Former Oakland Raider Jack Tatum has died of a heart attack. He was 61-years old.
Also known as “The Assassin”, Tatum spent nine of his ten seasons in the NFL with the Raiders, where he developed a notorious reputation as one of the league’s most vicious hitters.
Playing alongside fellow safety and current Raiders broadcaster George Atkinson, the Raiders featured one of the most feared and physical secondaries in the NFL.
Throughout his career, Tatum was involved in a number of memorable and infamous plays.
In 1972, during an AFC divisional playoff game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Tatum’s hit on Steelers running back John “Frenchy” Fuqua knocked the ball into the air and into the hands of Franco Harris. Harris proceeded to run the ball 42 yards down the field for a game-winning touchdown. The much-disputed play is famously known as the “Immaculate Reception.”
Tatum’s hits have become iconic in the NFL’s film history. Against the Houston Oilers, Tatum and Oilers running back Earl Campbell collided on a fourth and one play at the goal line that caused both players to stumble uncontrollably into the endzone. To this day, Campbell, who was noted as a powerful and punishing runner, has said that Tatum’s hit was by far the hardest he has ever received.
Against the Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl XI, Tatum’s blow to Vikings wide receiver Sammy White caused White’s helmet and chinstrap to come off. The Raiders went on to win the Super Bowl, 32-14.
However, perhaps Tatum’s most famous hit is arguably the most infamous one in NFL history. Against the New England Patriots in a preseason game in 1978, Tatum delivered a devastating blow to wide receiver Darryl Stingley. The collision compressed Stingley’s spinal chord, rupturing his fourth and fifth vertebrate. Stingley spent the rest of his life as a quadriplegic, and the two players never reconciled.
In his life after football, Tatum ventured out into various industries, including land development, real estate, and also in the restaurant business. Tatum also wrote three successful books detailing his life in the NFL.
In 2003, due to a staph infection caused by diabetes, Tatum had all five of his toes amputated from his left food. Later medical issues caused Tatum to also lose his right leg. As a result of the cost of his diabetes, Tatum became an advocate for diabetes awareness, starting the Jack Tatum Fund for Youthful Diabetes.
Tatum was a three-time Pro Bowl selection. He is often regarded as one of the greatest secondary players of all time, and is often noted as one of the most physical players to play the game, despite being a safety.
Tatum is survived by his widow, Denise, and their three children.