Al Davis, John Madden, Art Shell and former NFL commissioner Paul Taglibue were among the dignitaries to attend a Sept. 2 memorial for the late Gene Upshaw at a concert hall of the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.
Upshaw, a Raiders Pro Football Hall of Fame guard and longtime NFL Players Association executive director, passed Aug. 20 from pancreatic cancer. He was 63.
Upshaw, right, played 15 seasons in the NFL — all with a Raiders team that reached the Super Bowl three times, winning twice. A punishing blocker nicknamed "The Governor" by his teammates, the seven-time Pro Bowler was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1987, his first year of eligibility.
“He was my friend. He was my brother. I will never forget him,” Shell, who played alongside Upshaw on the Raiders offensive line for more than a decade, told the estimated crowd of 1,000. “Uppy, I’ll miss you.”
Madden, who coached Upshaw when Oakland won its first Super Bowl in 1968, said: “I’m thinking right now Gene’s up in heaven. And he’s looking down, and he has a quip on everything. … He’s probably saying, ‘John, you’ve been up there long enough. Why don’t you go sit down?’ I just want to say, for over 40 years … I’m just going to sit down, like Gene said."
Many of the guests wore a pin with the letters "GU" and the No. 63, Upshaw’s Raiders jersey number, according to published reports. NFL players will wear a uniform patch with a similar design during the 2008 season.
That image will also be stenciled on the fields at all 16 game venues during the NFL's season opening weekend. Huge photos of Upshaw, from childhood to NFLPA leader, adorned the stage at the Kennedy Center.
Said Marvin Upshaw, Gene's brother: “He loved God. He loved his family, and he loved football.”
Said former NFL commissioner Tagliabue, who brokered labor peace with Upshaw for decades: “I’ve never had a better rival, a better teammate or a better friend. Gene Upshaw was one of a kind.”
In lieu of flowers, the Upshaw family has requested to send donations to:
Note: You may also mail your memorial gift (check made payable to Children's Hospital & Research Foundation) directly to: Children’s Hospital & Research Center Foundation 2201 Broadway, Suite 600 Oakland, CA 94612. (Please note on the check that your donation is in memory of Mr. Gene Upshaw).
Tahoe Forest Hospital Foundation – Cancer Program P.O. Box 2508 Truckee, CA 96160
The Associated Press &
NFL Players Association