Tom Flores was an NFL trailblazer as both a quarterback and a head coach and on this week’s Talk of Fame Network “5 Games’’ podcast he recalls the games where he made pro football history.
Today’s “5 Games’’ segment focuses on September 11, 1960, the day Flores became the first Hispanic-American to start at quarterback in pro football history. Born in California’s Central Valley to Mexican-born parents who worked as farm workers, Flores had failed to make it in the Canadian Football League and in the NFL in 1958 and 1959 when the call came from the Oakland Senors, asking if his previously injured shoulder was healthy enough to try one more time in the newly born American Football League.
Fortunately for Flores and for pro football not only was it healthy enough but by the time he arrived in Oakland the Senors had become the Oakland Raiders. The rest, as they say, is history. Flores would make a lot of it beginning on that September afternoon at Kezar Stadium in San Francisco, when he led the Raiders out to meet the Houston Oilers.
The Oilers were led by 12-year NFL veteran and future Hall of Famer George Blanda at quarterback. The Raiders were led by a 23-year-old kid who had to beat out 11 other quarterbacks to make pro football history.
“We couldn’t get them all in one picture,’’ Flores recalled.
What he also recalled was that it never struck him that he was making football history and opening doors for guys like Joe Kapp and Jim Plunkett, fellow Latino quarterbacks who would later follow him under center in pro football.
“It never entered my mind,’’ Flores said. “It was a first but I never approached it that way. There wasn’t much hoopla about who you are. It was can you play.’’
Flores played that day and for 10 more years in the AFL before moving into coaching, where he would once again become a trailblazer. But it all started on September 11, 1960 and Flores’ stories about that game and the early days of the AFL’s struggles to overcome the NFL make for some interesting and sometimes amusing listening.
To hear the free podcast click on the link below.