The Raiders announced the hiring of former running back Napoleon Kaufman as team chaplain Friday.
Chalk it up as another wise, common-sense move in the Raiders’ organization. Kaufman is local, having been pastor of The Well Christian Community in the Tri-Valley for the last nine years. He’s had a profound impact spiritually on the lives of many of his teammates _ including assistant offensive line coach Steve Wisniewski _ and has the rare credibility of having played the sport at a high level in terms of most NFL chaplains.
I’m not saying other chaplains aren’t worthy, just that Kaufman has been in both arenas _ and walked away from football with a lot of years left to pursue what he believed to be his true calling.
Anyone who covered Kaufman as a rookie in 1995 and throughout his career with the Raiders was startled by his personal transformation.
The incredible speed that made him impossible to resist for Al Davis was doing Kaufman no good in his personal life, where he could be angry, surly and, by his own admission, less than the Christian he became later.
A few months before he retired, I talked with Kaufman in the media room in Alameda and he seemed completely at peace with his life, although he gave up no hint of giving up football. I’ve run into him on a handful of occasions around town and it’s the same thing. Never a hint of regret, but at the same time, he loved being a Raider. He just loved his devotion to his faith even more.
Seems like a perfect match that Kaufman would come back in this capacity.
Kaufman has been around from time to time. Former Raiders coach Hue Jackson attended some of his services and had Kaufman speak to the team. He likely struck a chord with Reggie McKenzie and Dennis Allen as well.
Together with the hiring of Lamonte Winston as the “Director-Player Engagement,” the Raiders appear to making great strides in terms of dealing with the issues of their players well beyond what goes during practice, meetings and games.