Written by Joseph Murray
Adding Some Spice to Professional Football
Thomas R. Flores is a well-known football player that was born in Sanger, Ca on March 21, 1937. He was both a player and coach of the professional football league. Flores is also touted to be one of only two people to win the Super Bowl both as a payer and a coach (Mike Ditka is the another one).
The earliest known information about Flores’ football career can be traced back to 1955 when he played quarterback for Fresno City College. Though he did well on the field Flores was also successful off the field. He served as the President of the Associated Men’s students as well as serving on the Student Council. His accolades allowed him to obtain an academic scholarship which granted him a trip to the University of the Pacific. After graduating in 1958, he decided to enter the professional world of sports.
This journey of making it to a professional football team did not come easy. Not having an invitation to the National Football League (NFL) draft Flores tried his hand in the Canadian Football League (CFL) and worked out for the Calgary Stampeders. Unable to secure a spot he tried out for the Washington Redskins of the NFL. His stint on these to two did not last long as he was cut from both of them before either season started. In 1960, Flores was finally able to land a job with the American Football League’s Oakland Raiders. There he would flourish and eventually become the first Hispanic quarterback to play professionally. Other teams that Flores was part of were the Buffalo Bills (1967 – 1969) and the 1969 Kansas City Chiefs. There he was back up to quarterback Len Dawson and was part of their championship run. Though he retired the year later, his football career was far from over.
After playing professional for 10 years, Flores found another home in coaching. His first gig as a coach was with the Buffalo Bills. He later joined the Super Bowl (Super Bowl XI) winning Oakland Raiders and coached alongside world-renowned John Madden. Following Madden’s retirement, Flores became the head coach of the Raiders. He would later win Super Bowl XV with the Oakland Raiders and Super Bowl XVIII with the Los Angeles Rams becoming the first minority head coach to win a Super Bowl. This success was later followed by a position in the Raiders front office, Seattle Seahawks general manager, and even their head coach. Though his time has not come yet, Flores was recently announced as a finalist to the Pro Football Hall of Fame for the Class of 2021.
Nowadays, you can find Flores sitting alongside play-by-play announcer Greg Papa on the Raiders radio network. Not only does Flores have physical accolades but he is also an author having written many books. Flores also had the honor of having the Sanger High School’s football stadium being named after him.
Football has been a passion of mine since I could remember. I grew up around blacks and Hispanics and football was not something that you would see too many Latinos participate in. There were more interested in the other football (soccer). You would only see a few that would venture over and participate in the sport. And when they did, the only spot that was reserved for them was the kicker. Flores showed a different side of the spectrum by not only being a quarterback (which many consider being the leader on the field) but also a successful coach (a leader off the field). As of today, I coach pop warner football, and it’s amazing to see the diversity in the sport. I could recall having a player who came to play for me. It was from
Mexico and had only been in the country for a year or so. That was the first time he ever played football and loved it. This showed me that on the turf we are all equal and anyone can play the sport no matter what race or color they associate with.