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Jack Tatum: The Raider Nation Mourns

David WilsonCorrespondent IJuly 27, 2010

So passes Jack Tatum, one of the truly greatest players ever to grace the silver and black.

Jack Tatum died today of a suspected heart attack after long suffering from diabetes.

There never was anyone else like Jack Tatum, he was a unique individual who left his mark on the National Football League to the extent that he is still talked about today as one of the most intimidating defensive presences of all time.

What is defense about if not about hitting?

Nobody hit like Jack Tatum, and I mean nobody. Not Dick Butkus, not Ray Lewis, no one at all.

His hits on Earl Campbell and Sammy White are the stuff of legend.

His autobiography, They Call Me Assassin, was a best seller and one of the best football books of all time.

But Jack Tatum never got the credit he deserved, because he played for the Oakland Raiders, and because of an entirely legal hit on Darryl Stingley that left the receiver a quadraplegic for the rest of his life. It wasn't his fault, just a tragic accident.

Tatum was one of the giants of the game, and the fact that players like Ken Stabler and Jack Tatum are not in the Hall of Fame makes the HOF a totally meaningless process to me.

But while Jack Tatum might have been a monster to his opponents, he was loved in Oakland.  His outstanding charity work, the fact that he always had time for his fans, showed that he was not the man that those who vilified him portrayed him to be.

He was a great man and a great football player.

Last year I made the trip 7,000 miles to Oakland to see the Raiders play, and prior to the game wound up at the Raider Image near to the stadium. Of all the game shirts on display, I bought the Jack Tatum one.

I look at it now with a tear in my eye. I had dreamed of one day running into Mr. Tatum at Ricky's or some other place, as many of us in the Raider Nation did.

It won't happen now.

But we can remember Jack Tatum in our hearts and say a quiet prayer for him.

He was one of us. 

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