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|Former Raiders defensive back Lester Hayes says he became a "mere mortal" after Stickum was banished by the NFL.|
There are days when Hayes still looks back at his introduction to Stickum and laughs at what it did for his career. Before that moment, he was just a former college linebacker hoping to become a serviceable NFL defensive back. After that day, he became the face of a team that literally would try any tactic if it helped produce a victory on Sundays.Hayes might have been too young to recall exactly when Raiders owner Al Davis coined the notorious phrase, "Just win, baby," but the images of Hayes' Stickum-coated jerseys are undisputed evidence that he was a devoted believer in that philosophy.
Hayes played on two of the Raiders' three Super Bowl championship teams, and he wasn't the only player who knew how to gain an advantage.
"The sole focus of our team was to win consistently," said Hayes, who helped the Raiders win Super Bowls XV and XVIII. "Whether it was a mental or a physical advantage, we were going to do whatever was necessary to win. Our attitude was that if we could get away with something, we were going to do it."
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|Hall of Fame receiver Fred Biletnikoff turned Lester Hayes on to the sticky, gooey substance known as Stickum.|
If the players needed any more ideas, they always could look to the sideline for help. Oakland's players learned about Stickum because former equipment manager Dick Romanski introduced them to it in the mid-1970s.Hall of Fame coach John Madden once ran into Kansas City linebacker Bobby Bell before a Saturday morning walk-through session at Oakland Coliseum and tried to persuade Bell to watch for rats that supposedly crept through the visitors' locker room on game days. Davis created so much paranoia among his opponents that former New York Jets head coach Weeb Ewbank once suspected a helicopter flying over his practice field was a master attempt at spying by the Raiders owner.
|Lineman Bob Brown wore braces made of a hard leather substance to protect his surprisingly fragile wrists... and to stymie pass-rushers.|
There are still many people who suspect the worst from the Raiders, but rules changes eventually affected their tricks.The banishment of Stickum after the 1980 season really had an impact on Hayes. Despite setting a Raiders record with 39 career interceptions in his 10-year career, he said he became "a mere mortal" after the league outlawed the substance (and cited him as a major reason for the rule). "I'm thankful I played during the 1970s and 1980s because I was part of some great Raiders teams," Hayes said. "But if I had been born in 1985 instead of 1955, everything would've been different. I would've been one of those defensive backs you see chasing receivers every Sunday on 'SportsCenter.' I have no question about that."
Jeffri Chadiha is a senior writer for ESPN.com.