Raider Nation, Stand Up!

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Dear Raider Nation,

You all ready for this?

That’s what I want to know right now more than anything from you guys. Like, are you ready to put some ass-whoopin’s on these other teams, or what? 

Not to just talk about doing it. But to go out and actually do it? Because that’s where this is headed. That’s where we’re going with this. 

And, look … I’m not trying to be funny here. This isn’t some rah-rah p.r. thing. What you need to understand is: I’m ALL ABOUT THIS. This isn’t a coaching job for me. This is my dream. This is my life. This is dead serious. Raider football. The Silver and Black. 

Not. To. Be. F***ed. With. Just like in the old days. That’s where we’re takin’ it. I’m telling you. I’m telling … everyone

The legacy of this franchise, the history, everything the Raiders have always stood for … those things matter to me more than I can put into words. It’s what I grew up with as a kid in Compton. Everything I love. Who I am. I mean … when Mr. Davis told me a few months ago that he was going to entrust me with being interim head coach, I remember I looked him dead in the eye, and you know what I said? 

“I’m ready.”

No hesitation at all. Just, “I’m ready.” 

“You sure?” he said.

“Hell yeah, I’m sure. I was born to do this. I’ve been ready.”

What you need to understand is: I’m ALL ABOUT THIS.

Then, not too long after that, I get to go out there with my guys for that first game after the coaching change, against the Giants, a team where I was a captain, where I won a championship. And before the game started, pregame, I walk out to midfield and shake the hand of Mr. Mara, their owner … and I’m actually shaking that man’s hand as the head coach of the Las Vegas Raiders. It was surreal. 

But then also, you know what else? I told him right away, right after I shook his hand and asked how his family was … I told him, and all those Giants guys I talked to before that game, I said … “You know we’re about to whoop your ass today, right?”

No lie. Ask ’em. That’s what I said. 

“You have no idea what’s comin’. This is gonna be ugly.” 

And every single New York Giants person I talked to was like, “What?!? Get outta here, man.” They’re like, “That’s just AP talkin’ his talk. Hahahah.”

Everybody laughing.

Was I laughing?

No, sir. I didn’t even crack a smile.

A few hours later it was a 30–6. Raiders. We out.

Antonio Pierce | Raider Nation, Stand Up! | The Players' Tribune
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Now they’re all walking off the field, and it’s not so damn funny anymore.  

In the end, it was a pure ass-whoopin’. It wasn’t just the Raiders. It was THE RAIDERS. 

It was like those ’80s Raiders I knew from when I was a kid. 


The first Raiders game I remember watching was when I was five. 1984. The Marcus Allen deal, where he reversed field in the Super Bowl and ran past everyone and took it to the house. Unreal, man. 

But you know what? My favorite memory of the Raiders as a kid? It’s gotta be Bo Jackson destroying Brian Bosworth at the goal line in that Monday night game where my man ran into the damn stadium tunnel and disappeared.

Bosworth had been talking his s**t, and the announcers on that game, they were buyin’ into it. It was like: He has a mohawk! And a bandana!! Ohhhhh, he’s so cool!!! Then, second quarter … BAM! You got Bo going 91 yards straight past Boz, into the damn tunnel. And look, that was crazy, don’t get me wrong. But maaaaan when Bo ran Bosworth’s ass over at the goal line later in that game and basically carried him into the end zone? For me, that was the ultimate. When I saw that? It was the coolest thing in the entire world to me. You had an offensive player out there doing damage, putting the hurt on someone. Raider mother***ing football at its finest. After seeing that, I’d fire up Tecmo Bowl and replay that s**t over and over again. I relived that moment thousands of times in my head, and on my Nintendo.  

Antonio Pierce | Raider Nation, Stand Up! | The Players' Tribune
Focus on Sport/Getty Images

You gotta understand … the Raiders were everything to me comin’ up. I couldn’t get enough. Raiders game day was a lifestyle back then. 

So what an honor it’s been that, as I got a little older, I was able to meet and build relationships with guys like Marcus Allen, and Howie Long, and Tim Brown, and Willie Gault, and Greg Townsend, and on and on. I was fortunate to meet Gene Upshaw when he was the head of the PA. Got to spend time with Coach Madden before he passed. I met Willie Brown, Eric Dickerson. Then, as a player, I found myself going up against Charles Woodson and Nnamdi Asomugha and Richard Seymour and Rod Woodson. True legends. I have the ultimate respect for all those guys, going all the way back.

And all those guys, believe me, now that I got the job for good … I promise you this: They’re a huge part of what this thing is going to be going forward.

I want the guys on our team — the Maxx Crosbys, the Robert Spillanes, the Davante Adamses, Josh Jacobses — I want those dudes to know, like … before it was you, before you were cool, these guys were even cooler

They got gold jackets, you know what I mean? 

And our guys … they know. They know. They get it. There’s no way they wouldn’t get it, as long as I’m around. They soak it in, show the love. I mean Tom Flores, an absolute legend, an icon, he gets wheelchaired into our locker room after a win, cigar smoke in the air, and the first thing … if you look at those videos … the first thing you see is the immediate respect he gets from our players. They’re handing him a cigar, dapping him up. As it absolutely f***ing should be.  

Antonio Pierce | Raider Nation, Stand Up! | The Players' Tribune
Todd Rosenberg/Getty Images

Guys like Maxx Crosby, they want to be gold-jacket guys. They want to be all-timers. Well, you gotta be around those legend types in order to get to that level. It’s like, this dude did this 50 years ago, and you know what … he’s still a goddamn badass. Let that rub off on you some, you know what I mean? 

And to know that a bunch of those Raiders legends supported me and spoke out, and helped make sure I got this job? That means the world to me. 

When you got former players, guys that I respect, guys who didn’t have any obligation to say a damn thing, and you look up and they’re on national TV pounding on the table for you? Wow. To hear them be like: “Just let this man cook! Let him do this thing! He doesn’t talk like everybody else. He does things a bit different. But just watch, man.” It was incredible. I’m so grateful for that love. I’ll never forget it. 

And believe me, I fully realize how fortunate I am to have this opportunity. This isn’t something too many people would’ve predicted. I’m an African-American. I came from an urban environment. I was undrafted. Too small. Too short and everything else. Then I was told I was gonna s**t the bed as an interim head coach. I was told the odds were against me to get the job. I was told I couldn’t be a leader of men.

But now, you know what? Here we are.

And, believe me, it’s only going to get bigger and better from here. At the end of the day, I want to be on that Mount Rushmore of coaches who’ve done it with the Raiders and led this organization to the promised land. I want to be holding that Lombardi Trophy with one hand and a cigar in the other. 

And you know what? Now that I think about it, that reminds me, to all the people out there who want to look down on us, or take shots at us, because we light up our cigars after wins, or listen to our music too loud, or play hoops in the locker room, or whatever else it is people want to ding us for … let me just say this once and for all: We are the Raiders, damnit. We don’t need to be liked. 

But we will be respected. 

Antonio Pierce | Raider Nation, Stand Up! | The Players' Tribune
Michael Reaves/Getty Images

We do what we do because we are who we are. Point blank. So, yeah, whatever, we have a lot of guys who like to smoke cigars. We’re in Vegas, right? So I’m like, “Right on!” It’s like, “Man, listen, when we win, let’s celebrate. Sure, pull out the lighters and the cigars.” 

Now, at the same time, I’ll admit, at first I thought that meant we’d be doing it off-site … and then I see Maxx Crosby throwing cigars around the locker room like Santa does with candy canes, and it was like my whole life flashed before my eyes. Oh my God, the fire marshal's about to come. We got smoke in the building. Mr. Davis is about to fire me after my first game. But, man, I don’t know what to tell you. Take it as it comes, right? And for me … if that’s how the guys want to express themselves, I got their backs. 

The more cigars, the more W’s, OK.

Of course, to get all those wins, I need to make sure I do my thing. And at this point that means getting the best possible team in place. Actually, let me restate that: It’s about getting the best possible Raiders team in place. At every level. If we need an OC, it’s like … I want a guy who wants to be the offensive coordinator for the Las Vegas Raiders. When we need an O-line coach, I want a guy who wants to embrace that Tom Cable, Art Shell, Gene Upshaw mentality. I want a QB who wants to lead the Raiders to a Lombardi, not just someone looking to be an NFL quarterback, wearing all the jewelry, being all too-cool-for-school. 

To be honest with you, not everybody’s a Raider player. Case in point: There’s what, about 500 guys getting ready for this draft? Well, I promise you there’s only about five of them that’s really Raiders, guys that we really want. The real ones, the Raider dudes, they got mental toughness. They got an edge. They got a sense of family in them, a brotherhood. They don’t want to be some social media like, or a quick click, or a retweet. You know what I mean? They’re looking for that long-term satisfaction. And they also got a certain makeup to them where … they want to make opposing players suffer. I call it ill intent. It’s not about going at the head, or doing nothing illegal or stupid. No, no. It’s about laying your paws on somebody so hard that you leave marks. That’s what it is to be a Raider. It’s intimidation. It’s winning the game before the game’s played. That’s the Raider way.

So it’s about finding that identity and that DNA. And not only with our players, but also our staff, people in the training room, people in the kitchen, the medical staff, our strength-and-conditioning folks. The buy-in has to be real at every level. It’s gotta be the WHOLE GODDAMN BUILDING, to the point where … you walk in that place and you’re like: Whoa, I don’t know what the hell it is, what’s making me bounce like this, walking up on my toes, but daaaaamn

That’s what I want to create. That’s my mission. And I will give everything I have in pursuit of it. 

A commitment to excellence, pride, poise, passion, and the will to win every f***ing day.

The Raider way. All day, every day. Amen.