Fred Biletnikoff (Fred Roe/WireImage.com) and Lester Hayes (Heinz Kluetmeier/SI)
By dombonvissuto
July 15, 2014

The MMQB presents NFL 95, a special project running through mid-July detailing 95 artifacts that tell the story of the NFL, as the league prepares to enter its 95th season. See the entire series here.

Al Davis was famous for his catchphrase, “Just win, baby,” though some Raiders of the ’ 70s and ’80s might have taken the owner's words a bit too literally. 

That’s one way to explain why some players smeared their bodies with dark yellow substance before games. “Stickum” was said to enhance the potential for sure-handed receptions—Oakland Hall of Famer Fred Biletnikoff dabbed the substance on his socks so he could easily reach down for a shmear—or for members of the secondary elongated the bump in bump-and-run coverage. Though numerous players on plenty of teams lathered up, Stickum is is probably most associated with Raiders defensive back Lester Hayes, who won the 1980 NFL Defensive Player of the Year award with 13 interceptions, then added five more en route to Super Bowl XV. Hayes smeared a half a jar (about nine ounces) on his body each game, the honey-like goo dripped from his forearms, hands and uniform.

Competitive advantage, baby.

The NFL banned Stickum and similar adhesives in 1981. In his final six seasons, Hayes never tallied more than four interceptions. Of playing with Stickum, Hayes said this to the Houston Chronicle in 2004: “I could catch a football behind my back on one knee. It was tremendous stuff.”

Stickum hasn’t been seen since, though the NFL opened an investigation into the Chargers in 2012 after an on-field official thought a towel on San Diego’s sideline might have a sticky substance on it. The NFL found no wrongdoing but fined the team $20,000 for not immediately complying with the official. Consider that being caught in a sticky situation.

—Emily Kaplan

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