Former NFL defensive lineman Otis Sistrunk (right), talks with Mike Fluker during the Bill Baker Memorial Steel & Wheel Supershow on Saturday at Machinists Union Hall in Everett. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Former NFL defensive lineman Otis Sistrunk (right), talks with Mike Fluker during the Bill Baker Memorial Steel & Wheel Supershow on Saturday at Machinists Union Hall in Everett. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Former Oakland Raider makes appearance at Everett car show

Otis Sistrunk won Super Bowl XI and lived near Joint Base Lewis-McChord after his playing career.

EVERETT — Snohomish County may be solidly in Seattle Seahawks territory, but on Saturday the parking lot at IAM 751’s Everett Union Hall next to Paine Field was awash in individuals sporting black football jerseys with silver numbers, as well as black hats emblazoned with the image of a helmeted man sporting an eyepatch.

That’s what happens when an Oakland Raiders fan favorite comes to town.

Otis Sistrunk, a key cog on the Raiders’ teams of the 1970s, made a public appearance at the Bill Baker Memorial Steel & Wheel Supershow on Saturday, signing autographs at the car show as he helped raise funds for Guide Dogs of America.

It was the second straight year Sistrunk appeared at the show, and the 74-year-old who now resides in Columbus, Georgia, was happy to be back.

“This is great,” Sistrunk said. “I know this is Seahawks country, I lived up here, but that doesn’t bother me. It’s great to see a lot of folks come out to an event like this.”

Sistrunk was a punishing defensive lineman for Oakland from 1972-78, and was named to the Pro Bowl in 1974 and helped the Raiders win Super Bowl XI over the Minnesota Vikings at the end of the 1976 season — he was wearing his Super Bowl ring Saturday.

Sistrunk is also the rare NFLer who never played in college, as he went into the United States Marine Corps out of high school. After he left the Marines he played three years of semipro football in Virginia before getting a tryout with the Los Angeles Rams, where he was noticed by Oakland.

After Sistrunk retired from the NFL, he eventually settled in Olympia and spent 25 years managing Cowan Stadium, the athletic field at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Tacoma. He retired from that job in 2014 and returned to his native Georgia.

“It’s always a pleasure to have Otis come to town,” said Cindi DeWitt, the vice president of the Northwest Raiders Booster Club, who was decked out in Raiders gear from head to toe, including sunglasses with the Raiders logo burned into the lenses. “We have a lot of fun with him, I’ve known him for years, and having him come to town and be involved with the fans on this level so many years later is just incredible.”

The idea of Sistrunk appearing at the car show originated with Paul Richards, the show’s co-chair. Richards, who was a Raiders fan while growing up in Cleveland, knew Sistrunk had lived in the Pacific Northwest and had been heavily involved with Special Olympics while working at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. Therefore, he effectively cold-called Sistrunk, sending him a letter asking if he’d come to the show. Much to Richards’ surprise, he received a return call.

“I was shocked,” Richards said. “Oh my gosh, a guy I used to admire as a kid is calling me, I didn’t know what to do. He was the Man from Mars, he had the Kojak hairstyle, and he was just a beast out there.”

“I like to do charity, and (Richards) gave me good ideas of what they were doing and what it was for, so I decided I’d come,” Sistrunk said. “And they invited me back.”

While at the car show, Sistrunk took the opportunity to reminisce about his days with the Raiders.

“We felt like when we walked into a stadium, they already lost,” Sistrunk said. “We were just that good.”

Those Raiders teams were known for having characters, and when asked who the biggest character was Sistrunk immediately named quarterback Ken Stabler.

“He was a good guy, he loved to win,” Sistrunk recalled. “He was from Alabama and I was from Georgia. I hit him when I first got there and (coach) John Madden said, ‘Oh no, don’t touch him, he’s going to carry us to the Super Bowl.’ And he did.

“John Madden was a great coach,” Sistrunk added. “I thought he was one of the best coaches in the NFL, and he looked out for his players. We had players like Jim Otto, Willie Brown, Gene Upshaw, Art Shell, Ted Hendricks, Phil Villapiano, so many. We had players who really wanted to win. You don’t just go through he motions, you go out to play to win, and John Madden loved to win, he didn’t like to lose.”

The NFL has changed a lot in the 40 years since Sistrunk played, particularly in the way it protects the quarterbacks.

“The rules have changed so much that I feel if we had the rules today back then, I never would have got a check because if you hit the quarterback wrong you get a fine,” Sistrunk said.

“Some of the new rules I like, some I don’t,” Sistrunk added. “I don’t want to see anybody get hurt, that’s their livelihood, to go out and play football and make it in the NFL.”

Sistrunk was one of those who made it in the NFL, and the local community was happy to welcome him Saturday — even though he was representing the silver and black rather than the blue and green.

Talk to us

More in Sports

University of Washington Men's Soccer team plays UCLA at home on September 22, 2019.
Community sports roundup: Bartlow picked 6th in MLS draft

The UW defender and south Snohomish County native was selected by the Houston Dynamo.

Los Angeles Rams pass game coordinator Shane Waldron is seen before the NFL football NFC championship game against the New Orleans Saints Sunday, Jan. 20, 2019, in New Orleans. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
Report: Seahawks to hire Rams’ Waldron as new O-coordinator

The 41-year-old was L.A.’s pass-game coordinator for the past three seasons under coach Sean McVay.

FILE - Seattle Seahawks offensive tackle Chad Wheeler (75) is shown before an NFL football game against the Atlanta Falcons in Atlanta, in this Sunday, Sept. 13, 2020, file photo. The Seattle Seahawks said Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2021, that offensive lineman Chad Wheeler is no longer a member of the team following his arrest last weekend for investigation of domestic violence. (AP Photo/Danny Karnik, File)
Seahawks cut ties with Wheeler after domestic-violence arrest

The offensive lineman, who was set to become a free agent in March, was charged with three felonies.

Seattle Sounders sporting director Chris Henderson greets a player after a soccer training session Monday, Feb. 22, 2016, in Seattle. The Sounders play Club America in the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal round on Tuesday. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Opportunity too good for Cascade High grad to pass up

Former soccer standout Chris Henderson looks forward to new position with Inter Miami

Is Mike Hopkins the right coach for the University of Washington men’s baskethall program’s long-term future? (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
POLL: Is Mike Hopkins the right coach for UW hoops?

The Huskies have seen both tremendous highs and discouraging lows during Hopkins’ four-year tenure.

Left, Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes celebrates with Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce (87) and teammates after the AFC championship NFL football game against the Buffalo Bills on Sunday in Kansas City, Missouri. The Chiefs won 38-24 (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson). Right, Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady celebrates with his teammates after winning the NFC championship NFL football game against the Green Bay Packers in Green Bay, Wisconsin on Sunday. The Buccaneers defeated the Packers 31-26 (AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps).
Old (Brady), young (Mahomes), different Super Bowl 55 awaits

Only 22,000 will be let in the stadium, with vaccinated health-care workers getting 7,500 of the tickets.

Seattle Mariners starting pitcher Kendall Graveman, left, throws to Houston Astros' Alex Bregman during the first inning of a baseball game Monday, July 27, 2020, in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Mariners spent offseason building a better bullpen

Seattle added experienced arms to a group that has struggled mightily the past two seasons.

A flag with the new logo for the newly-named Seattle NHL team, the Seattle Kraken, flies atop the iconic Space Needle Thursday, July 23, 2020, in Seattle. The hockey expansion franchise unveiled its nickname Thursday, ending 19 months of speculation about whether the team might lean traditional or go eccentric with the name for the league's 32nd team. Seattle's colors are a deep dark blue with a lighter shade of blue as a complement. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Kraken games to be televised on ROOT Sports

The expansion franchise also hires John Forslund as its new television play-by-play announcer.

Seattle Seahawks wide receiver DK Metcalf (14) runs with the ball as New York Jets inside linebacker Harvey Langi gives chase during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 13, 2020, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Seahawks position overview: Wide receiver

DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett are a winning duo, but Seattle may need more at receiver.

Most Read