Honor the Heroes of the Game, Preserve Its History, Promote Its Values & Celebrate Excellence Everywhere
"You look back on your career and realize that you went through your life a lot quicker than a lot of people. You have a lot of failure and success in a matter of minutes on the football field.”
(Florida State)...6'1'', 190...Frederick S. Biletnikoff ... Florida State All-American ... Second-round draft pick, 1965 ... Career record: 589 receptions, 8,974 yards, 76 TDs ... Had 40 or more catches 10 consecutive years ... Durable with fluid moves, deceptive speed, great hands ... All-AFL/AFC four times ... 1971 NFL receiving champion with 61 catches ... Played in two AFL All-Star Games, four AFC-NFC Pro Bowls, eight AFL/AFC title games, two Super Bowls ... MVP in Super Bowl XI ... Born February 23, 1943, in Erie, Pennsylvania.
Fred Biletnikoff, a 6-1, 190-pounder with excellent hands and deceptive speed, caught 589 passes for 8,974 yards and 76 touchdowns during his 14-year career with the Oakland Raiders from 1965 through 1978. At the time of his retirement, Fred not only dominated the Raiders' record book for pass receiving, but he owned several significant NFL marks as well. Along with another Hall of Fame receiver, Raymond Berry, Fred held the record for catching 40 or more passes in 10 consecutive seasons. His 70 receptions, 1,167 yards receiving and 10 touchdowns in 19 post-season games were also NFL postseason career records.
The talented pass-catcher came to the Raiders as their No. 2 draft pick in 1965. A 1964 All-American at Florida State, Biletnikoff caught four touchdown passes in his team's Gator Bowl victory over Oklahoma. He also played in the College All-Star Game before reporting to the Raiders' training camp. Biletnikoff started as a special teams player and did not see action as a flanker until the seventh game of his rookie campaign.
When he did get a chance to start, he responded with a seven-catch, 118-yard performance. In the process, he became a regular for good. A durable, dependable performer, Biletnikoff missed only eight games because of injury in 14 seasons. Biletnikoff, a native of Erie, Pa., reached the zenith of a career filled with outstanding achievements when he caught four passes for 79 yards to set up three Oakland scores in the Raiders’ 32-14 victory in Super Bowl XI. He was named the game's Most Valuable Player.
Fred was an All-AFL pick in that league's final 1969 season, earned All-Pro honors in 1972 and won All-AFC acclaim in 1970, 1972 and 1973. He played in two AFL All-Star Games and four AFC-NFC Pro Bowls as well as three AFL and five AFC championship games, plus Super Bowls II and XI.
Full Name: Frederick S. Biletnikoff
Birthdate: February 23, 1943
Birthplace: Erie, Pennsylvania
High School: Erie Tech
Elected to Pro Football Hall of Fame: January 30, 1988
Enshrined into Pro Football Hall of Fame: July 30, 1988
Presenter: Al Davis, Managing General Partner, Raiders
Other Members of Class of 1988: Mike Ditka, Jack Ham, Alan Page
Pro Career: 14 seasons, 190 games
Drafted: Second round by Oakland Raiders, AFL
Uniform Number: 25, (14)
Fred Biletnikoff Enshrinement Speech 1988
Presenter: Al Davis
Good morning. If the roar of the crowd of the people from Pittsburgh continues in a poor manner, we will see to it that the Hall of Fame is moved to the West Coast.
I would like to say, and I know it is self-serving, but that for three memorable decades, that is the '60s, the '70s and the '80s, the Oakland and now Los Angeles Raiders have had the greatest players, the greatest coaches, the greatest plays and performed in the greatest games ever played in the annals of sports. During the years of 1965 to 1978, the Raiders dominated pro football and all of other sports in terms of victory. The will to win has been a dominating theme of the Raiders organization, and while no player in the history of the organization has epitomized that will more than Fred Biletnikoff. I will remember him most because he hated to lose. Like the owner speaking to you, he was a sore loser.
Among the greatest players the quarterbacks during these years of 65-78 were names like Tom Flores, Daryle Lamonica, the legendary George Blanda, the brilliant Ken Stabler, but there was one wide receiver who caught the passes of all of them, his name was Fred Biletnikoff. His number was 25. The Raiders signed Fred Biletnikoff under the goal posts on Jan. 2, 1965, at the Gator Bowl for the Oakland Raiders and the AFL. He had just scored a record four touchdown passes as Florida State, his alma mater, beat Oklahoma. He had been a high school All-American from Erie. Biletnikoff played 14 seasons with the Raiders, and in all those years the Raiders never had a losing season.
His three touchdown receptions in the 1968 playoff game against Kansas City Chiefs, is a mark never surpassed in NFL playoff history. His 10 seasons with 40 or more pass receptions per season in a row is an achievement equal only by Hall of Fame player Raymond Berry. In Super Bowl XI, he was named Most Valuable Player when the Raiders, fortunately, defeated the Minnesota Vikings. When Fred finished his 14 years as a Raider in 1978, he ranked first in the history of the NFL in both reception and reception yardage in the biggest games a professional athlete could play in: the postseason playoffs.
Even today, his 10 touchdown catches in playoff games rank him second in NFL history. He did it against man to man, zone, combination and bump-and-run when few had ever seen this. He did it when the rule makers did not try to restrict the offense. I personally, and I have said this before, have had the good fortune to come to this Hall many times to come here and walk through its exhibits, to pay tribute to this great class. Jack Ham brings back the vicious memories of vicious battles in the '70s with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Michael Ditka. never seen a college athlete play a greater college football game then I saw Mike Ditka play against Notre Dame when he was a junior in college and, of course, the great Alan Page who we had our share of great moments with. And to the Class of 1978 and in whose glory we all share and to all the great alumni up here, there is a continuing realization when we come back to this Hall that we all owe them a debt, and for the Raiders, and I for one will never forget that debt.
My life has been years of glory and a few days of defeat. Today is a day of glory for me. My wife, Carol; my son, Mark; Virginia, the wife of the legendary coach John Madden; the brilliant Ken Stabler; the incomparable Cliff Branch; the indestructible Gene Upshaw; Tom Keating; Steve Sylvester; Pete Banaszak; they are all here today because Fred Biletnikoff has a special place in the hearts of the Raiders and especially his teammates who wore the fame silver and black, because he wore those colors with pride, he wore them with poise, he wore them with class, be was a star among stars.
I would be remiss if I didn't mention the Oakland Coliseum and the thunderous roar of that crowd in that coliseum will live in our minds forever. Football, Raider football, has always been an emotional game, and Raider fans everywhere must get emotional when they remember Fred Biletnikoff. The loose sleeves flying on your black jersey with the famed silver 25, your socks hanging down below your boney knees, the long blond hair flowing below the back of your helmet, the stick'em on your stockings, the black eyes and those hands, those magnificent bands extended at the last second to pluck the football out of the sky. You know, Fred gave credibility to the credo that plain old-fashionedness was not passe.
Thousands of young Americans were reminded that hard work, dedication and devotion still reap the rewards of victory. Genius, genius comes in many configurations. It comes in great size, in great strength, great speed and maybe once in every decade in great artistry. A man will walk softly into the valley of giants and be will make you wonder, Where is the body? Where is the strength? Where is the speed? How is he going to play a giant’s game? How is he going to compensate? And then you hope and you watch and then you wait and a miracle will happen. And you will discover that this man can play the game, he can beat you not with great skill physically, not with a great athletic skill, but with the artifice, timing and execution. And that was Fred Biletnikoff. When he had to catch a football, he went for it as if it were a dam in the heaven and the stars that nobody was going to stop him from catching the football, and nobody could.
Fred Biletnikoff, you are a great artist who for 14 glorious seasons used the football field as your canvas and your magnificent hands as palette and brush to paint unforgettable moments for all football fans everywhere and add to the greatness of the Raiders to the NFL. You go to the Louvre, the Prodo and the Hermitage, and you will find the miracles of what men have wrought with his hands, and now it is Freddie's turn. From this day onward, the National Football League Hall of Fame will commemorate the miracles Freddie wrought with his hands. While we cannot preserve Fred's works on a wall, we can treasure the memories of his artistry in this one Hall, the great Hall of Fame. Fred Biletnikoff -- a great student of the Raiders' famed passing game who always knew where the sideline was, who always knew where the first down line was and more importantly always knew where the goal line was. He loved his team, he loved his organization, he loved the great game of football. It is my honor for enshrinement into the Hall of Fame to present to you, the great Fred Biletnikoff.
First of all, before I can get things out of my mouth, I want to recognize everyone who has been in the Hall of Fame before myself and before the other three gentlemen behind me. They were the pioneers of this game, among them were the Cleveland Browns, who I watched on TV when I was a kid in Erie, Pa. Getting an opportunity to become a part of this fraternity, you can't explain it. It is a close-knit fraternity and you have to have greatness and you have to have all the assets and attributes in order to be part of this fraternity. And today I want to just salute you people in the back, and I am so proud to be part of you. Thank you very much.
This moment today, the excitement within me to have my friends from Erie, Pa., here, the kids I went to high school with and knowing that forever they are always behind me and at times, not even knowing how much they were behind me and something like this and their being here and finally finding out how much they were behind me all the time, makes me feel so great. I love all of you. You have been kind to me, and I will always have a place for you in my heart always. And thank you for having me in your heart.
To my family, to my father sitting down here, to my mother who is looking down on the procedure right now, this ceremony, to my four lovely children, they have tears, and I don't yet. And my son, Fred, who was part of a Super Bowl with me in Pasadena, Calif., when I received the Most Valuable Player. No father can ever be prouder to have their son be part of something like that. And my three daughters: I have one in the Air Force. I went with her to be inducted for four years, and I never thought I could be so proud of somebody in my entire life to give themselves away for four years to their country.
To my two little daughters, Tracey and Natasha. Tracey has been probably more football and dragging her around to the various coaching jobs I have had, and if there is a second son anybody could have ever had and looks as cute as she is, I love you very much and thank you for being a part of this, Trace. And Natasha, she still doesn't know what her daddy does or did. She thought Canton, Ohio, was all one word. Finally, last night she asked if I caught all those passes, and I said yes. To Jennifer, all those years you endured, all the beatings you took, all the sacrifices you had to make, thank you.
One other thing before I can get off this stage; I just want to say one more thing. I was proud to be a professional football player. And I am still happy it is still in my veins and everyone behind me is proud that they were professional football players. And I loved the game, and I still love it, and I hope it continues to get better and better so you people and the people that will follow us coming before you can feel the excitement and the happiness and all the emotion you people give. Thank you very much.