RIP, Daryle Lamonica, 80, a Raiders and Valley legend – GV Wire

Daryle Lamonica, revered by Raiders fans around the world and people across the Valley, died Thursday morning at his home in Fresno at the age of 80.

The Fresno County Sheriff’s Office said he died of natural causes.

Lamonica was a star quarterback at Clovis High School, where the football stadium is named in his honor, before enrolling at Notre Dame.

He spent his first four professional seasons as a substitute with the Buffalo Bills of the American Football League. But, at 26, following a trade to Oakland, Lamonica flourished in the ‘Mad Bomber’ – not only taking the Raiders to their first Super Bowl appearance, but also leading the AFL in assists. hit with 30.

The 6-foot-3, 215-pound Lamonica led the Raiders five times in the playoffs from 1967 to 1972, winning at least one playoff game in four of those trips.

The Las Vegas Raiders called Lamonica a “pioneer of vertical play” in a statement posted on their website. “The Raiders family is deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Daryle Lamonica earlier today. …The Raider Nation will forever miss his easy-going nature and warm smile. Our deepest condolences go out to his wife Mary, his son Brandon, the rest of the Lamonica family, his teammates and his friends.

Clovis Unified said in a statement, “The Clovis Unified community lost an icon today with the passing of legendary athlete Daryle Lamonica, the namesake of Lamonica Stadium on the campus of Clovis High School. Lamonica established a high standard of athletic excellence, performance, and character for student-athletes who graduated from Clovis High School.

Watch: Lamonica explains ‘the right way’ to play the game

A match made in heaven

Lamonica’s strong arm and penchant for throwing the ball deep suited receivers such as Warren Wells and Fred Biletnikoff perfectly and turned the Raiders into a powerhouse.

They went 13-1 during the regular season in Lamonica’s first year at the helm and he was named both first-team All-Pro and AFL Player of the Year. He threw two TD passes as the Raiders beat Houston to the AFL title game before falling, 33-14, to Green Bay in the Super Bowl.

In his six seasons as a starter for the Raiders, Lamonica was one of the most prolific passers in the game, leading pro football with 145 TD assists – 24 more than second place Fran Tarkenton. His 16,006 passing yards ranked third from 1967 to 1972.

Lamonica was All-Pro and AFL Player of the Year again in 1969 when he threw for 3,302 yards and 34 touchdowns.

He was at his best during the playoffs, throwing five touchdown passes in a 41-6 win over Kansas City in 1968 and a record six the following season against Houston. Only Steve Young and Tom Brady have matched Lamonica’s six TD assists in a playoff game and only Patrick Mahomes and Kurt Warner have multiple games with at least five.

The “Heidi Game”

Lamonica also played a starring role in one of the most memorable games of all time, throwing four TD assists, including scoring the go-ahead to Charlie Smith in a 43-32 win over the Jets in a match now known as the “Heidi Game” because NBC cut the East Coast finish before the Raiders returned to show the children’s film.

Ken Stabler replaced Lamonica as the starter in 1973 and Lamonica then ended his World Football League career.

The Raiders went 62-16-6 in Lamonica starts for the best winning percentage for any Super Bowl-era starting QB with at least 75 starts.

Check out Lamonica’s career stats at this link.

Here is a look to his 18 fourth-quarter comebacks and 17 game-winning drives.

(Associated Press contributed to this article.)

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