There were few rivalries more competitive … more intense … more downright nasty than the Chiefs-Raiders, and former cornerback Albert Lewis should know.
He played for both.
Lewis was a third-round draft pick of the Chiefs in 1983 and spent 11 seasons there before moving on to the Raiders, where he worked another five years and set an NFL record by becoming the oldest player (he was 38) to score a defensive touchdown when he returned an interception 74 yards.
So what was it like to move from Kansas City to Oakland after 11 years battling the Raiders? We asked him on the latest Talk of Fame Network broadcast.
“At the time,” he said, “it wasn’t difficult at all. It was more difficult for me to adjust to Kansas City … though when I got drafted by the Chiefs I was actually on the phone with Willie Brown of the Raiders. So I expected to be a Raider all along.
“But then I got drafted by the Chiefs, and I loved it. I spent 11 great years there and played with some super people and had some fantastic times there. But when I had an opportunity to go to the Raiders, it was a business decision as much as anything, and I felt my time in Kansas City was up.
“So I moved on there because it was a team I always had a great deal of respect for, and I had some people who were very special to me there in Willie Brown and Al Davis. And Willie Brown had always been my mentor … even when I was in college.”
Davis, of course, could never get enough of fast defensive backs, and Lewis was one of the fastest and one of the best. A four-time Pro Bowler and two-time first-team All-Pro, he excelled at coverage and he excelled on special teams, where he blocked 11 kicks in 11 seasons with the Chiefs, including four in one year.
But then he went to the Raiders, where “the Greatness of the Raiders” was preached over and over by those within the organization — including … and especially … Davis. So what does “the Greatness of the Raiders” mean?
“Do you really expect me to answer that question?” said Lewis. “Like Mr. Davis always said, ‘The greatness of the Raiders is in the future.’ Now you tell me what that means. But that was the answer he’d give to me.
‘He knew stuff about you (that) you would never think he’d know. (For example), he really didn’t like the socks of the Chiefs. So when I finally got to be Raider, and I was with them my first year, he told me that I was going to start … and he didn’t start me.
“I was kind of upset about that. So I go to him and tell him that, and he looked at me and said, ‘Awww, shut up. Just be happy I got you out of those ugly socks.’ That was Al Davis.”
Outstanding play was Albert Lewis. He was a team MVP (1986) in Kansas City, where the Chiefs reached the playoffs five seasons while he was there, and he was inducted into their Hall of Fame in 2007. He had 38 career interceptions with Kansas City, the fifth-highest total in franchise history, including 20 in his first four years … or before opponents stopped throwing to his side of the field. And Hall-of-Famer Jerry Rice once called him the “toughest” cornerback he ever faced.
Now, he’s one of the 108 candidates for the Hall of Fame’s Class of 2018. Eligible for 13 years, he’s been a candidate before but has never been a Hall-of-Fame finalist or semifinalist.
“What are the voters missing about Albert Lewis?” he was asked.
“It may be what more that I’m missing,” he said, “and that’s a ring. (They) may not be missing anything. I think I’m missing a ring. I don’t know what there is to compare … when I look around the room and all the great corners that are in there — and there are no bad corners and no bad eligible guys — but I definitely think I should be in there.”