Jack Ta­tum, for­mer Pro Bowl safety for the Oak­land Raiders, dies of a heart at­tack

Austin American-Statesman - - SPORTS - By Rusty Miller

COLUM­BUS, Ohio — Jack Ta­tum, the Pro Bowl safety for the Oak­land Raiders best known for his crush­ing hit that par­a­lyzed Dar­ryl St­in­g­ley in an NFL pre­sea­son game in 1978, has died. He was 61.

Nick­named “The As­sas­sin,” Ta­tum, died of a heart at­tack Tues­day in an Oak­land hos­pi­tal, ac­cord­ing to friend and for­mer Ohio State team­mate John Hicks. He had been wait­ing for a kid­ney trans­plant. Ta­tum had di­a­betes the past sev­eral years, and he had lost his left leg be­cause of cir­cu­la­tion prob­lems.

Ta­tum was a sledge­ham­mer in Oak­land’s “Soul Pa­trol” sec­ondary of the 1970s that also in­cluded safety Ge­orge Atkin­son, cor­ner­back Skip Thomas and Hall of Fame cor­ner­back Wil­lie Brown.

“As many big plays as Jack made, it let you know this guy knew where to be when the chips were down,” Atkin­son said. “Guys didn’t want to come across the mid­dle be­cause get­ting hit by him was like get­ting hit by a truck. He was dev­as­tat­ing with his tim­ing and his an­gles of con­tact.”

Never was that more true than on Aug. 12, 1978, in an ex­hi­bi­tion game against the Pa­tri­ots, when Ta­tum slammed into St­in­g­ley with his hel­met on a pass over the mid­dle. The blow sev­ered St­in­g­ley’s fourth and fifth ver­te­brae and left the re­ceiver par­a­lyzed from the neck down.

The two never met af­ter the hit. St­in­g­ley died in 2007.

Ta­tum was not pe­nal­ized on the play, and the NFL took no dis­ci­plinary ac­tion.

De­spite Ta­tum’s fail­ure to show re­morse, Hicks said Ta­tum was haunted by the play.

“It was tough on him, too,” Hicks said. “He wasn’t the same per­son af­ter that. For years he was al­most a recluse.” Oak­land’s Jack Ta­tum (32) hits Dar­ryl St­in­g­ley (84) of New Eng­land dur­ing a preasea­son game in 1978. St­in­g­ley was par­a­lyzed from the neck down. The two never met af­ter the play.

Ta­tum had said he tried to visit St­in­g­ley at an Oak­land hos­pi­tal shortly af­ter the col­li­sion but was turned away by St­in­g­ley’s fam­ily mem­bers.

Part of the alien­ation came af­ter Ta­tum wrote the 1980 book, “They Call Me As­sas­sin,” in which he was un­apolo­getic for his head­hunt­ing ways.

In a later book he wrote, “I was paid to hit, the harder the bet­ter. And I hit, and I knocked peo­ple down and knocked peo­ple out. … I un­der­stand why Dar­ryl is con­sid­ered the vic­tim. But I’ll never un­der­stand why some peo­ple look at me as the vil­lain.”

Af­ter a stel­lar ca­reer that in­cluded win­ning a na­tional cham­pi­onship with Ohio State un­der coach Woody Hayes in 1968, Ta­tum was drafted in the first round by the Raiders in 1971. In nine sea­sons with the Raiders, Ta­tum started 106 of 120 games with 30 in­ter­cep­tions and helped Oak­land win the 1976 Su­per Bowl. He played his fi­nal sea­son with the Hous­ton Oilers in 1980.

Ta­tum was a cen­tral fig­ure in “The Im­mac­u­late Re­cep­tion” in the Raiders’ 1972 play­off loss to the Pitts­burgh Steel­ers. With 22 sec­onds left, Ta­tum jarred loose a pass to Frenchy Fuqua from Terry Brad­shaw, and the ball ric­o­cheted into the arms of Steel­ers run­ning back Franco Har­ris. Har­ris never broke stride and ran 42 yards for the win­ning touch­down.

De­spite their lin­ger­ing re­sent­ment, St­in­g­ley was gra­cious in 2003 when he learned that Ta­tum had di­a­betes and sev­eral toes am­pu­tated.

“You can’t, as a hu­man be­ing, feel happy about some­thing like that hap­pen­ing to an­other hu­man be­ing,” St­in­g­ley told The Bos­ton Globe.

Ta­tum be­gan a char­i­ta­ble group to help kids with di­a­betes and helped raise $1.4 mil­lion to fight the dis­ease.

Jack Ta­tum

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