by Tom LaMarre
There have been 23 NFL and AFL players who died in combat fighting for their country, probably the most famous safety Pat Tillman of the Arizona Cardinals in Afghanistan in 2004, but none played for the Raiders.
However, on this Memorial Day, long-time fans of the Silver and Black will remember Bob Mischak, who graduated from West Point in 1954 before serving four years of active duty and then playing seven seasons with the New York Giants, New York Titans (now the Jets) and Oakland Raiders.
Mischak served part of his active duty at “Checkpoint Charlie,” the crossing point between East and West Berlin during the Cold War.
The 6-foot, 255-pound Mischak started at guard for the Giants in the famed 1958 NFL Championship Game, when quarterback Johnny Unitas drove the Baltimore Colts to the game-winning touchdown run by Alan Ameche in pro football’s first game decided in a sudden-death overtime.
Mischak was an All-AFL guard for the Titans in 1960 and 1961, and also was a mostly blocking tight end at times for the Raiders, making three catches in his career for 52 yards, a 17.3-yard average.
“My father and Art Powell were two of Al Davis’ earliest trades with the Jets,” Bob Mischak Jr. told Raiders Italia. “Much like his experience with the Titans, he had a great time as a player for the Silver and Black. Playing in Frank Youell Field, with its bleacher seating and intimate relationship with the fans, was a special memory for him. The 1963 team won its last eight games, finished 10-4 and made an amazing turn around from the previous 1-13 season. Davis was named Coach of the Year.
“Davis’ arrival certainly did change the destiny of the Raiders and pro football. In the same way, Al’s trading for my father changed the destiny of his career, too.”
After retiring following the 1965 season, Mischak returned West Point and was an assistant coach from 1966 to 1973, helping the Cadets compile a winning record during five of his seven years on staff—including five victories over Navy.
Mischak returned to the Raiders as tight ends coach and then served as Player Personnel Director from 1973 to 1987. During that time, the Raiders won three Super Bowls and played in eight AFC Championship games.
Later, Mischak coached in the Arena Football League, International League of American Football, Italian Football League and World League of American Football.
Mischak lettered in football and baseball at West Point, but football was his sport. He led the nation in kickoff returns in 1951, setting a Michie Stadium record with a 97-yard return for a touchdown against Dartmouth that year, and held five Army kickoff records at the time of his graduation.
In 1952, Mischak was moved to offensive end, where he caught 12 passes for 209 yards and a touchdown.
Mischak made one of the most famous plays in Army history against Duke in 1953 at the Polo Grounds in New York, running down Red Smith from behind on a 73-yard run and tackling him on the three-yard line late in the game.
Army held the Blue Devils and won, 14-13.
“In somehow catching and collaring (Smith), Mischak displayed heart and a pursuit that for one single play I have never seen matched,” legendary Army Coach Earl “Red” Blaik said. “ … The game never to be forgotten.”
Mischak died in 2014 at the age of 81 and was posthumously enshrined into the Army/West Point Sports Hall of Fame in 2017. He also was named No. 7 on NFL.com's list of Top Ten All Time NFL Players from service academies.