Remembering Lyle Alzado

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Remembering Lyle Alzado
George Rose/Getty Images

In the week of the anniversary of his death (May 14, 1992), I thought it would be fitting for those of us in the Raider Nation to remember one of our fallen brothers, Lyle Alzado.

Although he was a man with a myriad of faults, his performance in the silver and black was never one of them, and as much as anyone, he is responsible for me becoming a Raider fan.

On Sunday October 23, 1983, when the NFL was fairly new in the United Kingdom, the featured game of the week was the then Los Angeles Raiders at the Dallas Cowboys. The Cowboys were 8-0, and the last unbeaten team in the league.

As I watched the Cowboys gallop out—pristine uniforms, Colgate smiles, everyone an All-American-type guy—for the game, I hated them instantly.

Then came the Raiders, led by Alzado. Howie Long, Ted Hendricks, Matt Millen, and Rod Martin followed. They were, if you like, the "anti-Cowboys," looking like rejects from a Hells Angels Chapter. Right then, I knew these were my guys.

The Raiders won 40-38, and I was a Raider fan ever after.

Alzado was a typical Raider reclamation project, having played 12 years with Cleveland and Denver before Al Davis traded for him in 1982, but he fit the mould perfectly.

He was the greatest intimidator in sports, and was a key part of the Raiders' Super Bowl XVIII-winning defense. In the playoffs that year against Pittsburgh, he totally dominated offensive tackle Tunch Ilkin, destroying him en route to 2.5 sacks that day as a big part of the Raiders defensive effort that crushed the Steelers.

Every player in LA had an Alzado story.

Once, when the team was out at a restaurant, Dave Casper covered Lyle's steak with tomato sauce as a "joke" when Alzado went to the toilet. The whole of the rest of the team had run out of the place before Alzado returned.

Howie Long called him "three-mile Lyle," after the nuclear facility at Three Mile Island, because you just never knew when he was going to blow.

One of Alzado's true moments of peace in his life was holding the Lombardi Trophy after winning the Super Bowl with the Raiders, having finally achieved his career goal after 13 years in the league.

Tragically, after retiring from football, he developed a brain tumor, which proved fatal. He fought through chemo- and radiotherapy, battling the disease the same way he would an offensive lineman on the field. In doing so, he also came clean about his use of anabolic steroids.

Sadly, I think he would have been just as greater a player without them. He had the heart for it.

He went on national television, having lost over a hundred pounds in weight, and told his story of steroid abuse. He said if he stopped just one kid from ending up the same way then it would have been worth it.

That may have been his bravest act on or off the field.

When told that he had cancer that would probably be terminal, his first reaction was to ask for team owner Al Davis to be told. From then on, Davis took care of the medical bills for Alzado, and made sure he had the best care.

Davis rewards loyalty, and has a deep affection for those players who have served the Raiders well. So it was with Alzado.

It isn't an accident that Davis has introduced seven players to the Hall of Fame.

But I won't remember Alzado as he was at the end, I will remember him as he was in his prime, one of the most dominant defensive linemen of his era, and a truly great Raider.

Rest in peace, brother.

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