My Two Cents by OldTimer
Hello RaiderNation! I suppose there are many of you who have never heard of the phrase “Three yards and a cloud of dust”. It was a concept or style of football attributed to the late great Ohio State Football coach Woody Hayes. Considered boring by many, it was the practice running the ball down the opponent’s throats, hence the phrase as that is basically what you got when you handed the ball off to your running back up the middle and he clawed his way forward for a few yards. Sure, you had to put a pass in every now and then to keep them honest, but mostly you just ran the ball. But this goes back to a day when football was quite different than it is today. For instance, today the fullback is pretty much used as a blocking back only. Back then, it was the fullback that carried the load of the carries. There was also the halfback, who was more fast than powerful, but with some of both. Then you also had the tailback who was more of a speed and finesse guy.
When I first became a Raiders fan, Their fullback was Hewritt Dixon. I don’t remember much about him (I was only 7 back in ’64), but I Remember his replacement well, Marv Hubbard. Perhaps part of the reason I remember him so well was because of a game called Stratomatic Football, which was a board game introduced to me by my good friend Stan Hyatt. The game consisted of a board with cards for each player. You would choose the play you were going to run and which player would be involved, roll the dice, and look at the player’s card to see how much yardage you would gain. Linebuck or off-tackle on Marv Hubbard’s card was almost a guaranteed 3 yards minimum so I could hand it off all day to Hubbard, march down the field and score unless I had some unlucky rolls. The Raiders used Hubbard the same way pretty much, but of course with Al Davis, it was used to set up the long pass. That beautiful arc from Lamonica to Warren Wells! Ah, those were the good ole days!
Marv Hubbard had a great career with the Raiders. He played for them from 1969 through 1975, and in those years the least average yards per carry he had for a season was 4.6. Obviously, it made sense to hand him the ball. Here are his stats while he was with the Raiders (he played one final year with the Lions before he retired):
Games Played – 90, Attempts – 913, Yards – 4,394, TD’s – 22
Mark van Eeghen was the next great Raider fullback I remember. Aside from his looks, it was hard to distinguish him from Hubbard as they were both hard nosed pound the ball up the middle, 3 yards and a cloud of dust type guys (although both averaged more than 3 yards a carry). He played 8 years with the Raiders that included a Superbowl win against the Vikings. Here are his stats while he was with the Raiders (he played two final years with the Patriots before he retired):
Games Played – 112, Attempts – 1,475, Yards – 5,907, TD’s – 35
The next Raider fullback marked a change in how the position was used, of course with the addition of Marcus Allen in ’82, one can see why they would not weigh as heavily on the fullback to carry the ball. Frank Hawkins was the fullback for the Raiders from 1981 to 1987 after which he retired.
Games Played – 88, Attempts – 431, Yards – 1,659, TD’s – 15
In 1987 the Raiders drafted the greatest fullback they have ever had, greatest running back period as far as I am concerned, of course I am talking about the great Bo Jackson! Him and Marcus Allen made up the greatest running back tandem ever in the history of the game as far as I am concerned. Usually the halfback was the faster of the two, but nobody was faster than Bo, and nobody ran with more power than Bo either (Just ask Brian Bosworth!) With Bo and Marcus, the two got a much more even split of the carries than used to be. I could go on and on about both of these backs, and perhaps I will write an article on each of them some time in the future, but for now this is all about the fullbacks. Unfortunately, Bo’s career was cut short by a freak injury in a game against the Bengals in 1991. An injury that meant he would never play football again. Bo played for the Raiders from 1987 to 1991, here are his stats:
Games Played – 38, Attempts – 515, Yards – 2,782, TD’s – 16
Steve Smith was drafted by the Raiders in ’87, but played a background role to Bo Jackson, filling in for him when Bo was off the field, and taking his place as fullback when Bo was in and Marcus was on the sideline. He was not much more than a blocker as you might imagine. He played for the Raiders from 1987 through 1993, after which he spent 2 years with Seattle. Here are his stats:
Games Played – 103, Attempts – 394, Yards – 1,528, TD’s – 7
This next fullback is one of my all time favorites, Jon Ritchie. One look at this guy screamed fullback! Ritchie was a better receiver than runner, but what he was best at was knocking the other guy on his keester! He seemed happiest when he had blood running down his face and I can’t tell you how many times I saw that. Here are his stats:
Games Played – 75, Attempts – 14, Yards – 35, TD’s – 0
This next fullback is the best short yardage back the Raiders have ever had. Nobody stopped Zack Crockett! I certainly could be wrong, but I believe there was only once that he was held for no gain in all of the games he played for the Raiders. Crocket was drafted by the Colts back in 1995, but played for the Raiders from 1999 through 2006. Here are his stats:
Games Played – 125, Attempts – 380, Yards – 1,232, TD’s – 35
The last fullback I am gonna mention here most of you know, was a bit like a cross between a tight end and a fullback. As many of you might have guessed I am talking about Marcel Reece. Reece was signed as a UDFA and spent part of the 2008 season on the Raiders’ practice squad. He played in only 2 games in 2009, but in 2010 took over the starting role as fullback. He played for Seattle for 1 year in 2016 before retiring, but went on to have a major role with the Raiders as a scout, Senior Advisor to the Owner, Chief People Officer, and eventually, Senior Vice President, Chief of Staff. Here are his stats:
Games Played – 92, Attempts – 183, Yards – 844, TD’s – 3
As you can see, a lot has changed over the years with the fullback position, I just wanted you to see some of the greats we have had over the years and how they contributed to the game. Take care my Raider brethren! From Old Timer, Peace Out!!