Al LoCasale, football executive for half a century, dies at 82

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When Al LoCasale took his first job as a front office executive for the Los Angeles Chargers of the American Football League, the sport of professional football was a lot different.

LoCasale, who died over the weekend at the age of 82, liked to tell a story about how he decided to draft Ernie Ladd, the enormous defensive lineman from Grambling who would become a member of the Chargers’ Hall of Fame: LoCasale had never even heard of Ladd until he was getting his shoes shined one day before the AFL draft and the shoeshine man noticed he was wearing a Chargers blazer. It turns out that a previous customer, an employee of an NFL team, had been telling the shoeshine man about what a talented player Ladd was. When the shoeshine man told LoCasale that the NFL executive badly wanted Ladd, LoCasale thought that was good enough for the Chargers, and so the Chargers went ahead and drafted Ladd themselves and convinced him to sign with the AFL instead of going to the Bears, who had drafted him in the NFL.

Football changed a lot over the ensuing half century, and LoCasale was there to see it all. He helped build the Chargers into an AFL powerhouse, and so when Hall of Famer Paul Brown founded the Cincinnati Bengals franchise, the first person he hired was LoCasale. After spending some time in Cincinnati, he was hired away to Oakland by Al Davis, and spent the last 34 years of his career working as Davis’s right-hand man.

“The Raiders are saddened by the passing of longtime executive assistant Al LoCasale, whose relationship with the organization spanned more than three decades,” Raiders Owner Mark Davis said in a statement. “He is an integral part of our history and he helped articulate the mystique of the Silver and Black. Our thoughts are with his family at this time.”

Before working in pro football, LoCasale worked as an assistant at USC, coached at the University of Pennsylvania and spent time coaching football during his stint in the Navy as well.

When LoCasale retired in 2003, he credited the men he worked with for giving him a great career.

“Few people in this field have been as fortunate as I have. All three of the legendary principals I have worked with – Al Davis with the Raiders, Paul Brown with the Bengals and Sid Gillman with the Chargers – earned their way into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. If a man is truly measured by the company he keeps, then I have been surrounded by giants,” LoCasale said.

LoCasale is survived by his wife and two sons.