by Tom LaMarre
Running back Jack Larscheid, one of the original Oakland Raiders in 1960, would have been 87 today, but tragically he died of a heart attack at the age of 46 in 1980.
Tom Flores, who was the Raiders’ first quarterback in 1960 (and later a two-time winning Super Bowl coach), remembers the 5-6, 162-pound Larscheid well because they played together for two years at what was then College of the Pacific in Stockton and in the first two seasons for the Raiders.
“Jack was a tough little guy, an ex-Marine,” Flores said of Larscheid, who started for the Raiders in that first season at the age of 27. “Even though he was small, he could run inside as well as outside. It didn’t matter to him, he just wanted the ball.
“He was quick off the ball and he had good speed, plus he was an excellent pass receiver because he had very good hands, and he was an terrific kick returner. And he was just fearless.”
Larscheid, who was one of the most popular Raiders on those first teams that wore the team’s colors of black and gold (Al Davis brought silver in 1963), rushed for 397 yards on 94 carries (a 4.2-yard average) and one touchdown in addition to catching 22 passes for 187 yards and a touchdown in 1960.
The versatile Larscheid also completed three of six passes for 71 yards, had 30 kickoff returns for 852 yards and 12 punt returns for 106 yards. He led the fledgling American Football League in combined kick return yardage with 958.
In the first regular-season game in Raiders’ history, Larscheid had five receptions for 105 yards, including a 46-yard touchdown pass from Flores.
However, future Raiders great George Blanda threw four touchdown passes, kicked four extra points and a field goal while leading the Houston Oilers to a 37-22 victory at Kezar Stadium in San Francisco.
Larscheid also scored on an 87-yard touchdown run on the second play of the game in a 27-14 victory over the Boston Patriots at Kezar that evened the Raiders’ record at 3-3 en route to a 6-8 mark that first season.
However, Larscheid was beaten out the next season by Wayne Crow, who played at the University of California at Berkeley, and the handwriting was on the wall for Larscheid when the Raiders brought in Clem Daniels, who would go on to become the AFL’s all-time leading rusher.
Larscheid was released by the Raiders before the start of the 1962 season.
“He was really upset when they let him go because he knew he could still help the team, even as just a kick returner,” Flores recalled. “He was one of the AFL’s best returners, but it was tough because we could only keep 35 players on the roster then and that made it tough if you were a specialist.
“He never got to play in Oakland.”
Larscheid played briefly for the British Columbia Lions of the Canadian Football League before going back to school and becoming an attorney before settling in Sacramento.
In his 40s, he developed a heart condition and was hospitalized for a while, and after his release Larscheid was told to avoid physical activity.
“But that wasn’t Jack,” Flores said. “He wanted to stay active, so he went out and played tennis. He had a heart attack and died on the tennis court.”
Larscheid was survived by his wife, Sara, who Flores remembers.
“She was a sweet lady,” Flores said. “Jack set me up with her sister, and we double-dated several times.”
Sara Larscheid passed away about three months ago, on Feb. 7, at the age of 86.