YOUNTVILLE — Former members of the Oakland Raiders and residents of the Veterans Home of California got together last week to share memories and renew friendships.
The Raiders Foundation, represented by Napa’s Bob Rosenstiel and long-time Raiders great Jerry Robinson, also made a $5,000 contribution to the Veterans Home at the annual event.
“I was there in 1997,” said Rosenstiel, who is going into his second season as receivers coach at Vintage High School after spending several years on the Napa High staff.
Rosenstiel, his wife Nicole – who was a Raiderette when they met – and their two children make their home in Napa. He said the importance of a good work ethic is what he is trying to pass along to the Crushers from his playing days.
“I’m always reminding the kids to finish their plays,” he said. “Sometimes the younger guys have a problem learning that.”
The saying “Once a Raider always a Raider” means something special to former players, Robinson said.
“It all started with Al Davis,” George Atkinson Jr., a key player for the organization in the 1960s and 1970s, said of the Raiders’ late longtime owner. “He had always been generous with the community and veterans organizations, and now that generosity is being passed along by his son, Mark Davis.”
Rosenstiel likened the Raiders to one big family.
“The camaraderie is great,” he emphasized. “There’s no age differential, and I find myself hanging out with people I never played with before. We all have this common bond. There are no barriers; you don’t have to worry about political correctness.”
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“When you hear the term ‘Raider family,’ that’s real,” he said. “We love giving back, especially to veterans who’ve dedicated their lives to this country.”
Whether you’re a Raiders fan or not, you’d probably agree that the Raiders have a certain mystique that no other professional football team has.
“Commitment to excellence,” “Pride and poise,” and “Just win, baby,” are all catch phrases the Raiders have made famous over the years.
“We’re still all about that,” said Atkinson said, who said he still goes to Raiders games and practices.
“I try and pass along some of that Raider mystique we used to have,” he chuckled.
Veterans Home of California assistant administrator Lisa Peeke helped to coordinate the event.
“This means a lot to our residents because they watched that generation play football,” she said. “It’s great seeing the Raiders veterans mixing with our veterans and seeing the interaction. Our residents are still being armchair quarterbacks telling them how to do their plays. It’s cool. Our veterans also get a chance to share their stories and that’s very cool, also.”
Atkinson said the Raiders alumni hope they can make a veteran’s day with the visit.
“Coming here also reminds you how important a facility like the Veterans Home is,” he said. “Some of these folks have to live here 15 years.”