Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018 | 2 a.m.
I was blessed to play for the Raiders in both Oakland and Los Angeles after growing up in Las Vegas. I’m honored to be a part of Raider Nation, which to me is something that’s larger than life.
I started dreaming of playing professional football for the Raiders, or the Pittsburgh Steelers, when I began Pop Warner tackle football at 12 years old. I still vividly remember my first day of training camp more than 37 years ago, after being drafted by the Raiders in 1981.
The veterans arrived to camp seven days after the rookies, and I saw the all-time greats like Gene Upshaw, Art Shell, Dave Dalby, Jim Plunkett, Raymond Chester, Cliff Branch, Mark Van Eeghen, Ted Hendricks, John Matuszak, Matt Millen and Lester Hayes.
My two greatest experiences were winning the Super Bowl in 1984 and having a relationship with owner Al Davis after my playing days. Both were once-in-a-lifetime experiences and a true honor.
We lost a close game on the road against the Washington Redskins early in the 1983-1984 season, but we knew we could beat them. Three months later, I walked out on the field to warm up during the Super Bowl; all the hairs on the back of my neck were standing straight out. We knew we were going to dominate Washington, and we did.
Al Davis is a legend and created a culture that the majority of people want to be a part of: “Commitment to Excellence” and “Just Win, Baby.” No one in any sport can match his love and commitment to his players, both current and retired. Mr. Davis was a master of selecting talented football players and motivating them to be the best players possible. He also encouraged his players to support and give back to the community.
Most people aren’t aware that Mr. Davis also had an infatuation with Las Vegas. He was close friends with Nevada Governor Mike O’Callaghan, and they talked about bringing the Raiders here decades ago.
The Raiders will start a new chapter in their glorious history when they move to Las Vegas in 2020. It’s the next phase of evolution for Las Vegas, through its trials and tribulations, to become a sports town that puts it on the same playing ground as a Chicago, New York or Los Angeles.
Frank Hawkins is a local entrepreneur, former city council member and Western High graduate.