NAPA, Calif. — Speak about a sticky scenario, or a severe case of déjà vu.
For Fred Biletnikoff, it was the 1970s all more than once more when the Oakland Raiders Hall of Fame receiver broke out an old pal for a newer pal, then lathered gobs of Stickum on Peyton Manning’s hands and forearms to show the former quarterback what it was like to play with the stuff for Manning’s ESPN+ series Peyton’s Locations to commemorate the NFL’s 100th anniversary.
“I do not know what he anticipated,” Biletnikoff stated later, laughing. “He was extremely interested in it. Just after we place it on him, he began creating one particular-handed catches and genuinely place on a good overall performance.”
To celebrate 100 years of pro football, Peyton Manning travels the nation to see the persons and locations that produced the NFL the NFL.
Watch on ESPN+ » Extra »
Biletnikoff was howling now, recalling how, immediately after he fired the football at Manning with the JUGS machine, Manning merely snagged the ball midflight with one particular hand. Then he did it once more. And once more.
The pages to Manning’s playbook stuck to Manning’s hands, creating the paper unusable and unreadable.
No wonder then-Raiders gear manager Dick Romanski had to manually feed Biletnikoff his chewing gum on the sidelines, prior to, in the course of and immediately after games.
“Two Juicy Fruits, one particular Wrigley,” Romanski told NFL Films. “Or two Spearmint, one particular Doublemint.”
Romanski would have his employees unwrap the gum, location the sticks in two separate plastic containers — two Juicy Fruits and one particular Wrigley in one particular container two Spearmint and one particular Doublemint in a further — and he would location one particular container in each and every pocket on game day in preparation for the receiver.
It was a formula for Biletnikoff, who chewed gum rather than use a mouthpiece and, yes, Biletnikoff fed Manning a stick of gum also. Just for old times’ sake.
Stickum was everywhere in Biletnikoff’s heyday. In cold-climate games, he would place it on the inside of his thighs to hold the goop warm so it would not freeze on him and shed its consistency.
“But not also close to the crotch,” Biletnikoff stated with a further laugh. “You do not want that stuff also close to your privates.”
And even though Romanski was just fine unwrapping and then feeding gum to Biletnikoff, the mess Stickum produced was an challenge for Romanski’s day job.
“Dick applied to yell at me, ‘I gotta clean these goddamn uniforms!”‘ Biletnikoff recalled. “So I just stated, ‘Talk to Al [Davis].’ He just often told us, ‘Do what ever you got to do to win.’ So …”
Romanski’s son, Bob, the Raiders’ present gear manager, explained the cleaning hassle of Stickum.
“It was all more than the location,” Bob Romanski recalled. “Helmets have been the worst.
“Mondays have been, the entire day, with turpentine attempting to clean it off the helmets and off the shoulder pads. Yeah, it was everywhere. They’d sit immediately after the game — there was a washer and a dryer in the back of the old Raider locker space in the [Oakland] Coliseum — they’d sit there with that paint thinner and towels and just sit there for hours, just rubbing it, attempting to get it all off. I do not know how they did it.”
Back when the AFL and NFL each held drafts in late November, Biletnikoff was taken by the Raiders in the second round of the 1964 AFL draft and also was chosen by the Detroit Lions in the third round of the NFL draft. Biletnikoff signed with Davis below a goalpost in the Gator Bowl right away following his Florida State team’s win more than Oklahoma on Jan. two, 1965.
In 14 seasons with Oakland, Biletnikoff caught 589 passes for eight,974 yards and 76 touchdowns. His 21.9 yards per catch typical lead the AFL in 1967, and his 61 receptions in 1971 topped the NFL that season.
Biletnikoff had 4 receptions for 79 yards, which includes two major catches that set Oakland up at the 1- and two-yard line, respectively, in the Raiders’ Super Bowl XI victory more than the Minnesota Vikings following the 1976 season. Named the game’s MVP, Biletnikoff was offered a hug in the locker space by then-receivers coach Tom Flores.
“They had to pretty much pry us loose with a crowbar he had so significantly Stickum on,” Flores joked in 2014.
As significantly as Stickum helped Biletnikoff hold on to the ball in battles with stingy defensive backs — yes, he also caught one particular TD pass against the Houston Oilers on his outstretched appropriate forearm, the ball hitting and sticking — he stated he forgot to inform Manning how it tweaked teammates.
“There have been occasions when I was playing with Kenny [Stabler] and Daryle [Lamonica] and the Stickum would get on the ball and they would bitch and moan about it mainly because they would not be capable to get it off the ball,” Biletnikoff stated. “So they’d have to come across a further ball. Identical issue.”
Stickum was outlawed in 1981, 3 years immediately after Biletnikoff played his final game — and a year immediately after Raiders cornerback Lester Hayes took Stickum to a further level, as in all more than his physique, and intercepted 13 passes.
“Yeah, OK, that is very good,” the younger Romanski recalled his father’s employees saying immediately after the goop was banned. “We can do with out that.
“You got to assume road games also, mainly because a road game you attempt to get out as speedy as you can. There is not a lot of time.”
Bob Romanski lately came across a pristine, unopened can of Stickum in his late father’s belongings, and the smell brought back a sense of nostalgia.
In reality, Biletnikoff stated he would have rather applied the gloves favored by today’s receivers.
“That,” Biletnikoff stated, “would have been less difficult.”
And significantly cleaner for a player noticed as possessing some of the surest hands in the history of the game.
“He did not will need it it was a psychological issue with Freddie,” the late Stabler told NFL Films of Biletnikoff’s Stickum captivation.
“He just believed he had to have it. But what ever tends to make you comfy to play, and that was Freddie … immediately after he catches his initially pass, then you have got to go appropriate to the official and get a new ball. He was that way the entire game — just a mess.”
As was Manning immediately after his history lesson with Biletnikoff.
“Taking it off immediately after the game,” Biletnikoff stated. “Listen, I am a smoker. Paint thinner was the only issue that would get the Stickum off me. I could not smoke about it or I could catch on fire. And the fumes would make me sick, and then you’d get a rash exactly where the stuff was for a week. Ugly.
“Yeah, I did not inform Peyton about all that.”