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Raiders Williams Made a Big Splash, Gone in a Flash

In the vast history of the Las Vegas Raiders running back success, don't forget the great Harvey Williams.

Harvey Williams might have been one of the best running backs in Oakland-Los Angeles-Las Vegas Raiders history had Napoleon Kaufman, and Coach Jon Gruden, not come along.

The 6-2, 220-pound Williams was selected by the Kansas City Chiefs with the 21st overall pick of the 1991 National Football League out of LSU, where despite knee injuries he rushed for 2,860 yards and 27 touchdowns in addition to catching 73 passes for 879 yards and four scores in his career and being named All-Southeastern Conference as a senior.

In his first two seasons with the Chiefs, Williams played a backup role to Barry Word and Christian Okoye, rushing for a total of 858 yards and two touchdowns in addition to catching 28 passes for 218 yards and three scores.

In 1993, former Raiders star Marcus Allen signed with the Chiefs as a free agent and Williams saw the handwriting on the wall, so the next season he left Kansas City and signed as a free agent with the Raiders.

Having seen both sides of the Raiders-Chiefs rivalry, Williams said this about it: “Only one word, ‘blood.’”

Williams was pretty much an instant sensation for the Raiders, rushing for 983 yards and four touchdowns in addition to catching 47 passes for 391 yards and three more scores while completing his only pass for 13 yards and another touchdown.

The following season, Williams was even better, rushing for 1,114 yards and nine touchdowns including a 60-yarder, while catching 54 passes for 354 yards.

In a game in that 1995 season, Williams rushed for 160 yards and a 25-yard touchdown, in addition to throwing an 18-yard scoring pass to tight end Andrew Glover in a 34-14 rout of the Seattle Seahawks at the Oakland Coliseum.

“Harvey is an outstanding back,” Coach Mike White said after the game. “People don’t put him in the upper echelon with Barry Sanders and those guys, but to me he is a tremendous runner. He just got stronger as the game went along.”

Added quarterback Jeff Hostetler: “When we’re running like we did today, we get in that mode of just trying to stuff it down people's throats. Harvey Williams was absolutely great. Harvey had a great game.”

However, Williams was beaten out for the starting job in 1996 by Napoleon Kaufmann, the Raiders’ No. 1 choice (No. 18 overall) in the 1995 NFL Draft out of Washington.

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Williams was moved to tight end and had one more big game for the Raiders.

In 1997, Williams rushed four times for seven yards and two one-yard touchdowns, in addition to catching three passes for 59 yards and two more scores of eight and 32 yards from quarterback Jeff George in a 38-13 trouncing of the San Diego Chargers in a Sunday Night Football Game at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego.

That was virtually it for Williams with the Raiders, even though he rushed for 496 yards and two touchdowns in addition to catching 26 passes for 173 yards in 1998, his last season with the Silver and Black. He ranks 11th on the Raiders’ all-time rushing list with 3,094 yards, plus 23 total touchdowns in six seasons.

But during that season, Williams gave Coach Jon Gruden the nickname of “Chucky” after the cartoon character.

“Har-vey Will-iams,” Gruden said of when it happened in 1998. “He went the wrong way on an audible. Ninety-six is to the right, 97 is to the left: We called a 96, and he went 97. The guy went the other way. Of course, there were only five major television networks at the game, and 70,000 fans there booing. Sorry for getting upset. Gee.

“Next thing I know, a newspaper has a picture of Chucky next to a picture of me. Next thing I know, no one knows my name anymore.”

When the Raiders released Williams after that season, Gruden said: “It was tough. Harvey’s a good football player and I know he’s going to play good football somewhere else.”

Even though he gained 496 yards rushing as a backup that season, Williams never played in the NFL again.

Kaufman, the man the Raiders decided was better than Williams, is fourth on the Raiders’ all-time rushing list with 4,792 yards and 12 touchdowns in his six-year career as a starter, but he retired in 2001 to become a Christian minister.

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