Gene Upshaw Enshrinement speech
Gene Upshaw Enshrinement Speech 1987
Presenter: Al Davis
For three memorable decades the Oakland Raiders and now Los Angeles Raiders have had the greatest players, the greatest coaches, the greatest plays and performed in the greatest games ever played in the annals of professional football as well as sports. During these three decades the 60s, 70s & 80s, the Raiders have the best record in professional football as well as professional sports. Among the greatest players during these decades, the quarterbacks were names like Flores, Lamonica, George Blanda, the greatest clutch player that ever played the game, Stabler, the indefatigable Plunkett. The coaches were the legendary John Madden and the excellent Tom Flores. The Hall of Famers were the indestructible Jim Otto and the standard of excellence for all cornerbacks, Willie Brown. The Raiders are the only team in professional football, who played in the Super Bowl in the 60s, 70s & 80s and there was one offensive guard, one constant who started in all three decades and is the only player in NFL history who started in the Super Bowls in 60s, 70s & 80s, his name is Eugene Upshaw.
Gene Upshaw came to the Oakland Raiders in 1967 out of Little Texas A&I as a first-round draft choice in the first AFL-NFL draft. He captioned the west team in the college all-star game. Gene, when drafted, was approximately 61 5", 260 lbs. and had never played guard in his life and did not want to play for the Raiders. He thought they were renegades. Today the word is mavericks. But not only did he start for the Raiders for 15 years because we love to listen to what the players want and not only did he start in 200 consecutive league games and played the most league games of any Raider player, he played offensive guard and he was the Raider captain for nine consecutive seasons. Re played in 24 post season contests, 10 AFC-NFL title games and as I mentioned three Super Bowls. He played in six straight Pro Bowls. I have said this before, that I love to come here to this Hall to walk through its exhibits, to pay tribute to the great men who we idolize and whose glory we all share. It has always brought back the realization of the debt we owe each ether and I and the Raiders for one, will never forget that debt.
This great class and its magnificent presenters bring back memories to me, memories of great games as if it were only yesterday. They were glorious battles on the gridiron because in the 1960s and 1970s, we were continuously challenged. I will never forget the green and white of the NY Jets in the late 60s, Joe Willie Namath and Don Maynard and as Joe told how he hit Maynard for 99 yards in two plays and told me about it before we got up here and I said to him, who won the game, Joe. But I also remember that one play in Shea Stadium in 1968 when Namath in the swirling wind in Shea Stadium hit Maynard with a 50-yard pass that broke the back of the Raiders and propelled the Jets to Super Bowl III.
I will never forget the big red of Kansas City, Hank Stram, the impeccable Hank Stram with Len Dawson at the helm and one play stands out in my mind. In 1979 in Oakland, Dawson at the mouth of the goal, hit Ottis Taylor for about 50 yards that propelled Kansas City Chiefs on their way to glory. Of course, in the early 70s it was Don Shula's Miami Dolphins with Csonka, Langer and who could ever forget to see a hands catch in the Oakland Coliseum, Stabler to Clarence Davis with approximately 26 seconds left on the clock and then in the mid-70s, the Steel Curtain. The black and gold of Chuck Noll 1 s Pittsburgh Steelers with its Captain, Joe Greene, the immaculate reception and the vicious struggles in the 70s with the Steelers. These were the greatest games, these were the greatest players, the greatest coaches and the greatest plays.
On this stand today is 21 Super Bowls, there were 11 victorious Super Bowls in the group. And the reason I bring it up is that there is one person on this stand who was there for all of it. He was there as a player. Gene Upshaw you were there. And I take you back to the Oakland Coliseum and I can hear the roar of the crowd and the chills go through my body and I can see those fame silver and black uniforms.
Gene Upshaw, I can see you walking to the center of the field to greet the opponents Captain with the fame highway 63 on your jersey, the white collar the white taped forearms, that Raider battle scared helmet in your hand. You know, the Raiders have always believed that what wins is great players and great organization. Gene Upshaw was the consummate organizational player. He wore that Raider uniform with pride, he wore it with poise, he wore it with class. He was a star among stars. But he was a man of all seasons. He was for the thunder and lightning of the awesome battles, but the serenity and wisdom of the council room. A player who buys deeds and words. Over 15 memorable years dramatized the appreciation of offensive linemen by the media, pro football fans throughout the world. He with his enormous size, his enormous speed and his enormous heart was the prototype guard. He became the standard of excellence by which offensive guards were and will be judged in eternity. In fact, Gene Upshaw is the first player in history of the National Football League to exclusively play guard ever inducted in the National Football League Hall of Fame.
It is a great honor and a privilege, and I offer my respect and remembrance to the Upshaw family. They have been a great part of my life and certainly it has been an emotional and inspiration experience for me to be here today. In short, it was ordained from the beginning, that Gene Upshaw was born to achieve excellence, honor to lead, and to achieve eternal enshrinement in our own Valhalla, our own Mt. Olympus of legendary heroes, the National Football League Hall of Fame. With great pleasure I introduce to you, Gene Upshaw.
Thank you very much. Just before I took the few steps it took to get here, John Henry and Joe Greene wanted to know how long they were and told me not to be too long ... I mean these guys were up here all day. But this is a tremendous honor for all of us to be enshrined in Pro Football's Hall of Fame.
I must say that like everyone else, you don’t get here alone, you don't get here by yourself. You have to have great coaches along the way, parents, a family and we have to have the fans and all that was important to us. My parents are here, Cora and Eugene Upshaw. I had a brother who played with the Kansas City Chiefs under Hank Stram with Lenny Dawson, Willie Lanier, Bobby Bell ... Marvin Upshaw who grew up in high school a lot larger than I was, he still is today, but it is in the wrong places. And he was a guy that sort of pushed me. He was always better than I was in football. I never liked football; I didn’t like the contact the hitting all the violence.
I really thought I would be entering into Pro Baseball's Hall of Fame, but I went to a little small school of Texas A&I and that school was amazing, tremendous school. But before I got to Texas A&I, I met up with a couple of coaches, Buddy Hamerick which was my line coach in high school, Melvin Moody, they are both here. They thought I couldn't play football and they were right, so I didn't get a scholarship when I left A&I, I mean I left Robstown High School. I walked out on the football field at A&I and Gill Stankie was my college coach and asked what I was doing on the field and I said I was just looking around. He said get a uniform and come back out and I did. And I earned a scholarship in 3 days. Went on to A&I to become the number one draft choice with the Raiders.
Now I tell you I had great role models as a young child growing up in Texas. My parents, my high school coaches, my college coach, my brothers, Marvin and Doug Upshaw were all tremendous people that helped me get this far. But once I got into pro football taking that first leap into the real world, as an adult away from home, I met the people from the Raiders, the whole family and we do have a family. We have been classed as renegades, misfits, mavericks, but we all stick together out there, and we always will, and I met the Raider family. They had some unique individuals. I’ll join a class here now of teammates of mine that already are in the Hall of Fame, Willie Brown, Jim Otto and George Blanda. And this is just the beginning for other guys that will come along after Gene Upshaw. We have had a tradition with the Raiders that winning was the most important thing, winning is all that matters, victory. As Al and I were riding in the parade, he was still saying to the old champ, just win baby. That has been a part of my life and it will be in the future.
Now I told those guys I wouldn't take a lot of time and I won't, because we have a lot to do and we have covered a lot. I can never thank all the people who have helped me get here. I can't thank all the people who have had so much influence on my life. My teammates, there are too many, my friends, the media, the people in the Bay area, the people in Los Angeles, they have been very good to me. It has given me an opportunity to do some things that I never knew was possible, but I had the right upbringing, the right discipline. I had what it took because I was afraid to fail. Someone asked me what was it like to play for Al Davis, what was it like. Can you describe what it was like in 30 seconds? Well it takes longer than 30 seconds to describe Al Davis.
One day he will take his place in history, like Otto, Blanda and the other men here. I also have my wife here, Terry, my son Eugene III and my three month old son, even at my age you can still do it, Justin and they are a big part of my family and they help me as we go forward from this day forth, because as you all know I am involved in a pretty controversial position as a representative Executive Director of the players in the National Football League. The advancement, the strive that we make as a union will be rooted in my upbringing in Texas, my college career and the years I spent with the Raiders. We will do the right thing; we will do what is best for the players. We will remember that it takes three for the game of football, it takes the players, it takes the owners and it takes the fans. We have a unique relationship.
I love the game of football; I love what it has given me and all the men in the Hall. This is the greatest honor that you could ever receive as an individual and I must say I will cherish it, but I don’t walk in the Hall alone… I walk in there with everyone that I met, everyone that has had a part in my life, everyone that has pushed me when I didn’t feel like going. I go into the Hall of Fame with all of you because you are what makes the game of football great and as I take my place in history, hopefully it will be a place that I can always look back and remember this moment because so many of you have had such a tremendous part in making this a successful career for Gene Upshaw. Thank you very much.