Monday, November 11, 2019

IN THE KNOW: My good friend, Napoleon McCallum

February 14, 2019 by  
Filed under Community

My good friend, Napoleon McCallum

BY SHERYL THORNTON-BURNHAM

Sheryl Thornton-Burnham

Since February is Black History Month, I am choosing to honor a friend who is proud of his strong faith in God, who is a wonderful husband and father, a naval officer, a casino executive, an avid member of the community in which he lives — and a Raiders legend.

I met Napoleon McCallum back in 1990, when he played running back for the then-Los Angeles Raiders. From the day we met, I knew there was something very special about him. Nap was not like the typical athlete. He didn’t party, drink or hang out. He was all about his business. This is one of the qualities that I respected most about him.

Nap, as his friends affectionately call him, played football for the U.S. Naval Academy, was a Heisman Trophy finalist, and was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. He was drafted by the Raiders in 1986. Because of his commitment to the Navy, Nap spent the next few years serving his country. He later returned to the team in 1990, and played every season until a horrific, career-ending injury that occurred live on Monday Night Football on September 5, 1994. Nap I lost contact at that point, and I moved to Las Vegas. As luck would have it, I decided to stay home from work one morning. While watching television, a commercial showcasing the Green Valley Ranch master-planned community came on. In that commercial was none other than Napoleon McCallum.

Sheryl Thonrton Burnham with Raiders’ Mark Davis, Jeff Burnham, and Napoleon McCallum.

Excited, I called the television station that aired the commercial asking how to get ahold of a friend who was featured in the commercial (I know this may have sounded a little crazy to them), but they said that they would reach out to the advertising company who sponsored the commercial. I was asked to leave my name and they would see what they could do. Lo and behold, to my surprise, my phone rang an hour later. A voice that I recognized said “Hello, Sheryl.” It was Napoleon McCallum. I was so excited to hear from my friend. We made plans to meet for lunch, and we have kept in contact ever since. I have had the honor of meeting his lovely wife Yvonne and I am privileged to call her a friend and sister.

I remember having a conversation with Napoleon back in 2015 regarding the feasibility of an NFL team in Las Vegas. At the time, I recall stating to him that based on statements from former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue, the likelihood of having an NFL team in Las Vegas was slim at best. However, Tagliabue was no longer the Commissioner of the National Football League — so the opportunity to bring an NFL team to Las Vegas could be viable. He then asked what team would do well in Las Vegas. I told him that in my opinion there were only two teams out of the 32 franchises that could possibly do well in Las Vegas: one was the Dallas Cowboys and the other was the Oakland Raiders. Since I could not imagine Jerry Jones trading leaving Texas for the glitz and glamour of Las Vegas, the better odds were with the Oakland Raiders. Little did I know that Nap would be the basis of the Raiders coming to Las Vegas! And the rest is history.

I am proud to call Napoleon and his beautiful wife Yvonne dear friends. I salute you, Nap!

Once a Raider, always a Raider.

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