Raiders Vault: The Real Legion of Boom

The Seattle Seahawks might’ve coined the term “Legion of Boom” this century, but it was an Oakland Raiders duo that laid out players in the NFL of yesteryear.

Before the Seahawks defensive backfield adopted the aforementioned moniker, there were two Raiders legends living up that nickname before it became a catchphrase. Defensive backs Jack Tatum and George Atkinson roamed the backfield for the Raiders in the 1970s. They struck fear in opposing defenses and rightfully so. They’d maul and decapitate (figuratively) wide receivers who dared challenge them. Not a slight on the Seahawks, but the Atkinson and Tatum duo gave new meaning to the word “boom.”

Related: Gruden Over Zealously Compares Rookie to Legend

Raiders: The Assassin

Tatum, the Ohio State alumnus, was the 19th overall pick of the 1971 NFL Draft. He was a three-time Pro Bowler and one time Super Bowl champion during the legendary run with the Raiders. A true workhorse in those 1970s team Tatum started all 120 of his career games in Silver and Black. He ended up with 30 interceptions during that span.

The ruthlessness with which Tatum played was downright scary. While many of his hits would now be illegal, it was a different NFL back then. The ferocity Tatum used to take out opponents has been unmatched, hence the nickname “The Assassin.” That reputation did come with a huge cost unfortunately. Tatum infamously paralyzed Daryl Stingley after this hit. Say what you will about him but the fear he struck in defenses was crucial as he helped lead one of the greatest defenses during that decade.


George “Butch” Atkinson, a seventh-round pick from the 1968 NFL Draft, was a two time Pro Bowler for the Oakland Raiders. Alongside Tatum, he teamed up to form the devastating duo that helped define the 70s Raiders. Career-wise, Atkinson totaled 30 interceptions while making 126 career starts for the Silver and Black. Also, in a span of five playoff trips, Atkinson notched three interceptions culminating in a Super Bowl victory in 1977.

Just like Tatum, Atkinson became known for his physical playing style and imposing demeanor. One of his biggest rivalries was against the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Hall of Fame wide receiver, Lynn Swann.

It was the “head-hunting” implication made by Steelers head coach Chuck Knoll that came to define the vicious way the duo defended their backfield. Obviously the Raiders-Steelers was anything but friendly. However, those Raiders relished in being the villains of the NFL. Those hits remain to this day some of the most devastating American football ever witnessed.

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*Top Photo: Richard Drew/Associated Press

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