A transcription of Raiders’ Hall of Fame cornerback Willie Brown talking about the passing of former teammate and Pro Bowl safety Jack Tatum:
Q: Was Jack’s passing a surprise? Had some issues with diabetes, but had he been ill?
Brown: No, not to my knowledge. He was on a list for a kidney transplant for the last two or three months, I guess. I saw him at Fred Biletnikoff’s golf tournament. We hung out the night before, went to some places up there, had a good time together. But was surely a surprise to hear he had passed away this morning because, you know, a great guy, Jack, we played together when he first came to the Raiders. He was my roommate the first year, he hung out with me, I made him do all the dirty work, you know, that needed to be done. But he’s just a great guy, a truly, truly great Raider. You talk about all the guys who are Mr. Raider, and he fit in that same category, as one of the guys who would be Mr. Raider.
Q: Was there a better hitter in the NFL as a defensive back?
Brown: He and Ronnie Lott. You pick them. They are probably the two I ever played against or have seen play the game. None better. Jack took care of me in terms of knowing he’d be in the post position. I didn’t’ worry about guys running posts or slants. I could sit outside because if you go inside you’ll get your head taken off. I just kind of played that way. Jack was the type of guy who was very smart. He studied a lot. He knew things would happen before they would happen.
Q: Did most people realize after time that he was playing by the rules and Stingley was an unfortunate accident?
Brown: Well no, they really don’t. Talk to people in New England, they don’t realize. Talk to the fans here in Oakland and they understand football probably a little bit better than the folks back there because that’s part of the game. Now the impact, the hit, all those things, that could happen to anybody at any given time. Jack, he hit me and tore my biceps in my arm. ‘Don’t worry about me, just take care of whatever you have to take care of.’ He was just that type of player. He wasn’t the type of person who was really out trying to maim anybody or hurt anybody. He was just doing his job. That’s the way he played the game.
Q: Did that hit hurt him in later years?
Brown: I’m sure when you play against a former player or whoever. You want to do your job No. 1. You want to hurt him but you want to hurt him to get him out of the game but hope he’d be back next week. You don’t want to end his career, Jack was that type of guy. You’re not trying to end somebody’s career. He was just doing his job. Unfortunate things happen in football. You see it all the time. You see guys having heat stroke on the football field. That’s just part of life.
Q: What was he like off field?
Brown: Very mild, very quiet. Very, very quiet. Jack didn’t say much so you didn’t bother him. He didn’t say much so you didn’t ask him a whole bunch of questions. You just leave him alone. Very good in the community, not only in the state of California. He did a lot of things back in Ohio and in his hometown Passaic. He did some things in the south. Jack was all over, doing things in the community.
Q: A coach once said guys today don’t know the old-timers but they all knew Jack Tatum?
Brown: No question about it. Because of his reputation in the league over the years. You can’t help but to know him when you talk about good hitters, great hitters, great safeties. Jack Tatum is ranked right up there as the No. 1 guy.
Q: Do you have a favorite hit?
Brown: The one that is favorite to me is in the Super Bowl when we played the Minnesota Vikings. But he hit a former Grambling-ite, Sammy White. I told Sammy, ‘Don’t go inside Sammy.’ That’s probably one of the greatest hits I’ve ever seen.
Q: How intimidated were opponents of him?
Brown: Not only against him but most teams were intimidated when they see the Silver and Black come on the field. That’s how we wanted them to feel. We wanted them to feel like ‘hey, we’re going to kick your ass today.’ The way we walked, the way we talked and the leadership. When you see Al Davis walk along the sideline, that’s kind of intimidating to guys to see him walking up and down the sideline before we started the game. Teams they did, they knew the type of reputation we had back there. Not only with the defensive backs but the linebackers and the defensive line.
Q: In NBA they changed rules because of Wilt, was that case with Jack?
Brown: I can give you 25 changes in the league caused by the Raiders. I can. All the teams could not handle the things that we were doing. We were so far ahead, Al Davis was so far ahead of other teams, other owners, other coaches. He had us way beyond what you can imagine. They saw that it looked like the Raiders had an advantage of the game situation and then they wanted to change because we had so many great players on the team. They said well it was unfair. Other teams started to complaining it was unfair to have a corner like Willie Brown beating the hell out of somebody and then you have a Jack Tatum, a George Atkinson, Skip Thomas and those kind of guys. They just feel they had a disadvantage going against us so that’s why they changed some of the rules.
Q: Did his hitting overshadow his other skills?
Brown: Yeah. Surely Jack should be in the Hall of Fame. There’s no question, no doubt about it. It’s unfortunate it looks like that he will probably get in now after his death which I hate to see. He should have got in a long time ago. There is so many things that he has done that overshadowed some of the things that people see. When you’re playing back in the middle you have one job to do, that’s stop the long pass right down the middle. He did that better than anybody that I could think of.