The Oakland Raiders were a passing team from their earliest days in 1960, but they complemented that with a power running game, especially from 1969-81.
Behind a formidable offensive line that included the likes of five Hall of Famers—center Jim Otto, guard Gene Upshaw, tackles Art Shell and Bob Brown, and tight end Dave Casper—the Silver and Black went right at their opponents.
And the leading rushers during that time were Marv Hubbard and Mark van Eeghen, both hard-running fullbacks who played college football at Colgate. Hubbard led the team in rushing from 1971-74, while Van Eeghen did it from 1976-80.
“When we came to the line of scrimmage, other teams wanted to know where Cliff Branch and Fred Biletnikoff were because we were known as a passing team,” said Kenny “Snake” Stabler, who was the Raiders quarterback for much of the 1970s.
“But we had a powerful offensive line and two great fullbacks during that time, Marv Hubbard and Mark van Eeghen, interestingly both from Colgate. If you gave either one of them even a little hole they were so big and strong they would get to the second level and then just knock people over.
“They were such a great complement to our passing game.”
The 6-1, 235-pound Hubbard was drafted by the Raiders in the 11th round (No. 277) overall of the 1968 American Football League Draft.
Hubbard didn’t become a starter until 1971, but in seven seasons with the Silver and Black, he rushed for 4,394 yards and 23 touchdowns, averaging 4.8 yards per carry, in addition to catching 79 passes for 592 yards and a touchdown.
“My whole time with the Raiders, I had two fullbacks that were both from Colgate, Marv Hubbard being the first one and then Mark van Eeghen after that,” Shell said “Marv was a tough guy. He was a tough runner. He was a hard runner.
”We used to use him … to run him early to kind of wear the defense down and then in the middle we would pass and do all our stuff, and then when we got ahead we would run him to finish the game. He was a great game finisher. Once we got that lead, you weren't going to get it back again.
“We just kept feeding Marv Hubbard, and Marv Hubbard loved that part of football.”
Coach John Madden said almost the same thing: “Marv was a tough guy and a tough runner. You think back now, people don’t do things like this, but we used to run him early to kind of wear the defense down, and then when we got ahead, we would run him to finish the game.”
Hubbard especially enjoyed playing against the Kansas City Chiefs, the Raiders’ top rival in the AFC West, and their All-Pro middle linebacker Willie Lanier.
Their one-on-one battles were classic.
“The hole opened and there he was Willie Lanier,” Hubbard said after one game in which he led the Raiders to victory. “I put my head down and hit him right between the numbers, and knocked him on his back.”
Said Hubbard after his career was over: “My running style was pretty much, ‘Get the (expletive) out of my way.’ But there was a method to my madness. I would intentionally hit tacklers. By the final quarter, defensive backs knew I was head-hunting.”
The 6-3, 225-pound Van Eeghen was drafted in the third round (No. 75 overall) of the 1974 draft, and by the time he left the Raiders in 1981, he was their all-time leading rusher with 5,907 yards and 35 touchdowns, in addition to catching 162 passes for 1,467 yards and three more scores.
When he came to the Raiders, Van Eeghen had a mentor.
“Marv took me under his wing a taught me the things I needed to know, even though he knew that I might eventually take his job,” Van Eeghen said. “Maybe it was because we were both from Colgate, but he was very good to me.”
Van Eeghen did take Hubbard’s job full-time in 1976 and rushed for 1,012 that season, followed by 1,273 and 1,080 in the next two seasons.
However, when the Raiders dominated the Minnesota Vikings, 32-14, in Super Bowl XI to cap the 1976 season, Van Eeghen had a different role as the lead blocker for halfback Clarence Davis.
Davis led the Raiders with 137 yards on 16 carries, as Van Eeghen terrorized the Vikings linebackers in addition to rushing for 73 yards on 18 carries.
“Van Eeghen’s blocking was a key to us dominating that game the way we did,” Stabler said.
Wrote Ryan Smith of Last Word in Sports in 2016: “While Van Eeghen isn’t a household name … his pulverizing, pummeling blocking style silenced the likes Minnesota’s ‘The Purple People Eaters’, and paved the way for the Raiders running game.”
When the Raiders defeated the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl XV four years later, Van Eeghen got his chance to lead the way on the ground with 75 yards on 18 carries.
Van Eeghen was the Raiders' all-time leading rusher when he left in 1982 to spend his last two seasons near home with the New England Patriots, although now he is No. 2 behind Marcus Allen, while Hubbard checks in at No. 5.
Despite his time with the Patriots, Van Eeghen says: “I’m a Raider, through and through.”
Alec Ingold is the lastest great fullback to wear the Silver and Black. But when Raider Nation remembers the legacy of that position, it’s not difficult to separate Hubbard and Van Eeghen, two tough guys from Colgate, at the top of any list..
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