Linebacker Jeff Barnes was not a huge star for the Oakland-Los Angeles Raiders, but he definitely had an amazing 11-year career with the Silver and Black.
The 6-2, 233-pound Barnes was drafted by the Raiders in the fifth round (No. 139 overall) of the 1977 NFL Draft out of the University of California in Berkeley just to the north of Oakland after being a standout at Hayward High, only a few miles to the south.
For Barnes, there was only one NFL team he wanted to play for, obviously the Raiders.
“It meant a lot for me (to be drafted by the Raiders), because I had grown up in the Bay Area and all my friends and family were big Raider fans,” said Barnes, who also spent two seasons at Chabot Junior College in Hayward.
“I remember when I was a kid, we would drive down (Interstate) 80 and you could see the old field where the Raiders used to play, it was called Frank Youell Field, and I saw it as a kid. It looked like high school football, but it was the pros, and when I saw that as a kid, I wanted to play with the Raiders.
“But then, playing with the Raiders, it was like a dream come true.”
Of course, by the time Barnes joined the Raiders in 1977, they were playing home games in the Oakland Coliseum, which seated 53,000 fans or more.
Barnes started only one game as a rookie because the Raiders had Future Hall of Famer Ted Hendricks, Monte Johnson, Willie Hall, and Floyd Rice at linebacker, but he became a standout on special teams, something that would remain constant throughout his career—whether he was a starter not.
“My first year playing with the Raiders in 1977, I was on special teams,” Barnes recalled. “Ted Hendricks went in and blocked the ball on a punt. The ball popped up in the air, I followed the ball, I caught it and took off running for about 15 yards and there was a kicker, who was the only person between me and the goal line. I could see the kicker come at me, I thought I had enough speed to beat him, but he had the angle on me and pushed me out of bounds. I was like maybe inside the five, and we got the ball.
“We had a great offense at the time with Clarence Davis and Kenny Stabler, so they took the ball in and that was one of the things that helped us win that game. We went on from that game to play the Baltimore Colts in the playoffs to go on to play the Denver Broncos (in the AFC Championship Game) in Denver. We lost that one, but we almost had a chance to go to the Super Bowl my very first year and it was great.
“Another great play that I have was in my second year playing with the Raiders when we played the Miami Dolphins. There was (Larry) Csonka, who was a great fullback for the Dolphins at one time and I was in on a goal-line play. Csonka came right me, I couldn't believe it.
“All I could see was helmet, shoulder pads, and his feet, and I could see myself on the highlight getting ran over, so what I did was I just fired low and I hit him right at his shoes. He fell over me and landed on the one-yard line-and didn't go in for the touchdown. I looked up said, ‘Shoot, I’m glad I got that guy.’”
Barnes played is entire 11-year NFL career for the Raiders, sometimes starting and at other times coming off the bench in special situations. He made five interceptions and eight fumble recoveries and was especially strong in running situations, but again we don’t know how many tackles he made because those were not official NFL statistics in those days.
In his Raiders career, Barnes played in 157 regular seasons and 13 playoff games, including the Silver and Black’s 27-10 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl XV and their 38-9 rout of the Washington Redskins, when Barnes had a sack of quarterback Joe Theismann.
Barnes was an exceptional all-around player and might be the Raiders’ leading tackler on special teams in franchise history, but apparently, we will never know.
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