ALAMEDA -- On Christmas Eve last year, Derek Carr took what he thought might be his final lap around the Coliseum after the Raiders' 27-14 win over the Broncos.
He soaked it all in, not knowing if that would be his goodbye to the hallowed grounds that housed the Raiders' glory days and the start to his career in silver and black.
The Raiders returned to Oakland for one more season, hoping to give those who live, eat and breathe silver and black a final year to remember.
It got off to an optimistic start, with the Raiders sitting a 6-4 with a 4-1 record in the Coliseum through 10 games. But the wheels came off the playoff bus, and now Carr and the Raiders have must focus on ending a three-game winning streak and making the Coliseum finale a fitting one for Raider Nation.
"Yeah, I think we talked about it last year, right?" Carr said on the emotions of the Coliseum finale. "We played Denver, it was like maybe, so try and soak it in and all those kinds of things. So, I guess you erase those memories and take on these ones I guess because of all of the players that have played here, this organization’s history, all of those things. I was here for [Charles Woodson] last game. There was some pretty cool memories that I have just of my own being on the team, but I think this one will rank right up there. I expect it to be crazy and loud and all those kinds of things, so we’re going to go out there and give our best effort. I promise you that.”
Most people come of age in college. But for NFL quarterbacks, it happens in a different in a cauldron. One that mixes intense pressure with expectations and little room for error. One that is ferocious and can chew people up and spit them out without warning.
The Coliseum has been Carr's arena. It has been the theater of some of his finest moments, memories he'll remember forever. It also lifted him after he broke his ankle at the end of the 2016 season, a moment that showed him all the blood, sweat and tears he has given to get the Raiders where they need to be, has not gone unnoticed.
"I broke my ankle and you could just feel the air go out of the stadium," Carr said of the injury that ended his 2016 season. "I remember sitting there and as I was driving away just the applause and the cheers -- it was like, for whatever reason, in that moment I felt the love back. That's something I'll always remember because I give everything I have for our team, and you give so much it's always nice to hear it back."
A number of Raider greats have called the Coliseum home. From Ken Stabler to Jim Plunkett to Daryle Lamonica to Rich Gannon, Carr will be the final quarterback to don the silver and black in the famed arena. His place in Raiders history is not lost on him and No. 4 is still amazed at where he finds himself,
"Just to put in perspective, like a little kid from Fresno, California is playing somewhere where his dad’s favorite football team did, Carr said. "Like let’s be real about it, it’s pretty awesome. That was a dream come true. Every kid that I’ve ever talked to that’s on a football team, ‘Who wants to be in the NFL?’ Everyone raises their hand. How many of those kids actually get to do it, right? There is very few. It’s hard. It’s a hard business to do and do for a long time, and so to be able to be here and play on the same field as all of those legends played on and to actually know some of those guys, talk to those guys, call those guys friends, like that’s kind of weird, but it is a really cool thing.”
When he takes the field Sunday when the Raiders face the 4-9 Jaguars to close out the Coliseum's run, Carr will have one final chance to deliver for those who have adored him ever since the Raiders drafted him in the second round of the 2014 NFL Draft.
Carr loves the fans, both those that will come with the team to Las Vegas and those who feel jilted and have since turned their backs. If you ask him, only one fanbase has the word "Nation" after the team name. It's Raider Nation.
Likewise, they've loved him back. They've fiercely defended him against critics. Enjoyed triumphs and mourned defeats together. He's their quarterback. He bleeds silver and black just as they do.
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Sunday, No. 4 and those in attendance at the Coliseum will have 60 more minutes to share together. Then. the Coliseum will join its lot partner -- Oracle Arena -- as a mausoleum for Oakland's glory days. Something for Raider fans to drive by on I-880 and tell their kids historic tales of the team that left one too many times.
The kid from Fresno is the one charged with turning out the lights at the Coliseum.
Derek Carr, the last in a historic lineage of quarterbacks to call the Coliseum home.