Friday, 28 October 2011 00:00
It is amazing how different encounters can resonate after many years. The passing of Al Davis, clearly a football icon, reminded me and my friends of Al Davis’ days at Adelphi University in Garden City.
Al Davis graduated from Syracuse University, and his first job, after college, was to coach the freshman team at Adelphi. In addition, he was the line coach for the varsity, as well. That is when I first met Al Davis, and I will never forget those days.
After finishing high school, I first went to Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts on a small football scholarship. Running out of money, I worked for a semester and then went to Adelphi. Since I had played football at Worcester Tech, the rules, in those days, were that I could only practice with the football team at Adelphi but could not play until the next season. I will never forget how strong willed and humorous Al Davis could be as he coached us on the football field. He had no doubts about where he was going.
One of my friends from those days was Sam Goldmeer. Sam wrote to me saying, “In August of 1950, Al Davis came to Adelphi to coach his first team, the freshman football team, which I played on. I believe this was his first coaching job and because of it, we remained friends for 61 years.” One footnote to Sam Goldmeer: He and I, three years later, ran into each other while we were both serving in Korea. It can be a small world.
Al Davis went on to coach in the United States Army at Fort Belvoir, Virginia and then off to his career in national football. His first pro-football position was at the age of 24 with the Baltimore Colts where he was on the coaching staff. From being named Pro Football Coach of the Year in 1963, Al Davis went on to maintain an illustrious career with the Oakland Raiders as both coach and then General Manager-Owner.
His career was just great. Another friend of mine, from football days at Adelphi, was Lou Flego. Lou got a stamp of approval for his football scholarship at Adelphi after an intensive interview with Al Davis. Al and Lou had a great player-coach relationship, and they became close friends. Lou went on, in an email to me, to explain his impressions of Al Davis.
Lou wrote, “I received a call from Al when my granddaughter Nicole won the National title for her age group in the NFL Punt Pass and Kick Contest. He made arrangements for the two of us to fly out to Oakland on Christmas day, where he dressed her in Raider colors and took us out on the field before the game to introduce her to the ‘Black Hole’ and to watch the game afterwards from his private box.”
And finally, Lou told me about a picture of Al Davis’ first team. “A number of years ago I had a picture of Al’s first team at Adelphi framed and labeled “The Beginning.” When you go to Al’s office in the Raiders complex, impressive with Super Bowl and Raider logos, there on the wall, also hangs that picture, “The Beginning.”
Al Davis will long be remembered – not only for his football skills – but also for his kindness and caring.