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Thanks for the memories Jack

July 28, 2010 - Bill Speer

Growing up in Pittsburgh, Pa., I hated silver and gray, anything related to Al Davis and the Oakland Raiders and especially Jack Tatum.

Tatum was a hard-hitting defensive back who not only knew how to blanket a receiver, he also knew how to punish them unmercifully should they cross through his territory with a football in hand.

Given that the combination of Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Terry Bradshaw and receivers Lynn Swan and John Stallworth were the best in the NFL in the day, Tatum was potential trouble. And, back in those days it always seemed the road to any Super Bowl always involved Oakland and Pittsburgh sooner or later.

Back in  1972 I was a high school student trying to keep gas in his car by selling television and radio sets in the electronics departemnt at K mart. The day after ?Christmas that year I pulled an unfortunate shift that would prevent me from being home and watching the AFC championship game between the two rivals. The saving grace for me was that I could have the television on in the department, and catch as much of the game as I could while working.

This was the game of the Immaculate Reception, to this day what I believe to be one of the greatest moments in sports history. With 22 seconds left in the game Tatum deliverd one of his bone-crunching hits on running back Frenchy Fuqua. The ball came loose, dropped nearly to the ground but instead, ricocheted into the hands of Franco Harris who ran 42 yards into the endzone for the winning touchdown.

As a result of that play, Tatum will be a name and face I never will forget.

Tatum died this week at age 61.  He was a football player who changed the modern game of football, and he will be missed.


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