What It Takes: More Than a Champion by Jeff Hostetler 1997

What It Takes: More Than a Champion by Jeff Hostetler 1997

By theoaklandraiders

What It Takes: More Than a Champion by Jeff Hostetler with Ron Hostetler

With the implementation of free agency in 1993, Jeff became a free agent and was in good position to test the free agent waters. He jumped in the pool.

Jeff was invited to Los Angeles for a “look see” by Raiders President and General Partner Al Davis. Al was looking for a quarterback who could help fix his broken-down team, an able-minded, able-bodeied leader with the kind of initiative and know-how to put some air back in a franchise that had gone flat. What he discovered on Jeff’s trip, figuratively speaking, was a humble farm boy who knew how to do just that.

Al Davis needed this kind of ballplaye3r, someone who didn’t give excuses, someone who could get it done now, someone with a work ethic and the motivation to get it done when it needed to be done. Davis believed he had found that kind of player after his first meeting with Jeff; Jeff thought thte same about Al Davis. Sure, there were the stories about Al’s methods and meddlings in operating the Raiders and there was criticism of Bay Area fans when the club moved to Los Angeles from Oakland. But one thing was sure; Al wanted to win, and so did Jeff.

The principles and character qualities that helped Jeff Hostetler win a Super Bowl in New York were the same ones that so impressed Al Davis when the two men met. Jeff was about to embark on another chapter in his life–both as a child of God and as a professional football player. It wa stime to head west. Jeff was going to be wearing the silver and black of the Los Angeles Raiders (soon to be Oakland Raiders once more).

Name-calling scorches your ears. Fists fly. Nasty hits and gang-tackling break out everywhere. And that’s just in the stands! Welcome to Oakland Alameda County Coliseum, Jeff Hostetler’s Sunday house of worship.

This particular day wasn’t your typical church service. It looked more like a rock concert, with its wild-eyed, shirtless, body-painted, body-pierced, boisterous, barbaric fans moshing it up and jumping around. And yes, they can rock the house.

But on this day they were there to watch their Raiders rock the San Diego Chargers 17-7 in the 1995 regular season opener and to celebrate the team’s return from Los Angeles to Oakland–the first game at the Coliseum in fourteen years.

Lifted emotionally by the raucous crowd that arrived early, cheering their warmups, and then provided high-decibel support at every crucial moment of the game, the Raiders did everything they needed to do–including marching down the field for a beautiful ninety-nine yard touchdown drive– to defeat the defending AFC champions. Jeff played a solid game for the Raiders, completing fourteen of twenty-six passes for 136 yards.

Jeff’s 1995 season with the Raiders was filled with injuries and ended with shoulder surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff in his left shoulder after a hit in a game against the Cowboys. Jeff’s first injury that season was a compression fracture of his windpipe in Denver on an ABC Monday night game, when he was struck in the neck withe the Broncos were returning a fumble. He stayed int he game until the third quarter… and soon after that, he started having trouble breathing. X-rays take in the olcker room afterward confirmed a serious injury and he was taken to the hospital.

Jeff didn’t have much time to heal before sustaining another injury. He returned against Cincinnati and cracked several bones in his left hand when it was sandwiched between the helmets of a couple of defensive linemen. By the time the 1995 season ended, Jeff had missed all of five games and parts of four others due to his assorted injuries. The Raiders struggled, too, finishing 8-8 and out of the AFC playoffs. That hurt after an impressive 8-2 start….

Raider offensive guard Steve Wisniewski once said of Jeff: “To his own fault sometimes, he’ll step up and hold the ball until that receiver breaks or until something opens up. You don’t see him throwing out of bounds that often, getting the happy feet you hear about in the NFL. He’ll stand in there and take his shot. Sometimes we’ll tell him, “throw the ball away if it’s not there, Hoss. Don’t take any more hits” But that’s not his style.”

Although the surgery to repair Jeff’s shoulder went well, his doctor told Jeff it was the worst of its kind he had ever seen. Everything around the joint was either gone or torn to shreds. Even the large muscle that stretched around the torso to his back had been torn. Not only did he have to go through the surgery itself, but he also had to endure a long, grueling rehabilitation. Jeff said it was the most painful thing he’d ever experienced. He couldn’t sleep for weeks and the medication for pain didn’t help much, if at all.

What lies ahead for Jeff is uncertain. He wants to fulfill the remaining years left on his contract with the Raiders, but with a new coach and another quarterback coming in, age creeping up, and injuries taking longer to heal, only the Lord knows what lies ahead for him and his family.

Completion percentage of 57.2 over Raider career is second-best in team history.

In thirty-one games as a Raider, has thrown for 6,576 yards to rank eighth in team career passing yardage, completing 499 of 873 passes with thirty-four touchdowns over that span.

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