Raider Nation mourns the death of Dan Conners

Dan Conners scored five touchdowns on interceptions and fumbles during his 11-year career with the Raiders.
Tom LaMarre

by Tom LaMarre

Dan Conners, who played middle linebacker for 11 seasons with the Oakland Raiders in the 1960s and 1970s, died on Sunday at French Hospital Medical Center in San Luis Obispo. He was 78.

Conners was surrounded by relatives and friends when he passed away, the Santa Monica Daily Press reported. The cause of death was not revealed.

The Raiders drafted the 6-2, 230-pound Conners in the second round (15th overall) of the 1964 American Football League Draft out of Miami (Fla.) and he was instrumental in Oakland’s first AFC Championship in 1967, when the Raiders lost to the Green Bay Packers in Super Bowl II.

Conners, who also was drafted in the fifth round (No. 70 overall) by the Chicago Bears in the 1964 NFL Draft, played with the Raiders through 1974 and was a three-time All-AFL selection who also was named second team on the All-Time AFL (1960-70) team.

Tackles were not an official statistic until 2001, but Conners played in 141 games for the Raiders and intercepted 15 passes, returning them for 232 yards and touchdowns of 75, 55 and 42 yards. He also recovered 16 fumbles and returned two for scores.

In addition to his ability and leadership qualities, Conners was a mentor for young Raiders, especially linebacker Phil Villapiano when he was drafted in 1971.

“Dan Conners helped me on the field,” Villapiano said. “He was in his eighth season. He would make a defensive call and then signal me where to go, because there were times I had no clue.”

Conners is survived by his wife, Kathleen; son, Daniel (Shawna) Conners Jr., of Hidden Valley Lake, Calif.; daughter, Laura (Eliseo) Ibarra of Kersey, Colo., and grandchildren, Kelsey Conners, Anthony Ibarra and Anna Ibarra. He was preceded in death by his parents, Robert and Zona Conners; brothers, Bob and Tom; and sister, Mary Ann.
Born Feb. 6, 1942 in Clearfield, Pa., Connors was a three-sport star at St. Mary’s Area High School and was named All-American after leading the Flying Dutch to undefeated seasons in 1957-58.
Conners earned a scholarship to Miami, where he played defensive tackle for the Hurricanes, and was named All-American following his senior season in 1963. He was inducted into the University of Miami Sports Hall of Fame in 1977.
After retiring in 1974, Conners coached with the San Francisco 49ers and served in the scouting department of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers before returning to the Raiders as a scout. In all, he spent more than 25 years in the Raiders organization and for most of that time lived nearby in Pleasanton.

In 1989, Dan moved to San Luis Obispo, where he met Kathleen in 1990, and they were married in 1996.