Sanger native Tom Flores elected to Pro Football Hall of Fame

Monday, February 8, 2021
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At long last, Tom Flores has been inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- At long last, Tom Flores has been inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Born in Sanger, he attended Sanger High School and his senior year was the student body president and the school's athlete of the year, captaining the football, basketball and baseball teams.

Attending Fresno City College in the mid '50s, Flores was again, student body president and star athlete in football and baseball. He then played quarterback at the College of the Pacific (now University of the Pacific), the Calgary Stampeders, and even the semi-pro Bakersfield Spoilers.

His big break came in 1960 where he was named QB1 for the Oakland Raiders, becoming the first Hispanic starting quarterback in professional football. Named an All-Star in 1966, he finished his nine-year career with 93 passing touchdowns. His final year was 1970, where he earned his first Super Bowl ring as a backup to Len Dawson on the Kansas City Chiefs.

His second ring came as an assistant coach to John Madden in 1977, following his retirement, became head coach in 1979, making him the first Hispanic head coach in league history.

The next year, his Raiders became the first wildcard playoff team to win the Super Bowl with a 27-10 victory over the Eagles.

"Just look around and reflect and realize that it's not a fantasy, that it really came true," said Flores after the win.

Four months later, he was back at Sanger HS for the field dedication of "Tom Flores Stadium" in May of 1981. "I'm very proud of it," Flores told Action News. "My family is very proud. It's very exciting."

Flores followed the Raiders from Oakland to Los Angeles and in 1983, led the Silver and Black to another win in the Super Bowl, taking down Washington 38-9.

"I think you're ranked with the great teams of all time that have ever played professional sports," owner Al Davis said after the win.

RELATED: New mural in Sanger honors Tom Flores following Hall of Fame selection

Named AFC coach of the year in 1983, he would finish coaching the Raiders with 83 wins, second only in franchise history to John Madden. After three seasons in Seattle, he called it quits on coaching working for 21 years as the color commentator for the Raiders Radio Network.

"I lived the dream," Flores said this week from his home in Palm Springs. "I had this passion for something I always felt that if you're going to do something, do it well."

As a trailblazer for minorities and one of just two people to win a Super Bowl as a player, an assistant coach, and a head coach, the time has finally come for Tom Flores.


From the field to the stadium, and even a museum, Tom Flores is everywhere in Sanger.

"Anytime people who are first, that says a lot. First Hispanic quarterback in the NFL, first Hispanic coach in the NFL," said Leo Castillo, a board member for the Tom Flores Foundation. "He's got the respect from not just his team, but the respect of other players from other teams."

Flores always made sure to stay connected to his roots, calling in to talk to the high school football team before many of their big games.

"I'd thought it was one of my friends playing a joke on me," former Apaches head coach Chuck Shidan said. "We'd met up for lunch, what really impressed me about Flores is even though we're sitting down and eating lunch, he would always take time to talk to people. He always wanted to hear about Raiders' stories from Raiders fans. If anything, I can say is that he really understood the importance of what he is and means to this community."

His first community efforts began in 1992 with a fundraiser organizing a blood drive that grew to Visalia and Fresno, raffling off tickets to Raiders games. His youth foundation followed, giving money to each elementary school in the Sanger School District.

"Two years ago, he and his family came up to tour some of the schools to see where the money went, and he was just thrilled it did a lot more than even thought," said Mike Hannigan, president of the Tom Flores Youth Foundation.

Touching the lives of students in the Valley while also inspiring athletes to dream of the unthinkable.

"We thought it would be beautiful the kids could walk in here and see maybe someday they would be along in this room," said Kenneth Marcantonio, president of the Sanger Depot Museum.

Various Flores memorabilia is on display in the Sanger's Depot Museum, including a ball from the inaugural Hall of Fame class of 2018 and a golden football given to Sanger for the commemoration of the 50th Super Bowl.

"What I'm looking for, I'm looking for Flores to give us one of his uniforms, that's the thing that we have one of his teams," said Marcantonio.