As general manager Reggie McKenzie rolled up his sleeves during free agency and slowly started to rebuild the Oakland Raiders, I couldn’t help but wonder how these players would react to becoming a part of the team. More importantly, what would their reaction be to Raider Nation and the deep passion they hold for the team that they love?
In a 2013 article for nfl.com, Dan Hanzus detailed Raider Nation’s fight to persuade Charles Woodson to come home to Oakland. He wrote, “The Oakland Raiders haven’t produced a winner in more than a decade, an extended fallow period that would drive some fan bases into hiding. But that’s not how Raider Nation rolls.” And he was correct.
Raider Nation took to Twitter and Facebook to let other fans know what date Woodson would be visiting the Raiders facility. Fans showed up in droves, decked out in silver and black. As a Raiders fan, I must say that photos from that day are etched in my mind and to this day, still give me chills. Former Raiders cornerback, DeMarcus Van Dyke said, “Man, if the Raiders fans be at the Alameda facility waiting on Charles Woodson, I’m willing to bet he leave there a Raider.”
When asked his thoughts about the fans showing up in full force to welcome him, Woodson wasn’t even sure what to say. He said, “To be honest, I didn’t even know how to react to it. I had heard they were gonna do it, but you really don’t know if it’s gonna happen. But to drive up here today and see all the fans yelling and excited that I’m back, that means a lot. I can’t wait. I can’t wait to go to work. I can’t wait to put that silver and black jersey back on and help this team win.”
Most of the fan base was of the mindset that no big name free agents would sign with the Raiders until a big name player signed with the team to make other players think Oakland is a worthwhile cause. For most of Raider Nation, the big name player who started the snowball was defensive end Justin Tuck, formerly of the New York Giants. In a Behind the Shield interview, Tuck talks about the days leading up to when he signed with the Raiders. He says, “Raider Nation has been tweeting me for the last two days now. A couple guys sent me pictures of me in the jersey with the face mask and everything so I’m excited. Everyone knows how storied this franchise is and what the silver and black stands for. We’re just trying to put together some guys who want to come together and restore that.”
A lot of Raider Nation really felt that Tuck’s signing was a turning point in the Raiders’ free agency. He was the big name needed to draw other players in. Raider Nation has been intensely interested in Tuck, wanting to know what his reaction was to all that Raider Nation love that he received in the days leading up to his signing.
“I am overwhelmed by the incredible welcome I have received by Raider Nation,” said Tuck, in an exclusive statement to cover32. “I’m excited to help this organization reach its full potential and get after the QB and win some games. It’s going to be awesome playing in front of the fans in the Black Hole, it’s definitely something I am looking forward to come September.”
Tuck is not the only player looking forward to playing in front of the Black Hole. Matt Schaub says, “I’m very excited to play in front of the Black Hole and be a part of Raider Nation. Just the fan base here is so passionate and it’s something I’m very proud in being where I’m from and so I can relate to that. I’m excited to be out on the field and give them something to be proud of.”
Lamarr Woodley also shares Tuck’s view in that the Raiders are a storied franchise. When asked about it, Woodley says, “That was one of the things that I was thinking about when I first landed here in California. My Twitter and Facebook were blowing up with Raider nation telling me to sign for the past two days. It’s really been crazy. I really found out how strong the fan base was when I looked at my Twitter.”
It’s really great to get an inkling of what new players to the team think about Raider Nation as it is by far, one of the most fanatical fan bases out there. It’s cool to see that new players are receptive to all the Raider Nation affection spilled upon new Raiders. I always wonder if it might be too much to take as a new player coming to Oakland.
These new players not only took it in stride, but also are ready to electrify the Nation by bringing wins back to the Black Hole!