like I said earlier Tommy McDonald. Those are the main sports I follow and then in golf Fred Couples has always been my big, big favorite over the years.
ONE PERSON WHO INFLUENCED YOU MOST IN LIFE:
When I first got to Florida State there was a guy named Pete Manning, he played for the Bears years ago he was a defensive back/wide receiver and also played in the Canadian Football League. He was at Florida State doing some graduate work so he worked with us in spring ball and I spent a lot of time with him my last two years. He was a big influence on teaching me a lot about receiving and running routes and catching the football.
TOUGHEST PLAYER YOU FACED:
All the guys from the Green Bay Packers when we played them in Super Bowl II (laughing). But really my favorite was always playing against Emmitt Thomas and Jimmy Marsalis of the Kansas City Chiefs because they were very, very competitive and real tough guys.
WHAT MAKES YOU MOST PROUD ABOUT YOUR HALL OF FAME CAREER?
That I was able to be a big contributor to a football team and to winning. It was a matter of going out there on the field and having a lot of pride that your preparation for each and every week was to help your team win and I always felt very proud that I made a lot of contributions to helping us win with the Raiders.
WHEN IF EVER DID YOU REALIZE YOU MAY SOMEDAY MAKE THE HALL OF FAME?
That never even entered my mind. You go out there and you play and you play and you play and the way it ended up good things happened to me. Things went my way and they felt that I contributed enough to professional football as a player to get into the Hall of Fame.
HOW DID YOU LEARN OF YOUR HALL OF FAME ELECTION?
I was in Calgary, Alberta coaching for the Stampeders and I got a phone call from one of the writers from the Oakland Tribune.
WAS AL DAVIS YOUR ONLY CHOICE AS A PRESENTER?
Absolutely. I spent so much time with Al through playing (14 years) and then later on coaching (18 years) and he had such a big influence on me he had to be the only choice.
IF YOU COULD DO YOUR ENSHRINEMENT SPEECH OVER TODAY, WHAT WOULD YOU SAY DIFFERENTLY?
I would redo the whole thing (laughing). I really don’t know, of course you thank your family and the people around you, there are some people that didn’t go that I would definitely have come to the Enshrinement. But getting up there and talking I would be a lot more prepared and a little bit more detailed in what I was going to say. Just be a little more adamant about thanking people and hitting on your career just a little bit and what a special gift it was for me to be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
WHAT’S YOUR GREATEST ACCOMPLISHMENT OFF THE FOOTBALL FIELD?
Being honest, carrying a lot of toughness off the field into my personal life and living my life the way I want to.