Born in 1987, growing up in the 90's in DC suburbs... Maryland had 2 directions to follow in professional football. The obvious choice (and quite obviously the one I went with) was to root for the home team, the Washington Redskins. And what better time, in the midst of a dynasty, Coach Joe Gibbs and his Hogs, Riggins, Monk, Green, Manley, Mann, Grimm... the Redskins had won three titles in the Joe Gibbs era, the third coming early in my life, 1991 vs. the Buffalo (Bitch of the NFC East) Bills.
Then there was the disgusting, putrid, bandwagon love of the Cowboys so many had so quickly when Dallas won back to back championships (the two years after the Redskins). People so desperate to cheer for a winner, they abandoned the Redskins and cheered for the arch-rival.
But in my home, my father was a rebel, in every sense of the word. My father ( Dixie flag tattoos, skullcaps, lighters, etc.) fits in with the South as well as anyone. People in the North would never confuse him for a northerner. People in the South can only confuse him for a northerner based on the fact he's spent most of his life living North of where they live. But my father also rebelled in DC sports. He didn't cheer for the Redskins, or his dad's favorite Cowboys (being from Virginia/Tennessee, he was free to make this choice)... but instead, he went with the dynasty of his day, one of the nastiest teams ever... the Oakland Raiders.
Needless to say, growing up I was exposed to the history of the Raiders along with the Redskins, so the greats stand out for me as well as any. Stabler, Jackson, the true Madden team... and of course, Jack Tatum.
Anyone who has ever watched a highlight video of huge NFL hits, has seen Jack Tatum's hits. He was a punishing defender who felt the need to dismantle the ball carrier rather than just dissect the football from is grasp. This led to one of the most controversial hits of all time, when Patriots Wide Receiver Darryl Stingley ran a route right into Tatum's zone (a hit referred to as "The Crash"). The two collided (on a perfectly legal hit even in today's standard) violently. The controversy comes when you consider it was a pre-season game, and the need to be that violent didn't exist yet. But Tatum loved football, and was never one to pull up on a play, no matter what. Coaches see that and cut men from the roster... Tatum wasn't going to be cut. Stingley was paralyzed as a result of the hit, and many feel as though Tatum has been kept out of the Hall of Fame as a result of the devastating hit he placed on Stingley.
But enough of the controversial hit, there are plenty others, like the hit on Earl Campbell (one of the most powerful runners of all time). Jack Tatum wasn't the biggest guy, or the faster, but he played with an instinct very few had, have, or ever will have. And for someone who played in the secondary and not linebacker, to hit like he did... automatically makes him one of the most feared players ever.
Tatum passed away on the 27th of July, 2010 from a massive heart attack. Raider Nation mourns this loss, but so should the rest of the NFL world. Whether you're religious or not (I am and shouldn't be forced to embrace your beliefs if you don't and won't ever embrace mine)... God has chosen another safety to play for his team in the Heavens... and any ballcarrier who gets on Jack Tatum's RADAR, may the Lord have no mercy on their soul.