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Raiders hard-hitting Jack Tatum dies at 61
Nicknamed “The Assassin,” Tatum, died of a heart attack Tuesday in an Oakland hospital, according to friend and former Ohio State teammate John Hicks. Hicks said Tatum had diabetes the past several years, and had lost his left leg because of circulation problems.
On Aug. 12, 1978, in a preseason game against the New England Patriots, the hard-hitting Tatum slammed into Stingley with his helmet while the receiver was running a pass pattern. The blow severed Stingley’s fourth and fifth vertebrae and left the receiver paralyzed from the neck down.
The two never met after the hit. Stingley died in 2007.
Tatum was not penalized on the play and the NFL took no disciplinary action, but it did tighten its rules on violent hits.
“It was tough on him, too,” Hicks said. “He wasn’t the same person after that. For years he was almost a recluse.”
“It’s not so much that Darryl doesn’t want to, but it’s the people around him,” Tatum told the Oakland Tribune in 2004. “So we haven’t been able to get through that. Every time we plan something, it gets messed up. Getting to him or him getting back to me, it never happens.”
Part of the alienation came after Tatum wrote the 1980 book, “They Call Me Assassin,” in which he was unapologetic for his headhunting ways.
In a statement, the Raiders said, “Jack was a true Raider champion and a true Raider warrior. … Jack was the standard bearer and an inspiration for the position of safety throughout college and professional football.”
After starring for Ohio State under coach Woody Hayes, Tatum was drafted in the first round by the Raiders in 1971. In nine seasons with the Raiders, Tatum started 106 of 120 games with 30 interceptions and helped Oakland win the 1976 Super Bowl. He played his final season with the Houston Oilers in 1980.
Tatum also wrote books titled “They Still Call Me Assassin: Here We Go Again” in 1989 and “Final Confessions of an NFL Assassin” in 1996.
In the latter he wrote, “I was paid to hit, the harder the better. And I hit, and I knocked people down and knocked people out. … I understand why Darryl is considered the victim. But I’ll never understand why some people look at me as the villain.”
Tatum was a central figure in “The Immaculate Reception” in the Raiders‘ 1972 playoff loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. With 22 seconds left, Tatum jarred loose a pass to Frenchy Fuqua from Terry Bradshaw, and the ball bounced off Fuqua’s foot and ricocheted into the arms of Steelers running back Franco Harris. Harris never broke stride and ran 42 yards for the winning touchdown.
By Bob Dole
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