Football

Tom Flores moves to final rung on road to Pro Football Hall of Fame

Former Raiders coach Tom Flores talks Pro Football Hall of Fame, booth, Derek Carr and Jon Gruden

Former Raiders coach Tom Flores was in Sanger on Saturday, May 5, 2018 for Sanger High Hall of Fame. Flores discussed the Pro Football Hall of Fame, how much longer he wants call Raiders games and the relationship between Derek Carr and Jon Gruden.
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Former Raiders coach Tom Flores was in Sanger on Saturday, May 5, 2018 for Sanger High Hall of Fame. Flores discussed the Pro Football Hall of Fame, how much longer he wants call Raiders games and the relationship between Derek Carr and Jon Gruden.

Former Oakland Raiders coach Tom Flores is one step away from enshrinement in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

The Sanger High and Fresno City College alumnus was one of 15 modern-era finalists for the Class of 2019 nnounced Thursday.

“Exciting day for me,” Flores told The Bee from his Palm Springs home, minutes after the hour-long announcement show on NFL Network. “It’s the first time I’ve made it this far. I got emotional when I heard it the first time, and I haven’t got too emotional because I haven’t talked to too many people at all. I haven’t talked to any of my family other than my wife. I’m sure I’ll show some emotion at some point.”

Flores, who will be 82 on March 21, reflected and said, “My kids are very important to me and supportive. Raider Nation is big, especially up there in the Valley. In Sanger, the high school and stadium (named after him) and all that stuff. It’s just .... the phones are just starting to ring.”

Flores won 97 games, including an 83-53 run with the Raiders from 1979 to 1987. He went 8-3 in the postseason for a .727 winning percentage that ranks second to Vince Lombardi among those who have coached 10 or more playoff games.

He was the first Latino head coach in NFL history.

Flores and Mike Ditka are the only men to have won Super Bowls as a player, assistant and head coach.

Ditka was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1988 as a player.

The 2019 Hall of Fame class will be announced Super Bowl weekend in Atlanta. It takes making 80 percent of the selection committee’s ballots to win enshrinement in Canton, Ohio, and Raiders fans are pushing on social media for Flores to make the grade.

Flores said he’s overwhelmed by the support he’s getting, recognizing Raider Nation but noting some of the support is coming from people who aren’t Raiders fans.

“They’re just fans and the Hispanic community are just so supportive,” he said. “This is bigger than life, really, but you can’t let it get bigger than life because there’s still a lot of things in life.”

Flores had been stuck for nine years not getting past the November cut-down to the 25-man list of semifinalists. This was his first time at that level.

“I have to be honest: Today, I woke up and I was excited,” he said. “Today is the day they’re going to cut it to 15. That was big and it is big. Up until that point, I was trying to keep everything under control. Now I got a month to do all that again. It will be a fun month.”

Pro Football Hall of Fame finalists

The 2019 Pro Football Hall of Fame modern-era finalists with their positions, years and teams:

Steve Atwater, safety – 1989-1998 Denver Broncos, 1999 New York Jets

x-Champ Bailey, cornerback – 1999-2003 Washington Redskins, 2004-2013 Denver Broncos

Tony Boselli, tackle – 1995-2001 Jacksonville Jaguars

Isaac Bruce, wide receiver – 1994-2007 Los Angeles/St. Louis Rams, 2008-09 San Francisco 49ers

Don Coryell, coach – 1973-77 St. Louis Cardinals, 1978-1986 San Diego Chargers

Alan Faneca, guard – 1998-2007 Pittsburgh Steelers, 2008-09 New York Jets, 2010 Arizona Cardinals

Tom Flores, coach – 1979-1987 Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders, 1992-94 Seattle Seahawks

x-Tony Gonzalez, tight end – 1997-2008 Kansas City Chiefs, 2009-2013 Atlanta Falcons

Steve Hutchinson, guard – 2001-05 Seattle Seahawks, 2006-2011 Minnesota Vikings, 2012 Tennessee Titans

Edgerrin James, running back – 1999-2005 Indianapolis Colts, 2006-08 Arizona Cardinals, 2009 Seattle Seahawks

Ty Law, cornerback – 1995-2004 New England Patriots, 2005, 2008 New York Jets, 2006-07 Kansas City Chiefs, 2009 Denver Broncos

John Lynch, free safety – 1993-2003 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 2004-07 Denver Broncos

Kevin Mawae, center – 1994-97 Seattle Seahawks, 1998-2005 New York Jets, 2006-09 Tennessee Titans

x-Ed Reed, safety – 2002-2012 Baltimore Ravens, 2013 Houston Texans, 2013 New York Jets

Richard Seymour, defensive end/defensive tackle – 2001-08 New England Patriots, 2009-2012 Oakland Raiders

x-first year eligible

Three others are eligible:

Johnny Robinson, safety – 1960-1971 Dallas Texans/Kansas City Chiefs

Pat Bowlen, owner – 1984-Present Denver Broncos

Gil Brandt, vice president of player personnel – 1960-1988 Dallas Cowboys; contributor – 1995-present NFL.com

Robinson was nominated by the Seniors Committee; Bowlen and Brandt were nominated by the Contributors Committee.

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Anthony Galaviz writes about sports for The Fresno Bee. He covers the Oakland Raiders, high schools, boxing, MMA and junior colleges. He’s been with The Bee since 1997 and attended Fresno City College before graduating from Fresno State with a major in journalism and a minor in criminology.
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