Running back Pete Banaszak was one of the most popular Oakland Raiders ever, although he often thought he was going to be released by the Silver and Black.
Banaszak was not too big at 5-11 and 210 pounds in addition to being not too fast, but was drafted by the Raiders in the fifth round (No. 59 overall) of the sixth round of the 1966 NFL Draft out of the University of Miami in Florida and is a member of the Hurricanes’ Hall of Fame.
“Do you hear anything?” Banaszak would ask reporters as cutdown dates approached throughout his 13-year career with the Raiders.
Despite his insecurity, Banaszak turned out to be a valuable member of the Raiders, even though he started only 31 of his 173 games with the Silver and Black, rushing for 3,772 yards on 964 carries to rank sixth in franchise history in rushing while running for 47 touchdowns—second to Hall of Famer Marcus Allen’s 79 in franchise history.
Pete Banaszak also caught 121 passes for 1,022 yards and five scores, in addition to returning 23 kickoffs for 351 yards.
However, Banaszak is remembered for his contributions to two of the greatest games in Raider history.
Undoubtedly, the highlight of Banaszak’s career was scoring touchdowns from one and two yards out as the Raiders trounced the Minnesota Vikings, 32-14, in Super Bowl XI to cap the 1976 season, and it didn’t matter that he rushed for only 19 yards on 10 carries in the game while backing up Clarence Davis and Mark van Eeghen, who combined for 210 yards rushing.
When the Raiders needed short-yardage for a first down or a touchdown, they gave the ball to Banaszak and he was rarely disappointed.
“We knew that when we gave the ball to Pete, he would get the first down or the touchdown, somehow, some way,” quarterback Kenny “Snake” Stabler said. “He was the best short-yardage runner I ever saw.
“ … I was so happy to see Clarence have such a great game, and to see Rooster score those two touchdowns (in the Super Bowl). We got contributions from players throughout the roster, and that’s what it takes to win.”
In addition, Banaszak was the man in the middle of the famed “Holy Roller” play, when Stabler intentionally fumbled the ball forward while he was being sacked and Banaszak scooped the ball toward the goal line, where tight end Dave Casper recovered for a touchdown in the final seconds of the game to beat the San Diego Chargers, 21-20, in 1978.
Banaszak’s best season came in 1975 when he totaled 672 yards on 187 carries and led the NFL with 16 rushing touchdowns.
Banaszak appreciated playing behind Hall of Famer Stabler.
“You became bonded together because you lived through the ups and downs,” Banaszak said of playing alongside Snake. “Football is a tough game, it’s a tough game mentally as it is physically. There was nobody tougher than Kenny when you had to have it. ... We’d line up behind him and we sure as hell wanted it a hell of a lot more than other teams, and got it done more than we ever got beat.
“He was the greatest clutch player I’ve ever been around. When all the chips were on the table and you had to make a play, Kenny was there and made it.”
Stabler and Raider Nation have said much of the same about the unheralded Banaszak.
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