Most Underrated Raider of All Time:  Wayne Hawkins

With the vast history of the Oakland, Los Angeles, and the Las Vegas Raiders, Wayne Hawkins stands out as the most underrated of all time
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Guard Wayne Hawkins is probably the most unheralded and underrated of the Oakland Raiders who helped build the franchise into a pro football power during the 1960s.

Hawkins, undersized at 6 feet and 240 pounds, originally was selected in the second round by the Denver Broncos in the initial American Football League draft, but somehow wound up playing for the Raiders in all 10 seasons the AFL was in existence from 1960-69.

After being injured and spending the 1970 season on the Raiders taxi squad, the first season of the full merger with the National Football League, Hawkins announced his retirement in 1971.

He was one of only 20 players who were active in all 10 seasons of the AFL.

Hawkins moved on after football, becoming successful in the real estate investment business, in addition to becoming a serious golfer and supporting such charities as Caring for Kids, which benefits the Monterey Bay Boys & Girls Clubs, and the Children’s Miracle Network.

“He was very good, just solid,” said quarterback Tom Flores, who was Hawkins’ teammate at the University of the Pacific in Stockton, Calif., and later with the Raiders. “You could count on him and Jim Otto side-by-side. They were my protectors in my years with the Raiders.”

Hawkins, a member of the Raiders All-Time team, started on both sides of the ball for the Pacific, was an AFL All-Star for five consecutive seasons from 1963-67, and started for the Silver and Black in Super Bowl II against the Green Bay Packers.

In that game, he played against Hall of Fame guard Jerry Kramer of the Packers, who like Hawkins was born and grew up in Jordan, Utah. Their mothers were friends and they shared the same doctor growing up.

And in the last two years of his career, right guard Hawkins played on an offensive line that also included future Hall of Famers Otto, guard Gene Upshaw, and tackle Art Shell.

Hawkins was like Otto in that he never came off the field unless he could not stand up. In one game, he took a hit from 6-9 defensive end Ernie Ladd that crushed Hawkins’ head against the goal post, which in those days was located a yard inside the goal line.

After continuing to play in the game, Hawkins learned the next day that his jaw was broken from ear-to-ear, but after having his jaw wired shut he started and played the next six games without a complaint.

In another game against the Broncos, Hawkins was knocked unconscious early in the first quarter and sat dazed on the sidelines the rest of the first half. Then he came back and played the entire second half.

“I always went back in the game,” Hawkins said. “That was my job.”

Said Flores: “I think it is the way football is. That might be a little crass, and most of these guys are aware of the possibilities (of brain injuries). Some that you read about maybe played one year and retired because of their fear. But a majority of them keep playing. The game just lights them up.”

A left knee injury ended Hawkins’ career in 1969, and in 2016 he underwent a total knee reconstruction, followed by right hip replacement surgery a year later, which was followed days later by a stroke.

But those are the least of Hawkins’ problems these days. He has suffered from traumatic brain injury and dementia for several years. His wife, Sharon, put him in several homes but pulled him out because she believed she could take better care of him.

Hawkins first saw Sharon when she was a cheerleader at Pacific, and to this day he remembers it this way: “I said, ‘I want that one.’”

In the mid-1980s, Hawkins collaborated with fellow former Raiders linemen Bob Svihus and Dave Dalby in writing the book, “Raider: How Offensive Can You Be? A 25-year History of the Oakland Raiders.”

Like Otto, who has had something like 75 surgeries and in 2007 had his lower right leg amputated, Hawkins has said he has no regrets and would do it all over again if he had the chance.

“Rock ’em, sock ’em, Jesus block ’em,” Hawkins said a few years ago. “And we had a tough game. But we played well. Our whole team was good.”

Like Otto, Hawkins is the embodiment of the saying, “Once a Raider, Always a Raider.”

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