OAKLAND — When Tom Flores won his first Super Bowl as head coach of the Oakland Raiders 35 years ago, the impact of being the first Hispanic coach to reach those heights didn't hit until well after the game.
There was little made of the achievement in the lead-up to the game in New Orleans that the Raiders won 27-10 against the Philadelphia Eagles, and outside of a few postgame interviews with Spanish-language media members, there was not much of a fuss after the game, either.
It took until the offseason for Flores truly to digest the impact he had.
"It happened when I went into the offseason and started traveling a little bit and doing appearances," he said. "When I went into certain areas then it was brought to my attention the pride in Hispanic areas. That was pretty special."
Flores is feeling that same sort of pride leading up to this year's game now that a coach who looked up to him is poised to follow in his footsteps. Carolina's Ron Rivera is looking to join Flores as the only coaches of Hispanic heritage to win the Super Bowl when the Panthers play the Denver Broncos on Sunday in Santa Clara.
Flores has followed Rivera's career casually since he played college ball at California in the 1980s, and the two got to know each other well last summer at a charity golf tournament. Flores hopes to see Rivera for a few minutes this week to catch up and wish him well.
Rivera has called Flores a trail blazer and said Flores' success helped lead him into coaching after his playing career. That respect means the world to Flores.
"You work a lot of years, you do a lot of things, you know you're watched and in some cases you're an example," Flores said. "It's nice to know and makes me feel good."
Despite winning a second Super Bowl title following the 1983 season with the Raiders, posting a 97-87 career record in 12 seasons, and also winning Super Bowl titles as an assistant coach in Oakland and backup quarterback in Kansas City, Flores has never gotten full credit for his successes.
Flores said he was even overlooked leading up to his first Super Bowl, which he believes led to the lack of attention heading to the game about the pioneering achievement.
"It didn't come up," Flores said. "First of all I had to convince these people that I was coaching the team and Al wasn't. When we got to New Orleans, it was the great Dick Vermeil and Al Davis' Raiders. There was never any mention of me. Finally they acknowledged me. The racial thing was never, ever an issue."