The 2020 Tokyo Olympics are currently taking place with the closing of the games coming on Aug. 8. The Raiders have a rich history among the NFL of taking Olympic heroes and molding them into the Silver and Black. Raiders.com's Levi Edwards has put together a three-part series commemorating the Raiders' Olympians who have won gold. Those include: WR Sam Graddy: Gold medalist 4x100m relay and silver medalist 100m, 1984 Los Angeles WR Ron Brown: Gold medalist 4x100m relay, 1984 Los Angeles WR James Jett:Gold medalist 4x100m relay, 1992 Barcelona
The Raiders don't let just anyone wear No. 24.
Hall of Fame cornerbacks Willie Brown and Charles Woodson have both made the jersey number synonymous with greatness in the Raiders organization. Safety Johnathan Abram occupies the number on the current roster.
To add to the greatness of the No. 24, it was also worn by one of Los Angeles' favorite sons and Olympic gold medalist Ron Brown.
The story of Ron Brown is one of excellence. The Inglewood, California, native has shined bright since his days attending Baldwin Park High School and Northgate High School. While Brown was recruited to several local California programs, he decided to cross state lines over to Arizona State University.
The move was necessary for Brown. The university gave him the opportunity to be on a dual-scholarship for track and football. It also gave him the chance to focus on the sacrifices it took to become an Olympian.
"Arizona State was a perfect fit," said Brown. "I didn't want to stay in my area and get distracted."
As a Sun Devil, Brown excelled in all three facets of the game on the football field. Brown had seven interceptions throughout his collegiate career and played wide receiver his senior year, catching five touchdowns. He was also a return specialist as an underclassmen before getting more snaps at cornerback and wide receiver.
On the track, Brown was a different beast.
He broke the school's 100-meter record in 1981 with a time of 10.15 seconds. It's still the second-fastest time in school history. Three years later, he ran a 10.23 at the Olympic Trials, placing him third behind Carl Lewis and future Raiders teammate Sam Graddy. That would qualify him for the legendary 4x100-meter relay team, alongside Lewis, Graddy and Calvin Smith.
"Sam Graddy brought it to me, I'd give it to Calvin [Smith] - who at one time was a world record holder. He was the first one to go under 10 flat," said Brown. "And then he brought it to Carl Lewis, which at that time he was the fastest man in the world.
"We had a good team. We knew we had the leg speed to get it around, we just had to make sure we didn't drop [the baton]."
Brown and his three teammates took gold in those 1984 games in Los Angeles, also giving him the accomplishment of winning a gold medal in his hometown.
"It was big for me," Brown reminisced. "God is good though. He definitely had a plan for me though because anything can happen on that journey and things just really worked out for me. My training got better and of course, being on that relay team with those three other fast guys was just a blessing."
'[Sam] Graddy and I, we became good friends during the Olympics and then when I had a chance to play ball with him [at the] Raiders, we just continued that friendship.'
Before winning gold, Brown almost had the opportunity to stay home and get drafted by the Los Angeles Raiders. Al Davis called the Olympian and told him that he was going to draft him with their 54th pick in the 1983 NFL Draft if he slid to them.
Brown was taken 13 selections earlier by the Cleveland Browns, a team he never played a down for. The Los Angeles Rams would pick up the rights to his contract after he didn't report to the Browns as he was training to compete in the 1984 Olympic Games.
In his time with the Rams, he was an All-Pro kick return specialist in 1985 before he joined the Raiders in 1990. In his one season playing in the Silver and Black, he reverted back to his Arizona State defensive back days and reunited with good friend Sam Graddy, who was the starting receiver on the Raiders at the time.
"That's my boy. Graddy and I, we became good friends during the Olympics and then when I had a chance to play ball with him [at the] Raiders, we just continued that friendship. And we still continue it today."
Nearly 30 years after playing his last professional football game for the Silver and Black, Brown took the time to tour his old team's new stadium. Brown got to see his Raiders Foundation Legacy Brick at Allegiant Stadium, as all former Raiders have a brick with their name on it laid down on the premises. The visit made Brown feel "warm" and excited to see the new heights the organization will reach.
"It was very, very impressive. The game has changed a lot as far as appearance and everything. And I just love the way the Raiders - and of course, Mark Davis - the way that he integrated the players into the Raiders stadium.
"Once a nation, always a nation. And they live by that."
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