Al Davis, 1929-2011

Al Davis, 1929-2011

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Hall of Famer and Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis died Saturday morning. He was 82.

Davis has left his imprint on the sport of professional football as the only person to serve as a personnel assistant, scout, assistant coach, head coach, general manager, commissioner, and owner. He was enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1992.

His mantra of “Commitment to Excellence,” sparked a legacy for the Raiders and was highlighted by three Super Bowl championships (XI, XV, XVIII).

Under his guidance the famed “Silver & Black” enjoyed previous unprecedented success. He joined the Raiders as a 33-year-old head coach and general manager in 1963. By the time he was enshrined into the Hall of Fame, the Raiders owned not only the best record in pro football between 1963-1991 but the highest winning percentage of any franchise in all of pro sports.

"Pro football has lost a true giant of the game, a person whose name is synonymous with a ‘commitment to excellence.’ His contributions to the game and love of his team are well documented,” commented Pro Football Hall of Fame President/Executive Director Steve Perry. “Few have achieved the successes and respect he accomplished in his years as a coach, league commissioner and club owner. His Hall of Fame legacy will live on and always be a major chapter in the pro football story."

Davis, who was born in Brockton, Mass. on July 4, 1929, grew up in Brooklyn, NY. He attended Wittenberg College and then moved on to Syracuse where he graduated with a degree in English. From there he embarked immediately on a career in coaching as the line coach of Adelphi College in 1950. He became head coach of a U.S. Army team at Ft. Belvoir in Virginia for two years before he worked as a player personnel assistant with the Baltimore Colts in 1954. Davis then became the line coach and chief recruiter for The Citadel followed by three seasons as the line coach for the University of Southern California.

In 1960, legendary coach Sid Gillman hired Davis as an assistant coach with the Los Angeles/San Diego Chargers.

Davis jumped to the downtrodden Raiders in 1963 as a highly touted coaching commodity.

"(He) will help create a new image of the Raider operation,” team co-owner Wayne Valley boldly predicted about his new young head coach and GM.

That premonition came true sooner than Valley or anyone could have imagined. Prior to Davis’ arrival, the team owned a dreadful 9-33-0 overall record in its first three seasons. That changed instantly as Davis led Oakland to a 10-4 record to earn unanimous acclaim as the AFL’s Coach of the Year. After three seasons as the team’s head coach he was named the Commissioner of the AFL. But, after just eight weeks at the helm, the league announced its merger with the NFL, and Davis returned to the Raiders as the team’s managing general partner.

With Davis providing the direction for the franchise, the team experienced extraordinary winning. His famous slogan of “Just Win Baby,” created an attitude amongst his players and coaches that translated into the Raiders experiencing just one losing season in 21 years from 1965 to 1985. The franchise also posted an incredible .670 winning percentage during the 29-year span from when Davis first joined the team in 1963 to when he was enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1992.

“The enshrinement is a reflection of a life’s work, a reflection of a love affair with the greatest game the world has ever known,” Davis stated during his Enshrinement speech from the Hall of Fame’s front steps on Aug. 1, 1992. “But this honor is a testament to a great organization and to all the capable people who have poured their talent, enthusiasm, loyalty into the greatness of the Raiders and the Raiders legend and mystique.”

Davis also has served as a Hall of Fame presenter nine times which is by far the most by any individual. He served the role of presenter for John Madden (2006), Ted Hendricks (1990), Art Shell (1989), Fred Biletnikoff (1988), Gene Upshaw (1987), Willie Brown (1984), George Blanda (1981), Jim Otto (1980), and Lance Alworth (1978).

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