ALAMEDA -- Raiders coach Jon Gruden considers Johnathan Abram a throwback safety. The Raiders’ final first-round pick in the 2019 NFL Draft is a thumper in every sense, a tone-etter in the secondary who is unafraid of mixing it up near the line of scrimmage.
“Abram belongs in 1978, ‘79, ’80,” Gruden said. “I’m going to try to get him to wear No. 32 or 43. He’s like one of our old school safeties.”
Gruden gave him an important number in Raiders lore. Abram toured the Raiders locker room Friday before his introductory press conference with fellow first-rounders Josh Jacobs and Clelin Ferrell and found this waiting for him.
From Johnathan Abram’s Instagram story. Check out the number: pic.twitter.com/6weNeuU6ZY— Scott Bair (@BairNBCS) April 26, 2019
The No. 24 was worn proudly by Fred Williamson in the early 1960s. Willie Brown really made it famous en route to the Pro Football of Fame. Charles Woodson took the mantle in two stints in Silver and Black, and wore it with the Raiders during a career worthy of a gold jacket. Marshawn Lynch wore it last, but it’s up for grabs with him expected to retire.
Having Gruden bestow No. 24 meant a ton to the young safety.
“That means the world to me,” Abram said in a 1-on-1 interview with NBC Sports Bay Area on Friday. “I know I have big shoes to fill. There have been a lot a greats wearing that number like Charles Woodson and even Marshawn Lynch. He’s going down as one of the greatest running backs to ever play.
“The standard has been set. I have to uphold that standard.”
Woodson even reached out to Abram after he was selected.
Abram developed a kinship with Gruden at the Senior Bowl. Abram was assigned to the South squad run by the 49ers, but found himself gravitating towards the Raiders' head coach.
“I couldn’t get rid of the kid,” Gruden said. “He loves football, he’s a coach on the field, he’s a magnetic personality. And he does have length and size to potentially match up with some of the great jokers as I call them that detach tight ends and cause problems. And he’s going to have his hands full.”
Abram will be given a huge responsibility early, and will be counted on as a leader in the future. Gruden sent a message by giving him No. 24, which has already motivated Abram upon joining the Silver and Black.
“A coach like him gets you going and only makes you better,” Abram said. “He’s a fun guy to be around. He’s intense, but you know you’re going to come in every day and get something accomplished.
“… He gets you so hyped when you’re with him. When Gruden gets to talking, you feel like you can run through a brick wall. He’s a football guy, a football junkie. I love being around a guy like that.”