Tatum's legacy shouldn't be tarnished

July, 27, 2010
7/27/10
5:50
PM ET
Jack Tatum struck fear.

That was his life as a football player.

[+] EnlargeJack Tatum
AP Photo/Ben MargotJack Tatum was the face of the Oakland Raiders in the 1970s.
He clearly embraced it. Playing off his nickname, the former Oakland Raiders safety penned his autobiography, "They Call Me Assassin.” He was quoted as saying his best hits bordered on “felonious assault."

He was a nasty, fierce hitter and the face of the swaggering Oakland Raiders of the 1970s. The Raiders hurt opponents and it all started with the Assassin, whom The NFL Network ranked as the No. 6 most feared hitter in NFL history.

Of course, Tatum is mostly remembered for delivering the hit on receiver Darryl Stingley that left the New England receiver paralyzed in a preseason game in 1978. Stingley, who died three years ago, was bitter toward Tatum and the two never met to discuss the unfortunate play. Tatum never apologized. He maintained it was a clean hit. But he did say he tried to visit Stingley in the hospital after the game, but was turned away by Stingley’s family.

Because of the play, Tatum was known as a villain. I hope that talk ends. Tatum, who died Tuesday at age of 61, was a nasty, tough player. He wasn’t dirty. He just played the game the way it was designed in the 1970s, when the rules were much looser than they are in today’s game, which, thankfully, places a premium on safety.

Tatum needs to be celebrated in his death. He was a tough man who gave his all to his team and to his sport.

Bill Williamson | email

ESPN Oakland Raiders reporter

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