I come from a long line of Broncos fans. The majority of my family members think John Elway is the person who has had the single-greatest impact on their lives. As a little boy, I would go to my grandma's house every Sunday and sit by her side as she cheered on the "Donkeys."
I think I became a Raiders fan simply to antagonize my grandma. I can still hear her words today: "Don't cheer for the Raiders, you stinker!" I didn't heed her words and rejoiced at any triumph over the Broncos.
I started cheering for the Raiders in earnest during the abysmal 1997 season at the helm of Joe Bugel. I was too young to understand why the Raiders were not winning, but (like a true Raider) I was old enough to appreciate greatness. My favorite players were Tim Brown and Napoleon Kaufman. Brown led the league with 104 receptions, while Kaufman averaged nearly five yards per carry while accumulating 1,294 yards rushing for the campaign.
Stuck in rebuilding mode and faced with another difficult season, I have been trying to keep my sanity through reminiscence. I have been watching a lot of old Raiders videos. Bringing back all of these great memories has made me reflect on my all-time favorite Raiders. They are as follows:
1. Tim Brown - the best receiver in history, his omission from the Hall is simply a crime
2. Rich Gannon - I will never forget when he set the consecutive completions record against the Broncos on MNF, leading the Raiders to a 34-10 victory, snapping their four-game losing streak on the way to the Super Bowl
3. Sebastian Janikowski - he has been a Raider and one of the best in the league for the vast majority of my formidable years
4. Charles Woodson - would probably be #2 had he remained a Raider, I knew when the Raiders drafted him after the 1997 season that we were in for better days
5. Steve Wisniewski - before I knew what it meant to be a Pro Bowler, I knew Wisniewski was a Pro Bowler
6. Shane Lechler - I went to see the Raiders play at Arrowhead Stadium and was blown away by the immensity of his punts; watching him warm-up was almost worth the ticket alone
7. Greg Biekert - the Raiders have never really been able to replace his consistency at MLB
8. Darren McFadden - I know he has his issues, but the two years he had playing for Hue Jackson made me truly appreciate the talent he has as a complete back; I only hope he stays healthy and rebounds
9. Lincoln Kennedy - A massive, steady anchor on an outstanding offensive line
10. Jon Ritchie - I just loved what this guy brought to the table and the attitude with which he brought it