By PETE CAR
There was a time when I was a younger man and lived in Alameda, California.
My purpose was to work in the Oakland Raiders public relations department. My other purpose was to learn and soak up a wonderful life experience that still carries with me in everything I've become today.
As a senior at Kutztown University, I was chosen to work with the team for the season as an intern. As a life long Raiders fan, it was a dream come true.
Being able to meet the likes of Jerry Rice, Tim Brown, Charles Woodson, Jim Otto, Fred Biletnikoff and an array of other NFL legends and celebrities became the norm after awhile.
Hanging out in the locker room with the players became a daily routine. Setting up conference calls with Mike Shanahan was mundane. Carrying Super Bowl trophies from the headquarters to events in an interns car was magical.
"We actually have the Super Bowl trophies in this car," I'd say to my fellow interns.
And yes, the Raiders trusted interns with taking three iconic trophies, worth nearly $40,000, into a Honda Civic.
I can still remember my conversations with Rich Gannon, a Philadelphia product, about growing up in Allentown. I still remember speaking Polish to Sebastian Janikowski. I still have a tie that Jerry Rice gave me during a promotional photo shoot and I'll always laugh at diving head first onto a rain soaked tarp at the Coliseum thanks in part to a dare from my boss.
But one thing that will always have an imprint in my mind is meeting Al Davis for the first time.
The Raiders legendary owner died on Saturday at the age of 82 and for all the public roastings he's gotten over the years and all the controversy that has followed him, it's actually touching to hear all the positives about this man's life, which have never been shared before.
He was a man viewed many different ways, even by his own people, but there is no denying that I have never been more in awe in one man's presence then when Mr. Davis strolled into his office one morning while I was talking with his secretary.
His classic glasses. The accustomed white suit. And a presence that is unmatched.
That's what flashed through my 22-year-old mind at the moment.
After he glared at me for being in his office, I said, "Hello, Mr. Davis."
"Who are you?" he replied.
I quickly told him my name and what I'm doing in his organization. He asked where I was from and where I went to college. He immediately talked about Andre Reed and John Mobley as Kutztown products.
He ended our brief conversation with this little anecdote, "No matter what you do in life, do everything the best that you can."
Seeing Mr. Davis in the office didn't happen often, but when I would get a peak at him late in the week, usually Thursdays, I'd always get nervous.
Making eye contact with him was paramount.
"Hello, Peter," he would say.
It meant a lot that he remembered my name.
A few years ago the team invited me out to dinner in a New Jersey hotel across from the site of the Meadowlands before they played the Giants.
I sat at a table next to my friend who still works for the team. It ended up being the same table that Mr. Davis and his brother Jerry were sitting at.
Mr. Davis glanced over and said, "Is that Peter from Kutztown?"
I smiled and said, "Yes, that's me Mr. Davis."
He said, "What are you doing over here?"
I told him that I lived in Pennsylvania and that I was working as a sports journalist after graduating from college.
"Another sports writer huh? Hopefully, you're a good one because there aren't many anymore," said the old Syracuse grad who majored in English. "Just know this, you'll always be a Raider."
No matter how much I've disagreed and cursed the man for the decisions he's made since the Raiders last Super Bowl jaunt in 2003, it's tough to forget the actual man. It's tough to forget the motto's he actually lived by. It's tough to forget his rebellious spirit that has a place in all of us.
Being a Raider actually meant something from a psychological perspective and that's something I've never let go.
People who know me can connect the dots with that last statement for how I live my life and I wouldn't want to be any other way.
The Raiders may just be a sports team to many fans, but it's a lifestyle for anyone that has had the honor and prestige to be called a Raider and I have Mr. Davis to thank for that.