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Ben Davidson, Oakland Raiders legend, dies of prostate cancer

  • By NFL.com Wire Reports
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Ben Davidson, the hulking defensive end who starred for the Oakland Raiders in the 1960s before becoming a famous television pitch man, has died. He was 72.

Davidson died Monday night. He was being treated for prostate cancer. Former Raiders coach John Madden first reported Davidson's death Tuesday on KCBS-AM radio in San Francisco.

Comcast SportsNet Bay Area initially reported on Madden's comments Tuesday. The Raiders later confirmed Davidson's death in a release.

Ben Davidson starred at defensive end for the Raiders in the 1960s, making three Pro Bowl teams during his career.
Ben Davidson starred at defensive end for the Raiders in the 1960s, making three Pro Bowl teams during his career.

Davidson spent 11 years in pro football. He was drafted out of Washington by the New York Giants in 1961 but played his first season in the league with the Green Bay Packers. He spent two seasons with the Washington Redskins before heading to Oakland.

With his distinctive handlebar mustache, raspy voice and physical play, Davidson helped personify Al Davis' renegade Raiders of the 1960s. He made the Pro Bowl in 1966, 1967 and 1968.

"We'll miss him," Raiders owner Mark Davis told Comcast SportsNet Bay Area on Tuesday. "He was larger than life and a wonderful human being." 

Davidson went to the playoffs four times with the Raiders, and was on the team that lost to the Green Bay Packers in Super Bowl II.

"He was a tough, gutsy ballplayer, team-oriented with enough meanness in him to be feared and enough talent to be effective," former Raiders teammate Tom Flores told the Associated Press.

"He was just a big, tall, skinny guy that (Al) Davis took a chance with," Flores said. "He was able to rush the passer and worked hard to get bigger and stronger, with the character and personality. He was always that way."

After his playing career, Davidson became a successful actor with roles in films like "M-A-S-H," "Conan the Barbarian" and "Necessary Roughness" and he played himself in Miller Lite ads.

Davidson is survived by his wife, Kathy, and daughters Jan, Dana and Vicki.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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