From the moment each was told about being selected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame by president/CEO David Baker, former Raiders head coach Tom Flores and defensive back Charles Woodson began reminiscing about their careers and planning acceptance speeches.
A coach who won four Super Bowls (three with the Raiders) between being a player, assistant coach and head coach. And an athlete who was the NFL Rookie Defensive Player of the Year and a five-time Pro Bowl selection with the Raiders, the team’s all-time leader in forced fumbles (18) and passes defended (84).
Each spoke last week about their impending enshrinement Aug. 8 in Canton, Ohio.
In all, 28 Raiders have been selected for induction.
Here are some thoughts from the newest members of that club:
Woodson: “I couldn’t hold it together when I found out. You tell yourself you won’t cry, but when the moment comes, it’s real. When (Baker) comes up, you know what that means, and it hits you. When I turned around and saw my two boys and my wife and my mom … I tried to hold it back, but when the emotions are real and raw, you have to let the tears flow. I felt like I had been running all my life. So as soon as David Baker left the house, I went and ran like a mile, mile and a half. I just had to get that last one out of the way.”
Flores: “I kind of expected (being inducted) sooner, but it didn’t happen, so then I got skeptical about it and guarded in terms of this might be the year. I wasn’t going to count on anything. But when I saw Mr. Baker had knocked on my door, and I saw that big body come through the doorway, I said, ‘Oh, man,’ There is no better feeling. I had tears in my eyes. I have tears in my eyes right now just thinking about it. That’s a lifetime of achievement. And that’s forever.”
Woodson: “I began to understand the Raiders when I got there (in 1998). My first memory was hanging around Willie Brown. I knew early they wanted you to be a tough, physical, fast football player. I got that direction from the older guys. Going back a second time (after spending seven seasons and winning a Super Bowl in Green Bay), the fans welcomed me with open arms. I was able to show the younger guys what it meant to be a Raider and represent the silver and black. I cherish those times.”
Flores: “I remember our first day ever in the history of the Raiders in Santa Cruz, California. There were 11 quarterbacks in training camp. Eleven. We couldn’t even get all in one picture. Now, 61 years later, you look back and say, ‘Look at what we’ve done.’ No matter how many ups and downs, we always persevered. When I saw (Allegiant Stadium) in Vegas, I must have said ‘wow’ a hundred times. We used to have a closet to practice in and a field that sunk at one end.”
Woodson: “I was a guy each and every week who gave it all I had. It didn’t matter if I was healthy or not. Broken leg in the playoffs. Dislocated my shoulder in the opening week of my 18th year and playing a full season. I left it all on the field. That’s what I want people to remember and say about me — there’s a reason he’s in the Hall of Fame.”
Flores: “I always felt I knew what I was doing and tried to do it well. You have to be able to perform once you get the job. I just never dreamed I would be the coach of a world championship team. But once I got into it, I said that if I was going to do it, I better do it well. It worked out pretty well, and we won a few games.”
Woodson: “I’m not nervous at all. I’m ready. This is something pretty special. Looking forward to sharing this with my family and all the fans that are going to be in attendance. I run through my (acceptance) speech in my mind every day, so I know where I’m going and who I’m talking about. I’ll just get up there and let it flow like I always do.”
Flores: “We were a really tight family with the Raiders. That’s what we were like. Raider Nation is a family — a very powerful family. We believe in each other, and we like to be the underdogs. It became our way of life, and little by little, everywhere we went in this country, Raider Nation was there.”
Ed Graney is a Sigma Delta Chi Award winner for sports column writing and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-4618. He can be heard on “The Press Box,” ESPN Radio 100.9 FM and 1100 AM, from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday. Follow @edgraney on Twitter.
Tom Flores file
Role: Assistant coach/head coach
Hometown: Sanger, Calif.
Seasons with Raiders: 1972-1987
Super Bowls titles: 3 (also won one as a player with Kansas City)
Fact: NFL’s first minority head coach to win a Super Bowl, doing so twice.
Charles Woodson file
Role: Defensive back
Hometown: Fremont, Ohio
Seasons with Raiders: 1998-2005; 2013-2015
Pro Bowls with Raiders: 5
Honors: NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year
Fact: Won a Super Bowl with the Packers.