OAKLAND, Calif. — Al Davis was remembered Saturday as the AFL commissioner who helped lead the merger with the NFL that changed professional football forever.
He was praised as the trendsetting owner of the Oakland Raiders, who broke racial and gender barriers while winning three Super Bowl titles and preaching his mantra of “Just win, baby!”
Davis died at age 82, still called “Coach” by many of those around him. Coach Hue Jackson always used that respected title whenever he talked about Davis, saying there was no other owner in the NFL who could talk the intricacies of the game as well as “Coach Davis.”
Davis died Saturday at his home in Oakland, while his beloved team was in Houston preparing to play the Texans. That Davis was not with his team was telling as he is believed to have missed only three games since joining the team as coach in 1963.
He did not appear at a single training camp practice this summer and missed a game in Buffalo last month.
“As he became older, he developed some health problems, and he just couldn’t be out there each and every practice, like he used to be. That’s too bad. But we all age, and things change,” said Jim Plunkett, who won two Super Bowl titles after Davis revived his career by bringing him to Oakland. “But he never lost his love and his fire for the game.”
Elected in 1992 to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Davis also was a trailblazer. He hired the first black head coach of the modern era – Art Shell in 1988. He hired the first Latino coach, Tom Flores; and the first woman CEO, Amy Trask.
Jackson told the team of Davis’ death at a meeting Saturday morning before a walkthrough and the players immediately reacted by calling Davis a “legend” and the greatest owner in history.
“He’s one of the greatest sports icons ever,” Raiders cornerback Stanford Routt said. “He will be greatly missed. He believed in me, he lived for us, now we have to play for him.”