Player Spotlight: Remembering Jack “The Assassin” Tatum

A look at the life of former Oakland Raiders star defensive back.

By: Taren Vaughan

The Oakland Raiders have had some notable football greats to grace their roster throughout the years. Retired NFL star Jerry Rice and Charles Woodson, just to name a few, have all been solid contributors to the overall success of the franchise since its beginnings in back in the year 1960. But there was one player that made a lasting impression on this California based team. And his name was Jack Tatum.

Known to the football world as “The Assassin”, Tatum was well noted for his tenacious competitive drive on the football field. As one of the hardest hitters the game of pro football has ever witnessed, he gained recognition in a Sports Illustrated poll of the best defensive backs of the century. Tatum’s brutal hits brought his opponents to their knees. There was one incident that sent one player to an early exit during a pre-season game against the New England Patriots.

Remember Lawrence Taylor’s hit to Joe Theismann back in 1985? Similar to Taylor’s crucial hit against Theismann, Jack Tatum took the Patriots’ wide receiver Darryl Stingley out for good during a 1978 pre season game. The hit left Stingley paralyzed from the chest down, virtually ending his NFL career. Lawrence Taylor was very apologetic about ending Joe Theismann’s promising football career. But Jack Tatum was not nearly as remorseful.

He was quoted saying:

“It could have happened to anybody,” “People are always saying, ‘He didn’t apologize.’ I don’t think I did anything wrong that I need to apologize for. It was a clean hit.”

As expected, many people continued to criticize Tatum for not showing enough sympathy towards Stingley for his actions. But where there were those that were angered, there were just as many that praised his skills. Ohio State football coach Jim Tressel was so impressed that he implemented an award, “The Jack Tatum Hit of the Week Award”, in honor of the defensive back’s hit.

Wonder why they call him “The Assassin”?

Here’s a look at some of his most famous hits of his career:

Tatum had many other talents outside of football. He tried his hand in several other areas including land development. And he also became part owner of a restaurant. Not mention, he found much success as an author, writing three top selling books about his life as the “The Assassin”. Although he is no longer with us, the impact that Jack Tatum made on the gridiron will forever be remembered.

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