Incredibly, Jim Otto and Dave Dalby were the only starting centers the Oakland-Los Angeles Raiders had for their first 26 seasons, playing a combined 345 consecutive games before Dalby retired before the 1986 season.
Nobody knew who could replace Dalby, but Coach Art Shell—a Hall of Fame tackle—looked around and pointed to 6-6, 305-pound guard/tackle Don Mosebar.
“I had never played center in my life,” Mosebar told Lonnie White of the Los Angeles Times in 1992. “I had never snapped or done anything at the position before. (But) I sort of feel honored playing this position because of its history on the team. Just look at it. Pretty much, only three guys had ever played the position.”
Mosebar was selected by the Raiders in the first round (No. 26 overall) of the 1983 NFL Draft out of USC, where he was a four-year starter and an All-American tackle as a senior after being selected Parade Magazine’s National Lineman of the Year in his final season at Mt. Whitney High School in Visalia, Calif.
Mosebar played tackle and guard in this first three seasons with the Raiders and then did his best to emulate Otto and Dalby. He was selected to three Pro Bowls, made first-team an All-Pro in 1991, and playing in 173 games in his 13 seasons—starting 146 of 149 games from 1985-94 while often playing through back injuries.
An eye injury sustained at training camp in 1995 ended Mosebar’s career.
“Don was a very good football player, but unfortunately he had some nagging injuries that prevented him from being even better,” Otto recalled. “Just as I did, Dave Dalby was a very good mentor and helped him out.
“But Don Mosebar was another very good center, was a pretty fair pass blocker as I recall, and played well for the Raiders for a long time.”
Otto started out as a 210-pound center out of Miami (Fla.) in 1960, and built himself up to 255 pounds on his 6-2 frame, while Dalby was a 6-3, 247-pounder who was drafted in the fourth round out of UCLA in 1972.
Mosebar, who in his first two seasons figured he would be following in Shell’s footsteps at tackle, instead became the biggest center most people had ever seen.
“I always thought of centers being 6-foot or 6-1,” said Mosebar, who put on 20 pounds when he heard of the position change. “But, that was because I hadn’t seen any big guys playing the position.
“I don’t see myself as a revolutionary, but I guess I was one of the first guys my size to play the position in the league. I remember when I first moved to the position, we were playing Kansas City and their center came up to me and said, ‘You beat me! Now I’m not the tallest center in the league anymore.’ And, he was only about 6-3 or 6-4.”
In addition to his size, there was plenty more that Mosebar brought to the center spot.
His experience at tackle for USC and his early days with the Raiders made him formidable in pass protection and he powerful run blocker. His work at guard helped him with his footwork.
“There are times when my knowledge of each position is a plus,” said Mosebar, who credited Shell—his offensive line coach as a rookie, for his development. “It helps when I might know what might be a harder or an easier assignment for someone else on the line.
“(Shell) really worked on my technique and on how to approach the game mentally. I try to be in the game 100 percent all of the time. I try to work on every single play and not have any penalties.”
And when he made the move to the middle, Mosebar had to make another adjustment, because the center is responsible for making the line calls at the line of scrimmage before almost every play.
Some Raiders barely knew his voice.
“For the first two or three years, he maybe said two words,” defensive end Howie Long said at the time. “But, he changed. He’s like a 305-pound Dennis the Menace. He’s annoying in that he loves to mess around.
“(But) once we line up, (Mosebar) is completely business. When it is time to play, he plays. He is one of the hardest workers on the team (and) has great pride as a football player.”
And was another center of attention for the Silver and Black.
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