In our third installment of this week’s Talk of Fame Network “5 Games’’ podcast, Hall of Fame cornerback Mike Haynes recalls the great tragedy of his career – the August night when his friend and teammate Darryl Stingley was left paralyzed from a hit by Oakland Raiders’ safety Jack Tatum in the midst of a meaningless exhibition game.
Stingley was a 26-year-old wide receiver with the New England Patriots who was just coming into his own. He had averaged 16.8 yards per reception the previous season and was becoming a big part of the Patriot’ offense when he leapt up to catch an overthrown pass from quarterback Steve Grogan and was blasted from the side by Tatum, a vicious-hitting safety known as “The Assassin.’’
Although Haynes was a close friend of Stingley’s he admits, he might well have done the same thing given the situation and the vicious way the game was played in the 1970s.
“To be honest, I had a lot of respect for their defensive backs,’’ Haynes said of those Raiders, who were once called a “criminal element’’ by Steelers’ head coach Chuck Noll. “I tried to do a lot of the same things they would do. I was trying to get those guys out of the game and not come back.’’
Yet after Stingley crumbled to the ground, his body broken and two fractured vertebra in his neck, Haynes’ first thought was neither retribution nor anger.
“I wanted to quit playing football,’’ Haynes recalls. “I would have hit Darryl exactly the same way. Later, I realized that was crazy.’’
Haynes said no one “really knew’’ how badly Stingley was hurt but they knew what the potential was.
“I felt Darryl would be fine,’’ Haynes says. “I was shocked.’’
Several years later, Haynes would be traded to the Raiders, who had by then relocated to Los Angeles. On an early road trip he bordered the team plane and saw Jack Tatum, now retired and the author of a book in which he’d said “I like to think that my best hits border on felonious assault,’’ sitting in a seat. Haynes’ reaction to seeing Tatum after having read that book and known what his hit had done to his friend led Haynes to confront him.
What happened and how Haynes came to grips with the reality of now wearing the colors of the team and player who had once paralyzed his friend makes this podcast a moving and surprising one. To hear it all go to VoCalNow. Com or download the free podcast at iTunes. To do either and to subscribe to the “5 Games’’ podcast just click the link below.