So, to quote the late Al Davis: “Just win, Baby.” Davis was once quoted as saying that Tom “is not just a great coach in the league,” but that Tom “is among the greatest ever.” We all hope that the NFL finally recognizes that as well and he enters in Class of 2021 with the Cowboys own Drew Pearson the original 88!

Article below first appeared on Our Voice/Nuestra Voz in 2013

Story By A. Govea




Tom Flores – Academic All-American, first Latino starting quarterback in American professional football history, first Latino head NFL coach and the rare winner of two Super Bowls – was born in California farming country.

Early in his pro career Tom Flores was tagged “The Ice Man” for being cool under pressure and adept at come- from-behind wins. He was not just the first minority head coach to win a Super Bowl; he was the first minority to become president and general manager of a U.S. professional football team. Only Tom Flores and Mike Ditka have ever won pro-football championships as a player, assistant coach, and head coach. 


Born Thomas Raymond Flores on March 21, 1937, in Fresno, he would learn how to work in the fields around Sanger, Calif. He was named for his father, who immigrated from Durango, Mexico, and like his father did early in his new U.S. home, the young Tom Flores spent a lot of time picking grapes. Tom learned how to work with his hands, but he had his sights set far beyond the California vineyards that he saw almost daily as a child.

 Flores received some early childhood advice from his parents, advice that he took to heart: “If you want to do something big, you have to roll up your sleeves and get to work; you find a way to get things done.”

The young Thomas attended Sanger High School and was a high achiever on and off the field. He was an accomplished student; he earned an academic scholarship to Fresno State (later renamed University of the Pacific).

I recently took an opportunity to chat with Tom Flores on the phone, from his California home. I asked him if he ever had to deal with discrimination, growing up and as an adult. “In high school, I know it was there, but I always tried to rise above that; I think if you look for it, you will find it,” Tom said. “In the Pros, there was blatant prejudice in the south against the Black players. As for myself, I guess I kind of flew under the radar,” he said. “Most people, especially in the north, did not know what to make of a Chicano.”



Tom won the starting quarterback role for two seasons at Fresno State; additionally, he was active in Student Council and served as president of The Men’s Associated Students group.

He was named Academic All-American. His parents’ advice was not lost on him. But he was destined to accomplish more, much more despite suffering a shoulder injury during his senior year at Fresno. “This hurt my chances of getting drafted, especially since back then (1958), there were not that many teams, and the American Football League was not even in existence yet,” Tom recalled.

Graduating from college, he focused on pursuing a career in professional football, a lofty goal for any athlete, but especially one coming out of a small college and one who was a Latino before that term was commonly used or used with respect or pride. At best, back then when people were being half-way civil, Tom likely was called a Mexican. Today that is a label of pride, too, in many Hispanic circles. Although the National Football League did not call, the Canadian Football League did. So, Tom went north to Canada and joined the Calgary Stampede football team in 1958. Tom, however, met more than his share of adversity. He was cut after one season. But his dream was not lost; he did not give up. The Washington Redskins of the NFL picked him up in 1959. His stay did not last long; his shoulder injury from college days came back to haunt him. He was released by the ’Skins, and he underwent shoulder surgery.

Tom returned to college: “I was preparing for life after college and was working on my master’s degree when I got a call from a new team, from Oakland.” Not just a new team, the Oakland Raiders were in a new league, the AFL. So, in 1960 Tom became a Charter member of the American Football League. As a Raider, Tom was to enjoy most of his pro successes as a player and later as a coach. He was named starting quarterback, thus becoming the first Latino starting QB in American professional football history, all leagues. In his first year as the starter, he passed for 1,738 yards, completing 54 percent of his passes, connecting on 12 touchdowns.

Those numbers are not impressive by today’s standards, but in that era, running the ball was always the number one weapon for all teams. Indeed, Tom’s passing stats that year led the league, AFL.

As Raider QB, Tom was dubbed “The Ice Man” for his ability to keep his cool under pressure and bring his team back from scoring deficits to win. Tom stayed with Oakland until 1967, by far his longest

stay with any team; then he was traded to Buffalo. Tom stayed with the Bills until 1969; he was traded to Kansas City and helped win an AFL championship there as a backup QB. In 1970, after the AFL and NFL merged into the National Football League, Tom retired as a player, with a record of 838 completions on 1715 attempts, gaining 11,959 yards and 92 passing TDs. He also rushed for 5 TDs.

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