For Raiders icon Tom Flores, the wait for the Hall of Fame is over

For Raiders icon Tom Flores, the wait for the Hall of Fame is over

What Tom Flores didn’t realize then was the impact he had as the first and only head coach to bring home a Super Bowl title in Los Angeles.

Flores rarely left his hotel room except to visit the Raiders’ headquarters for the first 14 months he spent in Southern California after the team moved from Oakland in 1982.

With his family in Northern California, Flores devoted most of his time to his new city to deliver a Super Bowl for the Raiders, a feat he achieved in his second season in Los Angeles.

“We left and suddenly we’re coaching and playing in Los Angeles,” Flores said in a phone interview Tuesday from his home in Indian Wells. “I didn’t have a lot of time to enjoy (Los Angeles Raiders fans), even a Super Bowl year, because I was in a hotel for 14 months.

“It didn’t feel like it was as deal or relevant as it is now.”

The 1983 Raiders, led by Flores, have a special place in Los Angeles sports history.

Flores thought he was single then, but his team in the 1980s is the reason why many Southern California football fans still strongly support the Raiders, despite playing in their second city since leaving Los Angeles in 1995.

Flores, the Mexican-American kid who worked on farm fields in Central California, is an icon for Latinos and Raider Nation. His feats are special to many, and Flores acknowledged saying “we” when speaking about his achievements.

Decades of support is what has enabled him to stomach the disappointment of being passed over by the Pro Football Hall of Fame decade after decade.

But finally the time has come for Flores and his supporters. The Latino of many is finally getting its gold jacket in Canton, Ohio—and “Iceman” Toda is bringing the LA Silver and Black Familia.

“It’s been exciting,” Flores said of entering the Hall of Fame. “My whole family is going to live there. Grandparents and everyone and lots of friends, lots of players. …It’s going to be a fun event where everyone will celebrate, everyone who was a part of my journey.”

Flores, 84, couldn’t hold back her emotions when Hall of Fame President David Baker knocked on her door earlier this year to let her know her long wait was over.

“That’s when he hit me,” Flores recalled. “I said, ‘I finally made it. I finally, made it.’ By that point, it was one disappointment after another and I said, ‘Well, if it happens, it will happen.’ It didn’t matter when it happened. It will happen soon and it’s over.”

Flores will be presented by Carol Davis, the wife of late Raiders owner Al Davis, at his felicitation ceremony on Sunday. Davis will introduce Flores in a pre-taped speech.

“If Al was still alive, he would have been what I asked for,” Flores said. “I had some people on my mind and I’m thinking, I’m talking to my wife (Barbara) and all of a sudden, I said, ‘How about Carol Davis?’

“She has been a cutie and I have known her for a long time. And I ran it by (Raiders owner) Mark (Davis) and Mark was excited about it. He was just overwhelmed.”

Flores, who grew up in Sanger, California, was the first Latino starting quarterback in the NFL and a trailblazer as head coach. Al Davis promoted Flores from assistant coach to head coach in 1979, and Flores had the difficult task of replacing John Madden.

Flores won Super Bowls XV and XVIII as head coach of the Raiders, the second being the championship in Los Angeles.

“It’s good to come in as an outsider, and all of a sudden, you’re the world champion and you make it to a city that definitely deserves it,” Flores said.

But Flores was no outsider. He looked like many Latinos in the Los Angeles area. His presence in the NFL arena was an inspiration to him.

It’s a mystery why the Hall of Fame for so long turned down someone who won four Super Bowls — both as a player and as an assistant coach — and made a lasting impact in the NFL.

“I don’t know if it took us that long to be in the minority,” Flores said of his long wait in the Hall of Fame. “They forgot about us somewhere in the corner.”

The tales of the “Iceman” were not forgotten by Latinos even after decades had passed. Many have stopped to thank Flores for breaking down barriers and paving the way for minorities.

“There’s a lot of pride involved,” Flores said of his Latino supporters. “You can do anything in this country if you work hard and stay focused and get a few breaks along the way. It just means a lot. It matters a lot when people come to you, especially your After a career – it’s not over – but you’ve done a lot of these, and tell you how proud they were when you did them.

“You say, ‘Well, why? Because we’re all in this together and you’re one of us.’ I say, ‘Yes, it can be done.'”