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Former Raiders head coach Tom Flores: first person of color to lead NFL team

By Frank Mallicoat

OAKLAND, Calif. - Former Raiders coach Tom Flores said he can't help but be proud of the legacy he leaves behind.

Raised by immigrant parents from Mexico, Flores flourished in his 60-year NFL career, becoming the first person of color to lead an NFL team.

Flores was the NFL's first Latino to start as a quarterback and the first person of color to become a head coach.

During his 9-year Raider run, he won two Super Bowls. In fact, Flores is one of just two men that have won Super Bowls as both a player and a coach.  

"Don't make me your hero," said Flores, who grew up in the San Joaquin Valley town of Sanger. "I'm not your hero. Look at your dad, your uncle. Those are the people that lead you. You can look at me as someone, maybe that got it done that happens to be Hispanic like you. And shows you that it can be done."

Flores typically deflects the spotlight, but even he realized his popularity grew ten-fold when the Raiders moved from Oakland to Los Angeles. The heavy Latin population of LA gravitated to this quiet giant.  

But, it wasn't until he retired from coaching that it all sunk in at a Texas airport.

"This kid comes up and says, ‘my dad cried when you won the Super Bowl,’" said Flores. He said it was that moment he realized just how big his impact was on others.

In July of 2021, he was inducted into football's Hall of Fame. The father of three, and grandfather of five was proud to have achieved football's highest honor.

"I glowed for the entire week. I was on a cloud," said Flores. "And that fact that my whole family, other than my brother who had passed and mom and dad, were there to enjoy it. That was even more overwhelming."    

Flores said he believes if travel and security restrictions improve, Mexico City will someday have its own NFL franchise.  But right now, he believes the Las Vegas Raiders are THE team south of the border.

"Raider fans are huge Hispanics. That seems to be the choice of Hispanics: the Raiders," said Flores. "And as long as that exists, we will survive. They love wherever we are."

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