Ken Herock spent nearly half of his 31 years in the National Football League as a player, talent scout, vice president of player personnel, and assistant general manager with the Oakland Raiders, beginning in 1963.
The 6-2, 230-pound Herock was signed by the Raiders as an undrafted free agent out of West Virginia that year, when Al Davis came to Oakland as a coach and general manager and turned around a franchise that had struggled to 2-12 and 1-13 records in the two previous years, making the team a contender at 10-4
“Davis gave me my start both on the field and in the front office,” said Herock, who played five seasons with the Silver and Black. “He was in charge and we would make recommendations on the players, but he would make all the picks.
“(The Raiders way) wasn't a myth in those days. It was Mr. Davis’ way and he knew he could resurrect players, milk them and get something out of them. I remember being at the old combine one day and we were sitting in the corner of the stadium and he looked around and said we could make a lot of money on this, people want to see this and we could put it on television. He had the ability to look into the future.”
Herock, who was known as a strong blocker, started eight games as a rookie, catching 16 passes for 269 yards and two touchdowns, with his best season coming the next year when he made 23 catches for 63 yards and two more TDs. He was slowed by injuries and a holdout (in 1966) in his final three seasons and wound up with 58 receptions for 849 yards and four touchdowns in five seasons in Oakland.
When the Raiders routed the Houston Oilers, 40-7, in the 1967 American Football League Championship Game at the Oakland Coliseum and lost to the Green Bay Packers, 33-14, in Super Bowl II at the Orange Bowl in Miami, Herock was the backup to tight end, Billy Cannon.
Herock has great memories of Hall of Fame quarterback-kicker George Blanda, who played until he was 48 years old.
“(Blanda) was the most competitive people I have ever been around,” Herock said. “Also, when he was the scout-team quarterback and Daryle (Lamonica) was the starter (at quarterback), he would try to embarrass the first-team defense.
“If he was on the field, he was going to beat you. He played forever.”
Super Bowl II was the last game of Herock’s career with the Raiders, and he played in 1968 for the Cincinnati Bengals and in 1969 for the Boston Patriots before rejoining the Silver and Black as a scout under personnel executive Ron Wolf.
Herock later spent seven seasons as the Raiders,’ player personnel director and was credited with helping build their team that routed the Washington Redskins, 32-14, in Super Bowl XI at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena behind a strong defense and brilliant game plan executed by quarterback Kenny “Snake” Stabler.
“Funny, but when (Stabler) first came to Oakland, he ended up playing in the Continental League (in Spokane, Wash.) and then was a backup, backup and backup for the Raiders. But he could take a team and lead you to victory. He was great and well-liked, but very free-spirited. Also, back then, quarterbacks called their own plays and he knew what he was doing on the field.”
Herock followed Wolf to the expansion Tampa Bay Buccaneers before that 1976 season and held the title of Director of Player Personnel for the team’s first eight years. During his tenure, the Buccaneers reached the playoffs in only four years, at that time the fastest of any NFL team.
Later, Herock was player personnel director of the Atlanta Falcons for 10 seasons. Among his draft picks were cornerback Deion Sanders and quarterback Brett Favre, two of the best players in their positions in NFL history.
Herock returned to Oakland for two seasons and joined Wolf with the Packers in Green Bay for three seasons to wind up his career.
Not only is Herock in the Pennsylvania State, Western Pennsylvania, and Munhall High School Halls of Fame, but he is also a member of the West Virginia All-Time team for the period 1960 to1969. Herock also was the first West Virginia alum to participate in the Super Bowl.
Herock was recruited by famed coaches Joe Paterno of Penn State and Frank Kush of Arizona State out of high school, but chose West Virginia after Coach Art “Pappy” Lewis … “Came to my house and had dinner with us and drank beer with my father.”
And the Herock legacy with the Raiders continues.
Herock’s son, Shaun, was recently re-hired by new General Manager Dave Ziegler of the Las Vegas Raiders as a personnel advisor.
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