Napa couple enjoy backyard view of Raiders’ practices

Updated August 5, 2018 - 12:40 am

NAPA, Calif. — John King stood on an 8-inch step made of nine cinder blocks turned to their side. There, in the rear left corner of his backyard, he pressed his arms against a black-tarped, chain-link fence.

Time to watch the neighbors.

The Raiders practiced last Sunday morning on two full-sized football fields. On the one nearest King’s home, the specialists warmed up. It was kicker Giorgio Tavecchio’s designated day for field goals, so a few times each minute, he harmlessly booted footballs toward the backyard.

Then, one sailed farther and more leftward than the others, over King’s combed-back white hair.


“The first thought I had was, ‘Oh (shoot). What did it break?’ ” King said. “If you asked 50,000 people if that football was kicked from over there and ended up there on top of that motor home, I bet you wouldn’t get one out of 50,000 people who would believe you. What are the odds? It’s not in the picture.”

King took a picture and kept the football, mementos from Napa being the Raiders’ training camp home since 1996. Next year is expected to be the final such camp. Beginning in 2020, the bulk of the franchise’s operations will be based in Nevada, coinciding with the club’s relocation to Las Vegas.

King, 78, has lived over the fence since 1998.

He keeps a collection of stories, like a memorable fight he witnessed between teammates or where on the field Pro Football Hall of Fame wide receiver Jerry Rice relieved himself when nature called during practice. He once caught three men trespassing on his property, standing beside his fence on 5-gallon buckets, because they wanted to see their favorite team.

He and wife Sandy King, married for 15 years, seldom do this today, but they’ve hosted friends in the backyard during practices. In those gatherings, they barbecued and marinated over the novelty of having an NFL team next door a few weeks each summer.

Of course, as with any neighbor, the Kings can nitpick.

Artificial crowd noise, at times, can be a nuisance. Years ago, lights from evening practices disturbed them. The franchise routinely tarps off the field’s fence for security reasons, preventing the public — and NFL opponents — from watching their activities. The tarp, however, blocks sunshine from some of Sandy’s Sally Holmes white roses, effectively stunting their bloom.

One year, John King said, a portable restroom was stationed near the couple’s fence.

“You don’t really smell it because it’s got so many chemicals in it,” King said. “But I didn’t like it. I didn’t say anything. You got the whole (darn) field, and you’re putting it next to someone’s house? Are you jealous of my wife’s roses? … The Raiders being here is like company. I’m so glad to see them, and I’m so glad to see them go.”

He followed with a laugh.

“No, he’s teasing,” Sandy said. “They’re not that annoying. Those people drilling at 11 o’clock last night, out in front of our house on the sewer, I couldn’t believe the jackhammering out there. From 7 to 11. That’s what I consider annoying.”

Indeed, the couple appears to have embraced the experience.

King playfully declined to estimate exactly how many footballs, through the years, inadvertently found their way over the fence. He doesn’t want a bill from the Raiders, he joked. He still has an autographed football that a security guard gave him about a decade ago. It was signed by a young, talented quarterback, the type of autograph that could be worth something someday.

JaMarcus Russell’s.

In good times and bad, Raiders history is visible from across a chained fence. A sense of gratitude is audible in Sandy’s voice when she reflects on the unique vantage they’ve had.

“The Raiders are in our backyard,” she said.

King gives away most footballs that fly over their fence, but he plans to keep the one Tavecchio deposited.

King, a Mississippi native who is semiretired from the real estate industry, climbed up the ladder on his motor home last Sunday to inspect any damage from the crash landing. Concerned about skylights and plastic coverings, he was relieved to find no obvious cracks, scratches or dents.

His new football features the letter “K,” short for kicker, handwritten in a black Sharpie marker. A number, 135, is written in silver marker.

It turned out Tavecchio’s days were numbered, too.

From his backyard, King noticed something unusual Friday afternoon after practice. He saw Raiders coaches and front-office members, including general manager Reggie McKenzie, standing on a far field. They watched a right-footed man attempt several field goals, and he seemed to convert them all.

Handshakes followed.

On Saturday morning, he saw the news report: Tavecchio was waived, and Mike Nugent was signed. Like the Raiders in Napa, the kicker provided memories before leaving.

“I hate to see Tavecchio go,” King said, “but that’s the way it goes in that business.”

More Raiders: Follow online at and @NFLinVegas on Twitter. 

Contact reporter Michael Gehlken at Follow @GehlkenNFL on Twitter.

Raiders Videos
Vegas Nation: 2019 NFL Draft Predictions - VIDEO
The Oakland Raiders have three first round picks in the 2019 NFL Draft. Michael Gehlken breaks down possible options for the silver and black before Thursday's draft.
Raiders Stadium Area Property Causing Developers Hurdles
With property values increasing around the new Raiders stadium in Las Vegas, what other barriers do developers face?
Will Land Around Las Vegas Raiders Stadium Turn To Gold
Property owners around the new Las Vegas Raiders stadium are getting a lot of inquiries about selling.
Will developers face hurdles with property near Raiders stadium?
With property values increasing around the new stadium what other barriers do developers face? (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Will land around Raiders stadium turn to gold?
With values increasing, property owners around the new Raiders stadium are getting a lot of inquiries about selling. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Vegas Nation Stadium Show: Raiders Backup Plans and Deadline for Stadium - VIDEO
The Raiders Stadium is closer to being completed as the weeks go by. Reporters Ed Graney and Rick Velotta bring all the updates including from the stadium authority meeting and new technology being used.
The Cast of FS1's "Lock It In" talk Raiders and Golden Knights futures
With Las Vegas growing as a pro sports town, the cast of Fox Sports 1's "Lock It In" give their betting predictions on if the Vegas Golden Knights can make another run at the Stanley Cup and if the Raiders will make a Super Bowl in 2020.
Raiders Make Trades, Let Go Of Players During Free Agency - VIDEO
As NFL free agency continues, the Raiders continue to build off of acquiring Steelers player Antonio Brown. Vegas Nation host Cassie Soto and Raiders beat writer Michael Gehlken go over all of the key acquisitions and signings as well as who was let go of the roster.
Latin Chamber of Commerce hosts Las Vegas sports leaders
The Fourth Annual Latin Chamber of Commerce Business and Networking Luncheon hosted a panel of sports leaders to discuss the economic power of sports in Las Vegas and their contributions to the Latino community. (Michael Quine / Las Vegas Review-Journal) @Vegas88s
Antonio Brown Raiders Press Conference Highlights - VIDEO
Antonio Brown gives his first press conference as a Raider from the team's headquarters in Alameda, California on March 13, 2019. (Courtesy: The Raiders)
Raiders Trade for Antonio Brown - VIDEO
Former Steelers' WR Antonio Brown will be making his way to Oakland after a late-night trade between the two organizations was made public.
Mike Mayock Settling in as Raiders' GM
As the NFL Combine is in full swing, Raiders beat writer for the Las Vegas Review- Journal Michael Gehlken gives us an update from Indianapolis regarding Mike Mayock and his roll as the Raiders' general manager.
Mike Mayock set for first NFL Scouting Combine with Raiders - VIDEO
How Mike Mayock will approach the NFL Scouting Combine might be a mystery, given this combine is his first as Raiders general manager and a league front-office employee, if not for the hours of conference calls, news conferences and real-time TV commentary he has produced.
Las Vegas musician Rick Maiani writes promotional theme song for Raiders
Las Vegas musician Rick Maiani talks about writing a theme song for the NFL's Raiders, his musical background and having been high school teammates with UNLV legend Randall Cunningham. (Ron Kantowski/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Raiders stadium construction not slowed by rain and snow
Raiders stadium in Las Vegas continues to take shape without little to no impact from the winter storm that passed through the Valley on Wednesday and Thursday this week. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @Vegas88s
Vegas Nation Stadium Show: Did the Weather slow down construction?
The Raiders stadium in Las Vegas has made significant progress over the past month, and Review-Journal writers Ed Graney, Rick Vellota and Mick Akers go over all the updates including what name of the stadium may potentially be.
Kelsey Martinez no longer listed on Raiders’ coaching staff
Kelsey Martinez, the first female assistant in Raiders history, is no longer listed as with the organization, according to the team’s website. Martinez joined the club in March 2018 under Tom Shaw, the department’s then-coordinator who was dismissed in December. Before joining the Raiders, Martinez worked for 4 years at Tom Shaw Performance at ESPN Wide World of Sports in Orlando. The Raiders did not return requests for comment on Martinez’s status.
Monorail extension will likely not be finished for Raiders 2020 opener
The planned extension to the Las Vegas Monorail system, has not even broken ground yet, and will likely not be completed in time for the Raiders season opener in 2020. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas Limo Driver Dan Holmgren Fired
Dan Holmgren was terminated as a Las Vegas limousine driver for leaving his car to chat with Raiders owner Mark Davis and president Marc Badain in front of Caesars Palace on Jan. 28. Dan gives his story to Elaine Emerson in the RJ Studio.
Raiders Stadium Roads
A bevy of road projects that will impact travel to and from the Las Vegas stadium are planned to occur even after the stadium opens in 2020.
Roger Goodell Addresses Media About Raiders Next Season - VIDEO
Roger Goodell addresses media about where the Raiders will play next year and the controversial Rams vs Saints game. Raiders beat writer Michael Gehlken and Vegas Nation host Cassie Soto go over the details.
Senior Bowl a valuable scouting opportunity for Raiders - VIDEO
The Raiders are looking for better defensive prospects at the Senior Bowl due to the results of the 2018 season. Michael Gehlken goes over what the Raiders general manager and head coach are looking for at this years Senior Bowl.
Las Vegas police and Raiders partner with SafeNest
Las Vegas police and the Raiders partner with SafeNest on Project Safe 417 (the police code for domestic violence is 417). The program partners trained SafeNest volunteer advocates with Metropolitan Police Department officers dispatched to domestic violence calls, allowing advocates to provide immediate crisis advocacy to victims at the scene of those calls. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Senior Bowl Practice Moved Inside Due To Weather - VIDEO
Day three of the Senior Bowl was moved inside for practice due to weather in Alabama. Raiders beat writer Michael Gehlken goes over what players the Raiders are looking out for at the Senior bowl.
Home Front Page Footer Listing