When the Oakland Raiders go into battle next season they will be led in prayer by Napoleon Kaufman. In keeping one of Al Davis’ great traditions alive, Reggie McKenzie and the Raiders announced Kaufman as the team’s chaplain. For Kaufman, whose transformation from record setting running back to pastor is nothing short of amazing, this marks his career coming full circle.
Raider Nation will remember Kaufman as the speedy running back whose name can be found throughout the Raiders record book.
However, as Jerry McDonald recounts, many of those who knew Kaufman during his playing days will remember him for his surly nature.
When the Raiders first drafted Kaufman back in 1995 it was widely viewed as another one of Al Davis’ building blocks in assembling a team that could win a 400 meter relay but not a football game. Kaufman proved that theory to be horribly wrong.
Certainly Kaufman was all over Al’s radar as the Lompoc native made headlines as both a running back and a state champion in track. His standout career at the University of Washington only confirmed what Davis knew: this guy is fast and he can really play. Due to his small size not many scouts thought Kaufman would amount to much in the league. They too were wrong.
Kaufman still holds the Raiders’ single game record with 227 rushing yards and is 4th all-time in franchise history in rushing. Kaufman never established himself as a full-time runner, starting only half of his 91 career games, but he did walk away with plenty left in the tank.
In a complete surprise, Napoleon Kaufman retired from football after six years in the NFL to become, of all things, a pastor. He’s since served in that very capacity at the Well Christian Community in Livermore and now will do the same for the Oakland Raiders.
No matter your opinion of Kaufman or his life story you have to admit it is refreshing to see the Raider tradition still alive. Al Davis always believed in making his franchise a family. Throughout the years former Raiders have been welcomed in various capacities. Nice to know McKenzie and Mark Davis are keeping that going. Kaufman can speak to the team in ways no other pastor in the NFL can cause he’s been there and done that. What is more Raider than that?