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NFL trailblazer Tom Flores admires the pioneering spirit of ESPN

NFL legend Tom Flores during the ESPN Newsmaker (Joe Faraoni/ESPN Images)
Super Bowl winning head coach and NFL pioneer Tom Flores visited Bristol recently to address employees for an ESPN Newsmaker. (Joe Faraoni/ESPN Images)

Editor’s note: ESPN celebrates 25 years of Hispanic Heritage Month by highlighting the contributions of Latinos in sports. For coverage in English from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15, click here. For coverage in Spanish, visit ESPNdeportes.com.

ORIGINAL CAPTION Head Coach Tom Flores of the Los Angeles Raiders gets carried off the field after they defeated the Washington Redskins 38-9 in Super Bowl XVIII  on January 22, 1984 at Tampa Stadium in Tampa, Florida. (Photo courtesy of Focus on Sport/Getty Images)
In 1984, Flores celebrated his second Super Bowl victory as Raiders head coach (Click To Enlarge). (Focus on Sport/Getty Images)

In many ways, Tom Flores is a pioneer.

The NFL’s second Hispanic head coach (Tom Fears was the first), the first quarterback in Oakland Raiders history and one of only three men to win Super Bowl rings as a player and head coach, Flores admires pioneering spirit.

That’s one reason he appreciates ESPN.

“[ESPN] is a forerunner in a lot of things. It’s amazing being that, when it was started, it was laughed at. ‘You’re going to do what? You’re going to broadcast 24 hours of what?’” Flores, 76, recalled in an interview with Front Row during a recent visit to the company’s Bristol, Conn. campus. “But what they did, they did well. And they’ve done it with class and with style.”

The same could be said for Flores who, in 1979 – the same year ESPN took to the air – succeeded John Madden as head coach of the Raiders.

Flores eventually led the Silver and Black to Super Bowl XV and XVIII titles, adding to the championship rings he earned as Madden’s assistant (SB XI) and as a Kansas City Chiefs backup quarterback (SB IV). Flores, current ESPN analyst Mike Ditka and Tony Dungy have been Super Bowl champions as players and head coaches.

Flores grew up in the Fresno, Calif. area. A Mexican-American who earned money for his family picking grapes, Flores scored a chance to play football at the University of the Pacific in Stockton, Calif.

The current radio analyst for Raiders games appreciates where he came from and how ESPN, the NFL and so many other organizations continue to honor the achievements of Hispanics throughout this month.

“Hispanic Heritage Month is a great way to celebrate a segment of our country that’s getting bigger and bigger and becoming more sports oriented,” said Flores, who spoke at an ESPN Newsmaker and made several stops on the network’s “Car Wash” tour. “There are kids who are growing up in this nation and learning its likes and dislikes, and this nation loves its sports. And the NFL is a big part of it.”

One of the highlights of Flores’ coaching career involved two opponents who are now ESPN analysts: former Philadelphia Eagles stars Ron Jaworski and Herm Edwards.

In SB XV, Flores’ Raiders beat their Eagles, 27-10. One particular play still stings Edwards: Jim Plunkett’s 80-yard touchdown pass to halfback Kenny King. The pass sailed over Edwards’ fingertips.

“Poor Herm, they run that play over and over,” said Flores, whose path did not cross Edwards’ during his Bristol visit. “When I do see him along the way, I don’t bring that play up.”

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