For those who have never had the pleasure of going to Ricky’s, it is Raiderland. Located in San Leandro, it is the ultimate for your bar and sports viewing pleasure, with Raiders history on nearly every wall. Containing multiple open pits, inside and out, it truly was the ideal place for hosting an the Raiders fan appreciation event Friday.
Among those in attendance were a collection of Raider legends, former players, front office staff and the owner. Ranging from Mark Davis, Reggie McKenzie, Cliff Branch, George Atkinson, Lester Hayes, Raymond Chester, Mervyn Fernandez, Kenny Shedd, Chris Cooper, and more.
A loud cheer erupted as Jon Gruden entered the cage of fans fueled by the crowd he and the Oakland Raiders had invited, Gruden and company began whipping the Raider Nation contingent in attendance into a frenzy.
“Thank you for your support of the Oakland Raiders,” Gruden told the crowd. “There’s nobody like you, there’s nobody like you, and I just have to tell you its great to be back.”
Gruden, welcoming everyone like family, is every bit as electric in person as he appears on camera. He genuinely loves coaching football and being in Oakland, watching him work the crowds displayed his genuine authenticity. Nobody on planet earth is more excited for training camp to begin than he is.
“Carr is one helluva quarterback,” Gruden continued. “I got a lot of work to do. . . I encourage you to come up to training camp and watch for yourselves. One thing I can promise you guys, I’ll do the very best I can.”
After receiving a rousing intro from Gruden, McKenzie was fired up and even called for his old helmet. McKenzie took the mic and spoke from his heart with a message for the city of Oakland.
“The no. 1 fans of all sports are right here in Oakland,” said McKenzie. “We are going to do everything in our power to give you what you want. Let’s enjoy tonight and let’s cheer on the Raiders from here.”
In the midst of some tumultuous times with the broadcast team turned over, and relocation looming, McKenzie has always supported the Bay Area. Alluding to his personal feelings while towing the company line.
On this day, out at a meet and greet, McKenzie let more of his personality show than he usually does. He too is a fan of this football team, and genuinely wants to see them win a Super Bowl before leaving Oakland. Acknowledging having the pieces in place both on-field and off, the time for talking has come to an end.
When I asked McKenzie about Khalil Mack, in his response he recalled having gone through a similar scenario with Brett Favre, during his time in Green Bay. He said expects it to get done, but “it’s one of those things that’s just going to take some doing.”
McKenzie along with the rest of the legends in attendance believe wholeheartedly in coach Gruden. Believing he is in fact the right man for the job and the right man to lead the Raiders back to the NFL promised land.
A man who knows quite well about reaching that promised land is three-time Super Bowl champ Cliff “The most feared deep threat in the history of the league” Branch, was all smiles as he addressed the crowd. Keeping it short and sweet, Branch got straight to speaking about what was on his mind.
“Jon Gruden is back baby,” said Branch. “Here’s a man very dedicated to his craft. You will see a championship. . . [Gruden is] all about business. Only reason he came back is because he had unfinished business.”
Lester “The Judge” Hayes, the 1980 Defensive Player of the year, a 2x Super Bowl Champion, and a 5x Pro Bowler divulged his secrets to success.
“You want to know our secret of winning?” Hayes asked. “Our coaches, coached us up. . . Thank you, God, for coach Gruden. . . Guys I promise you coach Gruden will bring us a championship.”
The fans believe in Gruden too. Everyone was fired up Friday. The good times were rolling, the drinks were flowing, and the whole crew came out to get in on the festivities. This time next week they will be hitting the field for training camp.