'One last hurrah:' The nation says goodbye to NFL great John Madden in Oakland
OAKLAND, Calif. - The memorial for former Oakland Raiders head coach and broadcasting legend John Madden was a homecoming that brought stars from the NFL, sports broadcasting, Raiders fans and friends together at the Oakland Ring Central Coliseum.
The tribute was called One More Monday night in Oakland: a celebration of the life of John Madden, with a nod to his years as a commentator for Monday night football. The board was lit up with the Raiders logo and a portrait of Madden with a broadcasting headset.
"I know he's up there and I know he's smiling down," Madden's wife Virginia told the crowd, saying after her husband died on Dec. 28 at age 85, she wanted his memorial there for Oakland and the fans he loved.
"John believes in the town of Oakland, he believed in the Coliseum. Most of all he believed in the Raiders....I believe in the Raiders. The Oakland Raiders," said Virginia, emphasizing the name of the city in a poke at the team's relocation to Las Vegas.
Raiders faithful from across the region came in their black and silver team colors. Fans received a pin at the door with his initials JM.
SEE ALSO: In Pleasanton, John Madden was 'a regular guy' for much of his life
There were stories, video tributes, and sweet memories of the head coach who took the Oakland Raiders to a Superbowl victory in 1977.
Former Raiders offensive tackle Henry Lawrence sang in honor of Madden and explained how despite their differences and disagreements, Madden had the ability to forgive and ask forgiveness of others.
"He was a man who could relate to the little guy and the big guy and he didn't pull the punches. He was real," said Lawrence, a former Raiders offensive tackle and Superbowl champion. "He taught love. Get rid of the hate. Cause Coach Madden was all about lovin'. He was intense. He didn't coach every player the same. He gave them what they needed...We all will always love him. And I will always have him in my heart. Him and the family."
Other NFL stars remembered Madden's big heart on and off the field.
"John was a big man, But I hope you know he had a big heart as well...we raised $8 million for Bay Area charities," said Steve Mariucci, former Head Coach of the San Francisco 49'ers and an NFL broadcaster.
There also were members of his broadcasting family spanning 30 years.
FULL VIDEO: John Madden's celebration of life
'Listeners said they'd be late for work," said Stan Bunger, a former KCBS radio anchor who noted that people sometimes said they'd be late to work because they were listening to Madden's broadcasts in their cars.
In the green room before the memorial, family and friends were sharing smiles and memories.
"It's a sad time having lost him. But he's still with us. He's inside all of us and he will be for the rest of our lives," said his son, Mike Madden.
Lesley Visser, a sportswriters Hall of Fame broadcaster was reminiscing about traveling on the Madden bus with Mike Madden.
"You were on the ice fishing trip," Visser said. "The Superbowl in Minnesota, John insisted we take the Madden cruiser up to Mille Lacs, the frozen lakes."
Ron Rivera, head coach of the Washington Commanders, says he'll never forget meeting Madden when he was just 15.
"I introduced myself. I was this punky kid," said Rivera, "Here's this guy who's this iconic figure but yet he took the time to spend time with me and ask me questions."
Nils Lofgren of the E Street Band appeared on a video performing a song composed for Madden "Miss you John."
Tickets were $32.14 which was the winning score when Madden led the Raiders to their 1977 Superbowl victory.
All of the proceeds from the tickets will go to the Madden Foundation to give educational opportunities to Bay Area youth.
Madden's wife, Virginia, announced she's matching up to $1 million, a way to remember John Madden and his spirit of always giving back.
"We've been every game and back in the day when Madden was your coach and my dad used to take me here. So it's, you know, just generations after generations," said John Kowalski, a Vacaville Raiders fan.
"We're just here to pay tribute to the coach one last time and share it with my seven-year-old son," said Steve Winn of Vacaville.
"Just a great guy. You don't have to be a Raider fan to be a Madden fan," said Jason Graham of Vacaville.
"I never met him but I felt like I knew him. He was that kind of guy," said Howard Kotez of Stockton.
"He set the example. he set the bar high. Not only for coaching but for living," said John Rogers, who drove from Modesto with his friend David Nagle.
"I felt like what better way to honor him than to be here," said Nagle.
"To be here for all those games and to be for this. It's very special. And we appreciate the Madden family for giving us one last hurrah here in Oakland," said Stephanie Ortiz of Newark.
Jana Katsuyama is a reporter for KTVU. Email Jana at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter @JanaKTVU or Facebook @NewsJana or ktvu.com.