We hit exactly a month from the Raiders regular season opener on September 13 against the Bengals. It's also the eve of the Raiders preseason opener, so football is upon us. Today we look at the best number 31 in Silver & Black.
Who wore it best: S Jack Tatum (1971-79)
Tatum is probably more well known for wearing number 32 for the Raiders, but that's not the number he started his career with. He was still wearing number 31 when he made the hit that knocked the ball away from Steelers' John Fuqua which resulted in the infamous Immaculate Reception in 1972. He played his first three seasons in number 31 and was a Pro Bowler in 1973 before switching numbers. With Marcus Allen taking the prize as the best to wear number 32, Tatum gets his due as the best to wear number 31.
Tatum was a punishing safety in the NFL. He isn't in the Hall of Fame though several Hall of Fame safeties including Ronnie Lott and Rod Woodson have said they patterned their game after Tatum. He was a Pro Bowler three straight years from 1973-75 and was the team's star free safety when they won their first Super Bowl following the 1976 season. After nine seasons with the Raiders, collecting 30 interceptions, he played a single season in Houston, adding another seven interceptions.
Who's wearing it now: CB Neiko Thorpe
After starting his career in Kansas City in 2012, Thorpe played in the CFL for a season before signing with the Raiders last offseason as a reserve/future signing and after a solid camp, worked his way onto the roster last season, appearing in 14 games with no starts. At 6-2, 190 pounds, he has the size the Raiders like in a corner. And with the open battle for the cornerback rotation, he is a contender to make the roster again this year.