Oakland Raiders' former running back, Napoleon Kaufman, one of the best players in the history of the NFL, likes to visit the team's Alameda facility and O.co Coliseum as often as he can. On Monday, April 9, he paid a visit and spoke with Jeanette Thompson.
Every time I hear the Kaufman talk about his time with the team and how he still feels about the Silver and Black today, I'm reminded why my favorite number has been 26 for nearly 17 years. Of course, that's the jersey Kaufman wore during his six seasons in the NFL, never playing for another franchise in his career.
The 38-year-old told Thompson he's been a Raider fan ever since he was "a little kid" and dreamed of playing for the legendary team. He went on to achieve great success with the Washington Huskies, becoming the team's all-time rusher leader and finished his four-year college career with 4,401 yards as well as setting numerous records along the way.
I was privileged to have been at one of Kaufman's stand-out games in Seattle when the Huskies and San Jose State Spartans battled it out on the field back on October 9, 1994. He ran down the field to score a 91-yard touchdown to help take his team to a 34-20 victory. It's a moment that's etched in my mind forever and I became an instant fan that day.
Kaufman told Thompson on Monday that he saw Al Davis on the field when he was at the Combine and when he got the call to become a Raider it was "a dream come true."
I think the Raider Nation was privileged to have such an exceptional man and player on the field, and as fans, we only wish he had stuck around a little longer. He accomplished great things in his short six season career, with one of the highlights being his record setting performance against the Denver Broncos on October 19, 1997. He rushed for 227 yards, carried the ball 28 times and scored a touchdown, in the Raiders' 28-25 victory over Denver.
Kaufman, always well-spoken and gracious, remarked that he was "surprised that it's still a record considering all the great running backs that have come through."
Holding the number one rushing record for a single-game for nearly 15 years now, it doesn't look like it'll be broken any time soon, although Raider fans have to hope that our current star running back, Darren McFadden, will come close or surpass that in 2012.
No matter what happens, Kaufman will not be forgotten, and I think that many of us appreciate that he's stayed in touch with the team and the fans. He joined Twitter in February and has been very active on the site. He told Thompson that it's been "fun" to connect with Raider fans and that he's "grateful he only played for one team."
Kaufman, who is now Pastor Napoleon Kaufman to his Dublin, California congregation, remarked, "Everyone that knows me knows I love my team. I'm a Raider for life."
I think I can speak for most fans when I say, we're very proud to have this great former player, who exemplifies the passion of the Raider Nation, on our side.
K.C. Dermody grew up in the Bay Area of California, and has been an Oakland Raiders fan for her entire life. She has continued her loyalty to the team through its many ups and downs over the decades, and has been privileged to meet several of her favorite players, including famed quarterback, Jim Plunkett. Follow her on Twitter @kcdermody or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/kcdermodywriter.
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