Oakland Raiders

1965-78 Fred Biletnikoff
(game worn)`



In the 17th century Isaac Newton's "First Law of Motion" (a body in motion tends to stay in that motion.....) was discovered.  If Sir Isaac saw Fred Biletnikoff play he would have quickly dismissed his own theory. Fred was notorious for racing to the corner of the end zone, stretching out for a seemingly uncatchable pass and while grabbing the ball with one hand come to a complete stop and fall straight down just inside the field of play. The defender, who had overrun the play in a motion not incongruent with Sir Isaac's long accepted law, would always turn back to find, in disbelief, Fred with the ball and the referee's arms stretched higher and with more exuberance than was demonstrated with other more conventional scoring plays. Fred would never let a lack of size or speed prevent him from making the important catch. Looking for any edge he could find he coated his uniform with stickum, hand cut his uniform sleeves, v-neck and pants legs. Long after Riddell quit making yellow backed kangaroo leather football shoes he located and furnished the company with kangaroo leather so they could still make him their old style of shoes that he was comfortable with. Fred's Riddell model "RK-2" suspension helmet was also an anomaly. Although Riddell retired the "RK" model in 1969 and a few players continued to wear this type of helmet into the early 1970s Fred refused to switch to the new more protective (but heavier) helmet models and continued to wear the "RK" model until his retirement in 1978. He is most likely the last player to wear this type of helmet in a NFL game. The helmet shown here is from earlier in his career when he wore the one bar facemask -- he switched to a two bar after suffering numerous broken noses. The crack in the side of the shell (which caused it to be replaced) reflected Fred's willingness to take the heavy linebacker assisted hits by constantly running the lucrative underneath routes while the faster Raider receivers such as Warren Wells and Cliff Branch would draw most of the defensive backfield attention away by running deep. Fred Biletnikoff played a sport often ruled by the law of physics where the bigger and faster player were generally more successful. Fred overcame his physical limitations and defied conventional scientific wisdom to become a Hall of Fame player by maintaining an unconventional approach to the game.