Skip to main content
Original Issue

Mark van Eeghen, Raiders Fullback January 2, 1978

If one digs through issues of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED from the late
1970s, one will find myriad images of Mark van Eeghen, a
225-pound fullback for the Oakland Raiders. In several, he's
covered by a goopy lather of mud. In others, he's recklessly
barreling through a thicket of linemen. Van Eeghen likes this
image--the rugged overachiever from a small school standing up
to the Goliaths and even teaching them a thing or two--yet he
concedes he never expected to make the leap from Colgate to
Oakland. "I recall being in my first training camp with the
Raiders, trying to figure out what I was doing there," says van
Eeghen, a third-round draft choice in '74. "I remember, in
college, being a little ticked off at having to play against
Bucknell while Michigan-Ohio State was going on. But that didn't
mean I thought I belonged with the pros."

Surprise--he did. In 10 NFL seasons, eight of them with Oakland,
van Eeghen rushed for 6,651 yards and 37 touchdowns and earned
two Super Bowl rings. More memorable than his numbers was his
style. He insisted on going through, not around, defensive
linemen. He was of the head-down, go-forward genre typified by
Bronko Nagurski and Jim Taylor--"although maybe I would've gone
around more people if I'd had more speed," van Eeghen says.

Regardless, he got by. One of his best games was in September
1978 against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field. Though he
grew up in Cranston, R.I., van Eeghen was a huge Green Bay fan
as a kid. On that Sunday afternoon he pounded out 151 yards in
the Raiders' 28-3 victory. "I was supposed to be paying
attention in the huddle," he says, "but I kept looking over at
Bart Starr, who was coaching the Packers. I just couldn't
believe we were on the same field."

In 1982 Oakland drafted Marcus Allen and, not long after,
released van Eeghen, then their alltime leading rusher. Van
Eeghen played two seasons with the New England Patriots before
retiring in '84. He has worked in commercial insurance since and
currently is a district manager for The Andover Companies. He
and his wife of 24 years, Nancy, live in Cranston. They have
three daughters, all of whom attend college.

Recently, for the first time since his final NFL game, van
Eeghen, 46, began longing for football again. "I called into a
radio show in Oakland, and they played old tapes from my
career," he says. "Listening to the games and moments, it really
took me out of reality for a while. I hung up the phone, and
I've been missing it since." Are we talking comeback? "Well,
I've been thinking," van Eeghen says with a laugh. "No."

--Jeff Pearlman



He was a rugged overachiever from a small school who stood up to
the Goliaths.