Gene Upshaw passed away this week. At the not old age of 63. Gene and Art Shell were the core of the Raider Dynasty of the 60s and 70s. One of the players that John Madden loves to talk about, because no one else notices them - the men in the trenches.
Along with Art, a pro-bowler in his own rights and the Head Coach of the Raiders on 2 separate occassions, Gene dominated the game at this position and made the Raider left side an impenetrable wall to opposing players. Gene won 2 Superbowl rings as well.
But more than just his outstanding play on the field, Gene was always a great man. He never suffered from the "swelled head" syndrome that so many sports stars get, he was your average man to the day he died. After his playing career, he became head of the NFLPA. Whether you are an owner or player, no one is going to dispute that Gene was as great a head in his post playing days as he was a player on the field. He turned football on its head and made sure the players got a big portion of the revenue. That was the way he approached life. Never do a job half assed.
I came of age watching him, Art and Jim Otto (Center) take the Raiders to the championship almost every year. Cheering them on, crying when they were robbed, and rejoicing when they claimed their rightful Superbowl rings. To me, the Raiders were never "Broadway Joes", but instead the men in the trenches. The ones that could make any runner gain 5 yards because there was no oppostion to tackle them until they were in the backfield.
I am going to miss him. But more so than that, his passing means that another one of my heros has moved on. I am still a Raider Fan, but it just does not seem the same without Gene around. At least now God has the starting Left guard on his team.
Rest in Peace Gene. And thank you for all the memories.