Lyle Alzado and John Matuszak

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.

Eventually Alzado, the once Herculaic figure; would wilt to a rare form of brain cancer so fierce that he died just shortly after diagnosis in 1992. I remember reading the story as a kid in Sports Illustrated, and Alzado talking about his steroid use. Only years later did I realize about how much his fame culminated and what a well known national figure Alzado was. He very possibly made Raider nation what it is today with his ass kicking antics and giant body. It was mere coincidence that he had a stint with my favorite team; the Cleveland Browns, at the end of his career in the NFL.

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.

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4 thoughts on “Lyle Alzado and John Matuszak

  1. Thanks for te post! Lyle Alzado is the reason why at the age of 12 I became a Die Hard Fan of the Oakland Raiders back in the eighties. Then I get to know more about the franchise and the mystique of the Oakland Raiders, starting with Big Al, and following with the likes of Howie Long, Tooz, Ted "Mad Stork" Hendriks, and so on. That's why I enjoyed so much your post, as I enjoy anything about the Raiders.

  2. A couple of corrections…Alzado played for the Browns from 79-81. From there, he went to the Los Angeles Raiders, who would be playing their first season in L.A. when he arrived.Alzado never played as an Oakland Raider, just as John Matuszack never played as a Los Angeles Raider.The only Coliseum Alzado's ghost may haunt would be the L.A. Memorial Coliseum, the home of the Raiders for the 12 years they played in L.A.

  3. Correction to the correction…Found many photos on Gettyimages.com of "The Tooz". Here's a caption under a photo of "Tooz" at the L.A. Coliseum: LOS ANGELES – SEPTEMBER 20: Legendary defensive end John Matuszak of the Los Angeles Raiders signs autographs for fans during the game against the Detroit Lions at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on September 20, 1987 in Los Angeles, California. The Raiders won 27-7. (Photo by George Rose/Getty Images)

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