Updated: Oct 15, 2020
Clem Daniels was the first great running back of the Oakland Raiders. Before he arrived in Oakland, the Raiders offense was without an identity. With him leading their ground attack, the Raiders had one of the best ground attacks in the AFL. He retired as the AFL’s leading rusher. Over the years, the Raider’s have featured a lot of exciting players on offense but Daniels’ legacy has been lost over time.
Daniels grew up in McKinney, Texas, a segregated town, and was raised by a hard working mother. He then ventured over to historically black Prairie View where his hard charging runs caught the eye of Hank Stram, the head coach of the Dallas Texans, in 1960. He couldn’t get much playing time in the Texans revolutionary offense and was traded to the Raiders following his rookie season.
A new city did not immediately revitalize Clem Daniels’ career. He only rushed for 154 yards and two touchdowns his first year in Oakland. It all changed in 1962 when he rushed for 766 yards and seven touchdowns. He also started to make a name for himself in the passing game, receiving 318 yards and one touchdown.
His best year was 1963 when he rushed for 1,099 yards and caught an additional 685 yards. He was rewarded for his efforts with his first Pro Bowl invitation and was named First Team All Pro. That was also Al Davis’ first year with the franchise as the Raiders went from 1-13 in 1962 to 10-4 in 1963, at the time the biggest single season turnaround in NFL history.
In the following three years Daniels continued to impress, never finishing a season with less than 801 rushing yards and 568 receiving yards. He provided the consistency the Raiders offense needed before they added Daryle Lamonica in 1967. When Lamonica arrived, Daniels’ time in Oakland was running short. In that injury riddled season he rushed for just 575 yards and received only 222, worse numbers than even 1962. However, the pressure was off as Lamonica had the rare ability to launch the football far down the field at any time.
The Raiders made the Super Bowl that year but lost to the Green Bay Packers 33-14. It was his last game in Oakland. Daniels spent his final year as a professional with the 49ers where he rushed for a measly 37 yards and received a lowly 23. It was the only other year, other than his rookie year, where he failed to score a single touchdown. He finished his career with an AFL record 5,101 yards rushing, 3,314 yards receiving (AFL/NFL) and 54 total touchdowns.
Clem Daniels battled racism throughout his life. He was a key member of the AFL All Star Team which boycotted the 1965 AFL All Star Game due to racism in New Orleans, the host city. He taught high school in Dallas and Oakland during his playing career. He opened his first liquor store in 1967 and became a member of the California State Packing Store and Tavern Owners Association (CAL-PAC). They had a confrontation with the Black Panthers when that group wanted the some of the profits from CAL-PAC. It was during that protest when Daniels became president of CAL-PAC. He negotiated with the Black Panthers to create CAL-PAC’s scholarship program in 1972 which benefits high school students in the greater Bay Area. Clem Daniels passed away in Oakland on March 23, 2019.