One of the most important figures in NFL history, Al Davis stayed true to his team in all circumstances.
Colleague Bill Williamson and I were among several reporters standing in a hotel lobby at the NFL owners meeting in 2009. Davis was in failing health, but his mind remained sharp.
Using a walker, Davis made small talk as he approached deliberately and with great determination. When one of the reporters mentioned the massive contract Davis had handed to cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha a month or so earlier, Davis joked that Willie Brown, the Raiders' long-retired Hall of Fame corner, was asking for similar money.
Davis paused to gather himself. He asked each of us standing there to identify ourselves, at which point Davis would process the information as if determining our handshake worthiness. Each time, he would extend his hand and say, rather generously, what a pleasure it was to meet us.
This went on for a few moments before Davis turned his attention to Casey Pearce, who was standing nearby. Pearce works for the St. Louis Rams' media relations staff now. He worked for the San Diego Chargers at the time, but Davis had assumed he was one of the reporters gathered for the owners meeting.
Pearce introduced himself, and when he identified his employer as one of the Raiders' principal AFC West rivals, Davis reacted as only Davis could. He looked Pearce in the eye, sized him up from head to toe, pulled back his hand and said with a perfectly measured trace of competitive disdain, "We'll see you in the opener."