(EDITOR’S NOTE: To access the Tom Flores interview fast-forward to 24;00 of the attached audio: Ep 8: 2021 HOF Semifinalists; 2020 Turkeys; Conversation w/ Tom Flores | The Eye Test for Two | Spreaker)
Tom Flores was the first Hispanic quarterback to win a Super Bowl ring and the first minority head coach to win a Lombardi Trophy. In fact, he won two. But now the former Raiders’ quarterback and head coach is on the verge of another first.
He could be the first Hispanic head coach inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Flores is the first … and only … candidate from the Hall’s newly created Coaches Category for the Class of 2021. His election in February is not only possible; it is expected … and good for him. He turns 84 in March, and while acknowledging that an induction would be “very meaningful” to him, he understands it is about more … much more … than Tom Flores.
“You are being placed in a room,” he said on the latest “Eye Test for Two” podcast on fullpressradio.com, “with so many luminaries that made this game what it is today, going all the way back to whenever. And I will be one of the few … very few … Hispanics in that room.”
And that, he knows, transcends his personal accomplishments. Because while Tom Flores represented the Raiders when he quarterbacked them in the 1960s and coached them to victories in Super Bowls XV and XVIII, he represents a much larger community now.
The Hispanic community.
“I didn’t really realize it until years later -- after I did most of my work -- how important it was to them, “ he said. “When I traveled around the country I would talk to somebody who would say, ‘My Dad watched you play.’ Or ‘My grandfather watched you play and coach, and he cried.’ And I’d say, ‘What?’ (And that person would reply), ‘He cried.’
“And I didn’t even know the grandfather … or the father … or the mother … or whoever. That’s how important it was to them. So then I started realizing: You know, this is a pretty unique situation to be in.
“I can remember as a young kid looking at Hispanic people in show business or in some way and being proud just being a San Joaquin Valley person as a kid (his family moved there from Mexico when he was 12) watching Bob Mathias win the decathlon (1948). He was 17 years old, and I was a young kid myself … and he was from the Valley … thinking how proud I was of him. And I didn’t even know him.”
There are millions of Raiders’ fans who don’t know Tom Flores but who admire him for what he achieved as a player, as a coach and as an individual. He won 61 percent of his games with the Silver and Black, was 8-3 in the playoffs and brought home two of their three Lombardi trophies.
Moreover, he’s one of only two persons in NFL history to win Super Bowl rings as a player (with Kansas City), assistant coach (with the Raiders) and head coach. The other is Hall of Famer Mike Ditka.
But then, after quitting the NFL sidelines, Flores became a broadcaster on the Raiders Radio Network and was more than a knowledgeable and credible analyst. He was a goodwill ambassador for Raider Nation. And it is that team … those fans … and the people of California’s Central Valley … he carries with him if and when Canton opens its doors for an induction long overdue.
“You think about those things,” he said. “I tell people, ‘I’m not going in -- if I go in -- by myself. I’m going in with a lot of people. A lot of fans; a lot of the Raider Nation.”