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Jon Gruden’s ‘number one hire’ brings on board female among ‘diverse’ Raiders staff

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In less than a week the 2018 Raiders players will converge on the team’s Alameda facility for the first time to begin offseason workouts. No part of Jon Gruden’s new staff is more important in this early time than the strength and conditioning staff. That’s because the primary focus – three of the four hours on day one – will be spent in the weight room and the training room.

In that regard, the strength and conditioning staff will be among the first with whom these players will get a chance to become familiar.

The head of that group is Tom Shaw, with whom Gruden has known for some time. Both employed by Disney; Shaw working at the Wide World of Sports in Orlando while Gruden was not far away in Tampa, the last nine years as an ESPN Monday Night Football analyst.

“Nowadays, your strength and conditioning staff, they’re with your players more than you are,” said Gruden. “And to have his vast background of dealing with people and getting them to do something is hard. Going out there and running and running and jumping and lifting, it’s hard. It’s really hard for some guys that don’t like to do it. But to be able to motivate them and to be able to get results is a great skill to have on our team.”

Shaw became what Gruden called his “number one hire” not just for his vast experience in strength and conditioning, but for the people he brings with him.

“What I love about Shaw is I love the staff that he’s put together,” said Gruden. “My son [Duece Gruden] is one of his guys. We hired the first female strength coach that I know of. She’s spectacular, wait until you meet her.”

Her name is Kelsey Martinez and she has been on Shaw’s staff since 2015. She was put mainly in charge of supporting the baseball, softball, women’s tennis, and track & field athletes. She played college softball at Bethany College and attended Colorado State University where she earned her degree in Exercise Science. She has also assisted with the NFL Combine and NFL Vet’s training program.

Whether she is the first female strength coach in NFL history is debatable. A woman named Lee Brandon claims to be the first ever NFL strength coach with the Jets in 1990. Regardless, it’s a notable thing having Martinez on this staff.

Gruden went on to mention several others on the staff including a former baseball strength coach.

“We have a real diverse group that can service kickers, punters, injured players, big guys, skinnier guys, fast guys,” Gruden continued. “I love that. I love what we got going and I’m really proud of them. Anxious to see our players and how they respond to them.”

So, basically Shaw’s staff – which is now the Raiders’ staff – was put together based on various and diverse factors, none of which are based on things like race or gender. Sounds like the kind of team Al Davis would be proud of.

One thing Al Davis always believed in was that there’s no room in this business for bias. If there’s a player, coach, or front office person who is the best option, you hire or sign that person regardless of unimportant characteristics.

In some ways Gruden fit into this category as well. He was hired to be the Raiders head coach despite being just 34 years of age – one of the youngest ever NFL head coach at that time. He joined an organization that employed the first and only ever female CEO – Amy Trask. The same organization that had hired the first minority head coach (Tom Flores), and first black head coach (Art Shell). Diversity is kind of the Raiders’ thing.