Las Vegas Raiders: 50 greatest players in franchise history

A video board displays an Al Davis quote (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
A video board displays an Al Davis quote (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images) /
48 of 50
Gene Upshaw, Oakland Raiders
(Photo by A. Messerschmidt/Getty Images) /

28. . LG. Texas A&I Javelinas. Gene Upshaw. 3. player

Who would have put a giant 6-foot-5 dude at guard? Well, the Raiders did that with Gene Upshaw and that worked out most marvelously. Oakland used its first-round pick in the 1967 AFL Draft on Upshaw out of then-Texas A&I.  While he played all around the Javelinas’ offensive line, he would settle in at left guard for the Raiders.

It turned out to be one of the most innovative moves the Raiders have made to date. See, guard is seen as the third-most important of three offensive line positions. Normally, a guy of Upshaw’s stature would have played out on the edge at tackle. But by kicking him in to guard, the Raiders were able to revolutionize the importance of pulling guard. Upshaw would just maul people as the lead blocker on sweeping patterns.

He made three straight All-League teams in the AFL from 1967 to 1969, helping the Raiders win the AFL Championship in 1969. Once the Raiders moved to the NFL, Upshaw would make three All-Pro first teams and six straight Pro Bowls from 1972 to 1977. Upshaw was part of the Raiders’ first two Super Bowl Championships in 1976 and in 1980. He retired after the 1981 NFL season.

Upshaw was a first-ballot Pro Football Hall of Famer, earning Canton enshrinement in 1987. His classmates include Joe Greene, John Henry Johnson, and Don Maynard. Upon his retirement, Upshaw would serve as the executive director for the NFLPA. He would pass away in 2008 at age 63 due to pancreatic cancer.