Note: Raymond St. Martin, manager of SB Nation's Oakland Raiders blog Silver And Black Pride, has offered his thoughts on the passing of Al Davis. The following are his words.
I will never forget being in the swimming pool when a hairy chested self-proclaimed "King of the Block" walked in and declared, "The King is Dead." I was five years old and the "The King" was Elvis Presley.
I will also never forget driving through the Caldecott Tunnel and hearing the news that Jerry Garcia was dead. As a self-proclaimed "Dead Head" in my youth, I felt as if I'd lost an uncle. I will never forget listening to Stella Blue as the tears poured down my face. A piece of me had died that day. In fact, I left work early. When I was asked why I was leaving, I let them know that, "My Uncle had died."
This morning has added another unforgettable moment to my life. I will never forget waking to my wife's voice whispering, "Your mother just texted you that Al Davis is dead." Once again, tears welled up and my heart sank. Another man that I did not know had passed and it had a profound effect on me.
Over the years, I have gotten to know Mr. Davis through his players and the rare glimpse that we got of the man away from football.
Many articles will be written about Mr. Davis' life from the perspective of what he did for the game; becoming Commissioner or the AFL and within two months forcing an NFL/AFL merger, building a team that played the game HIS way and winning three Super Bowls.
Many writers will look up Wikipedia and other source material to tell you that Al Davis was born on the 4th of July in 1929 and they will chronicle his life in a very sterile way with their takes mixed in.
Today, I want to try and capture what Mr. Davis meant to us who are fortunate enough to have been a part of Raider Nation under his watch.
First a couple of words from his players:
Michael Bush via Twitter:
"Never got 2 say thanks #mr.davis 4 giving me the chance 2 be a Raider ur a legend 2 the nfl My thoughts n prayers go out 2 the davis family"
Quentin Groves via Twitter:
"RIP AL Davis 1929-2011...When everyone wrote me off..He saw something in me..For that I'm forever thankful"
Mike Mitchell via Tritter:
"R.I.P. Mr. Davis. I'm am forever in debt to you. Thank you for drafting me and changing my life. #justwinbaby!"
Former Raider Fabian Washington via Twitter:
"I would like to send my condolences to the Davis family. The NFL will Miss Mr.Davis. He changed my life forever. #RaiderNation Just Win Baby"
Tyvon Branch via Twitter:
"RIP Mr. Davis a great, passionate leader... The man who gave me a chance to live out my dreams... And a true pioneer and football icon"
It is quite clear to those who knew him that he was much more than a maverick football owner. He was a man who cared for his players and believed that once you were a Raider, you were always a Raider. Well, unless you turned your back on him. (See: Marcus Allen)
He was also a man who gave players a second chance to flourish when others had given up on them. With a keen eye for talent he also went out and got his players, regardless of what others thought. In short, he drafted and signed, "Raiders."
As the leader of the Oakland Raider organization for nearly 50 years, Mr. Davis, was THE icon of the silver and black. He was what all of the players, employees and fans were identified with. When the Raiders were on top, we were on top. When Oakland rebuilt the franchise and spent seven years as the doormats of the NFL, Al Davis and the Raider Nation were the doormats of the NFL.
With things having turned and the team playing true, Al Davis, Oakland Raider football, I just wish that he would have had a chance to hold the Lombardi Trophy up one more time. As the one person who still fought for what he thought was right, it would have been a great moment for all of us who rebel against authority and don't follow the crowd, just because it is the easy way.
Like all mavericks before him, Mr. Davis blazed his own path. He never bowed to anyone or compromised his position. Let this be a lesson to all of us who have dreams or hear a calling. It is not the voices on the outside that should run our lives, but the conviction and beliefs which drive us that we should listen too.
Godspeed Mr. Davis. My hope is that in your passing the World will see you for the man that you truly were.