It isn’t often that you’ll read about someone other than a player or coach in these pages – or any other pages, for that matter. Today is that exception, as we call your attention to the passing of Derrick Jensen. Derrick Who, you might ask? Ahh…let’s clear that up.
Derrick Jensen was indeed a football player, but that’s not why you’re reading about him here. More on that later. He played his entire NFL career – nine years – for the Oakland Raiders, serving as the special teams captain for five of those. He was also a running back and tight end with the Silver and Black, where he won a Super Bowl ring against the Philadelphia Eagles in 1980, and blocked a punt for the Raiders’ first touchdown of Super Bowl XVIII, winning his second Super Bowl ring. Not bad for a kid from the University of Texas – Arlington.
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And now we come to why you’re reading about him here. After retiring from Oakland, Mr. Jensen was a scout for the Seattle Seahawks for 22 years. Perhaps that isn’t a record, but in an industry that typically sheds staff with every organizational change, it is remarkable, and a testament to both his work ethic and simple likability. This is another testament to the consistency and, for lack of a better word, the plain goodness of the Sehawks organization.
Seattle general manager John Schneider had this to say about Jensen: “He’s a huge part of the Seahawks organization. He was just a classic. There are those guys who are the hidden characters of the National Football League, and he was one of those guys among all the scouts throughout the league. Everybody legitimately loved being at a school with him, scouting with him, going to grab a beer with him, whatever.”
Mr. Jensen retired from the Seahawks in 2012, as he could no longer maintain the arduous travel required from an NFL scout. He had been diagnosed with ALS, often known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, the disease that ended his life on April 7th, 2017, at the too-young age of 60.
While Jensen is fondly remembered, in fact is memorialized by the naming of the scouting room at the Seahawks’ practice facility in his honor, there is an additional troubling postscript. Many former NFL players have been afflicted with ALS, notably former Tennessee Titan Tim Shaw and New Orleans Saint Steve Gleason. In fact, the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health conducted a study finding NFL players are four times more likely to to die of ALS than American men as a whole. We hope that in celebrating the life of Derrick Jensen, we don’t miss the significance of the cause of his passing. We hope that both the Oakland Raiders and the Seattle Seahawks take this to heart as well.