Sad news today for Raider Nation as word of the passing of Jack Tatum spread throughout the sports world. Plagued with a litany of health concerns since his playing days had ended, Tatum suffered a heart attack and was pronounced dead today in Oakland.
The Raiders originally drafted Tatum 19th overall out of Ohio State back in 1971. Wasting no time in introducing himself to the NFL, Tatum knocked out two Baltimore Colts in his pro debut. From that day forward Tatum was a starting safety in one of the most feared secondaries in pro football. He would go on to be a three time Pro Bowl selection and a world champion during his nine seasons in Oakland.
Nicknamed The Assassin, Tatum earned a reputation as one of the most violent hitters in the history of professional football. His highlight reel is a compilation of punishment inflicted with the most deadly of intentions. Two specific moments that will forever be a part of NFL lore were a direct result of Tatum’s vicious hits.
In 1978, during a preseason game, Tatum delivered a hit to New England Patriots wide receiver Darryl Stingley that would ultimately leave Stingley paralyzed from the chest down. Tatum never apologized to Stingley for the unfortunate outcome. Tatum cited the fact that since it was a “clean hit” there was never a need to apologize.
Tatum’s most infamous moment is one that Raider Nation would like to wipe from their collective memories. Called the most famous and controversial play in NFL history, the Immaculate Reception began with Tatum’s hit on Frenchy Fuqua. What happened after Tatum hit Fuqua is forever a part of football lore.
For Raider Nation, the lasting image of Tatum will be that of his imposing figure standing over a helmetless Sammy White in Super Bowl XI. So much of what Raider Mystique came to be known as can be traced directly to how Jack Tatum played the game of football.
The Raiders issued the following statement today.
We are deeply saddened by the news of Jack Tatum’s passing. Jack was a true Raider champion and a true Raider warrior.
He was a great player and person and has been a big part of our lives since we drafted him in 1971 as a first round pick out of Ohio State.
Jack was the standard bearer and an inspiration for the position of safety throughout college and professional football.
Our thoughts, prayers and well wishes go out to his wife Denise and family.