The Need For Speed – WR Rod Barksdale – The Sprinter with No Football Experience 

One of the series we will have on is the “Need for Speed” about all of the speedsters that played for the Raiders. After Cliff Branch retired Al Davis,  who was always already consumed and obsessed with fast players, became even more obsessed with Speed and finding the next Branch (a world class sprinter who could also catch passes and run routes). This led to players such as Willie Gault being traded for and signing former sprinters such as Ron Brown, James Jett and Sam Graddy. However, maybe no other speedster in Raiders history has a better story or sums up the Raiders obsession with speed better than Ron Barksdale. 

Barksdale never played College or High School football. Barksdale was an all American track athlete in 1982, 1983 and 1984 finishing third in the 4×100 NCAA finals and tried out for the U.S. 4×100 team. 

He wrote the Raiders saying he was a world class sprinter and would like to try out even though he had never played football informing Al Davis he ran a 4.3 40.  He tried out for the team and they signed him in 1985. Rod was placed on IR that year (giving him a year to learn the WR position). Rod made the team in 1986, starting 15 games. In his first ever NFL game in 1986 he caught a 57 yard touchdown pass from Marc Wilson against the Denver Broncos. 

While starting most of the year he also rotated with Dokie Williams and Jessie Hester (another speedster). In the final game of 1986 the Raiders were 8-7 and out of the playoff hunt so they decided to give Barksdale more extensive playing time. Rod played the majority of the snaps against the Colts catching 6 passes for 179 yards in a 30-24 loss. Not bad for a player who never played in high school or college!!! On the season he caught 18 passes for 434 yards and 2 touchdowns (of 57 and 34 yards) averaging an outstanding 23.1 yards a reception.

The Colts game was the high point of his career.  The following season he was signed by the Cowboys (Tom Landry also loved speed and was always on the lookout for the next Bob Hayes, having picked Carl Lewis in the 12th round of the 1984 NFL draft) caught 12 passes for 165 yards and a touchdown in 1987 and never played in the NFL again. 

Rod will always be remembered as the player who never played football at any level till playing for the Raiders in 1986 and his monster game at the end of the 1986 season.

The Raiders Colts game is in the first link below on Youtube where you can see some of his monster long catches! I have also enclosed the highlights of the 1986 Week One Raiders Broncos game where you can view his 57 yard touchdown catch at the 14 minute 50 second mark! In the final Youtube video I have posted his final NFL touchdown which comes in at the 2 hour 45 minute mark (he beats Darrell Green on the play)!