George Atkinson, Jack Tatum, Vann McElroy, Dave Grayson
When it comes to the free safety position, how many men in the history of the game were more feared then Jack Tatum. Known simply as “The Assassin,” Tatum played a violent brand of football, and a hit he made on Darryl Stingley in 1978 actually crippled the New England Patriots wide receiver for life.
The hit on Stingley is a black mark on Tatum’s career, but he is also known for the hit he made on Frenchy Fuqua that started the Immaculate Reception against the Pittsburgh Steelers. He was a vicious player, and would be the starting free safety for an all-time Raiders lineup.
George Atkinson was another safety that struck fear in the hearts of men during his time in the NFL, as he was a standout strong safety for the Raiders between 1968-77. Atkinson and Tatum formed a dynamic duo at the safety positions in the 1970s, once challenging each other to see who could knock out the most players in a game.
Atkinson was a fierce player, who in recent years has started to feel the effects of all those punishing blows he put on people during his playing days. Still, No. 43 was an absolute beast in the middle of the Raiders secondary, and is the best strong safety in team history.
In the third round of the 1982 NFL Draft, the Raiders selected a safety out of Baylor named Vann McElroy. A two-time Pro Bowl player, and a member of the Raiders Super Bowl XVIII team, McElroy had to deal with multiple injuries during his NFL career, but when he was right, he was just as punishing a safety as we have seen in the Silver and Black.
The fourth safety to make the 53-man roster is Dave Grayson, who played for the Raiders from 1965-70. Grayson had his best seasons as a pro wearing the Silver and Black, being named an All-Pro in three of his six seasons with the team. The all-time leader in interceptions in AFL history, Grayson made a smooth transition from cornerback to safety, and in 1968, he hauled in ten interceptions.