NAPA – Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio is an East Bay native who grew up a Raiders fan. The Silver and Black were a popular group during his childhood, playoff regulars who played a entertaining, intimidating style.
Del Rio loved coach John Madden, and still does. He had reverence for that era’s unquestioned leader, quarterback Kenny Stabler.
The iconic figure, who led the Raiders to a Super Bowl XI victory, is being posthumously inducted to the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday afternoon in a major moment for Stabler's family and that era’s alumni. He was inducted shortly after his death due to complications of colon cancer.
As a fan who grew up with Raiders football, Del Rio is happy Stabler’s finally getting in after so long on the outside looking in.
“Very, very proud for the family. Very happy, very pleased for the Raider Nation,” Del Rio said after Friday’s practice. “He’s one of the all-time greats to play here. He did it and then he led this team, there were great teams.
“I think it’s long overdue and I’m just happy that it did occur. It would have sure been nice for him to be there in person, but I know the family will be able to honor him and Raider Nation will be able to honor him. We’re all obviously very proud, those of us that got a chance to see him play. It was special.”
Del Rio watched several Stabler games. He only met the man once.
“I was at a fundraiser in Alabama where I bought a print of his and signed the back of it for me and he actually knew who I was, which kind of blew my mind,” Del Rio said. “(I thought) ‘Wait a minute, you don’t know who I am?’”
Del Rio was kind of a big deal as a prep in the East Bay, a two-sport start at USC and standout middle linebacker in 11 NFL seasons. Del Rio enjoyed the moment, but as a coach with an excellent relationship with his quarterback, remembers the Stabler/Madden relationship.
“Just watching ‘Snake’ and Coach [John] Madden on the sideline, they were just so cool and calm and collected,” Del Rio said. “They would talk things through on the sideline. It was just the two of them. Now it’s like everybody huddles around now and is a part of it. It was just those two guys and they’d sit and kind of talk things out and then ‘Snake’ would go out and lead a comeback. It was just special to be able to see those things. Different era. He was telling Kenny what plays he might want to call because Kenny was calling them. It was an altogether different era.”