Raiders new team Chaplain, Napoleon Kaufman (photo by Well Christian Community Church)
Twelve years after former Raider running back Napoleon Kaufman's early retirement from the NFL, he is back with the Raiders. This time he gets to combine the two things that he has spent his entire adult life: football and Christianity.
"I'm so excited to officially be part of the Raider organization once again," said Kaufman. "I've always considered myself a Raider and to be able to come back and serve the Silver and Black in this capacity is my privilege."
Kaufman was the Raiders first round pick out of Washington in the 1995 draft. He spent six years with the team before he decided he had a higher calling and left the game of football entirely to pursue a career in the ministry.
"When I laid down my career - believe me, I was in the prime of my career - I didn't have this whole big business model," Kaufman said in an interview with the Seattle Times. "I just felt in my heart God was saying, 'I'm going to reward your obedience.' So for me, what I did was not a matter of reason, it was a matter of obedience."
Kaufman left the Raiders and the NFL in 2001 as the fourth all-time leading rusher in Raider history. He ran for 4,792 yards which is just 311 yards behind Clem Daniels for third on the list. There are no current Raider running backs even in the top ten. He was also fourth all time in kickoff return yardage (2,149 yards).
Since 2003 he has been a pastor for The Well Christian Community Church which is now located in Dublin California, a few miles Southeast of Oakland. Since its inception in 2003, his congregation has grown from 15 people to around 1,500. The church itself has relocated from a small 110 seat room to its current 30,000 square foot location.
"I'm still in shock," Kaufman said. "I'm still in a position where I'm saying, 'Is this really happening?' I've got a beautiful wife. I've got beautiful kids. I don't drink. I don't smoke. I don't cuss. I'm faithful to my wife, to my kids. I have God in my heart. I've forgiven people. I love people. Is this real?"
Kaufman credits a specific moment during his second year as a Raider in which his reserve fullback Jerone Davison heard him cussing on the practice field and confronted him about it, saying: "you don't even look like the type of guy to be out here cussing and acting crazy. Don't you know God can use your life?"
Kaufman credits Davison and that moment as the turning point that helped him find religion and essentially change his life. Now Kaufman will have the opportunity to preach the word of God to current Raider players and hopes to return the favor.