I spent a long time last evening reading about former Oakland Raiders Lyle Alzado and John Matuszak. I googled and I searched and I wiki’d and I just kept reading until my eyes could barely stay open. My search for Matuszak was actually brought on after my search of Alzado. Both of these men are clearly NFL legends for their off the field personas as much as their on-field performance.
I have several ties of interest to Lyle Alzado. The guy was a Cleveland Brown, but earlier than that he was the face of the Oakland Raiders “bad boy” franchise of the NFL. I remember reading Marcus Allen’s autobiography, and Allen actually talked about the moment that transcends the above photo after the Raiders won Superbowl XVIII, Alzado just held the trophy and stared at it and cried. Allen said it was due to the price he (Alzado) paid to get to that moment and that no one would understand it until years later.
Then there was Matuszak. I had heard far less about ‘Tooz’, and realized only after research that this guy was a #1 overall draft pick in 1973. Fascinating enough that Matuszak would be dead just 16 years later.
The large and hard partying defensive lineman led the charge for that badass partying Oakland Raider team of the late 70’s. He most certainly was on steroids as well; but also treated his body like a waste-basket. Tooz became known for his addicitions of vodka and valium, and drinking late into the night the night before games.
The story goes that he was actually the beginning of the end of the bad-boy Raider Dynasty, when in 1977 he went out hard partying in Denver the night before the AFC Championship game which was to be played the next day. Matuszak couldn’t catch his breath in the thin Denver air, and at the end of the game in which the Raiders fought valiantly, all they needed was 3 stops with 3:17 left trailing 20-17 to force a Denver punt and they’d have the chance for Kenny Stabler to get the victory, sending the Raiders to another superbowl.
Instead, the Broncos used their scouting report tip that ‘Tooz had been out all night drinking, the Raiders (Al Davis) refused to pull the late legend, and the Broncos ran the ball right down the Raiders throats right at ‘Tooz to preserve the victory. This would be legendary coach John Madden’s last game as an NFL head coach due to ulcers caused by coaching this organization, ulcers that may have been given by ‘Tooz himself.
Two men with two very different paths to stardom and from stardom. Two pieces of rich NFL history and more importantly Raider history. The Raiders may or may not be on the track to restoring the once proud franchise to glory again; but they would have never been there if not for the legends of these two men, whose ghosts now walk out in Oakland at the Coliseum, where they once ran as gladiators among men.