Days Until Super Bowl LIII From January 9: 25
Fred Biletnikoff crowned a magnificent NFL career when he was named MVP at Super Bowl XI after putting in a match-winning performance. His four crucial carried the Oakland Raiders to an emphatic 32-14 victory over the Minnesota Vikings, setting up three touchdowns and generally dazzling with his receiving prowess.
The former Florida State superstar was selected for the Pro Bowl four times, finished as NFL receptions leader in 1971, caught 589 passes and scored 76 times en route to a 1988 Hall of Fame induction, but he may have worried that a Super Bowl ring would always elude him.
He was 33 years old by the time the 1976 season rolled around and the pain of losing Super Bowl II nine years earlier was still a bitter memory. But Biletnikoff, who wore the number 25 shirt, took matters into his own hands, recording 13 post-season receptions and leading his team into the Super Bowl.
“When we made it back to the Super Bowl nine years later, I was 33 and I knew it could be my last opportunity to be on a World Championship team,’ he said. The Raiders started as four-point favorites and lived up to that status by romping to victory.
Biletnikoff’s precise pass routes and safe hands made him one of the greatest catchers ever to grace a football field, and he saved his finest effort for Super Bowl XI. His sliding catch at the Vikings’ one-yard line was a joy to behold. His almost telepathic relationship with Ken Stabler was in full force and it was intriguing to see how effortlessly he found space.
By the time he retired he was the all-time NFL leader in post-season receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns. The Raiders never suffered a losing season during his tenure with the Black and Silver, and his receiving ability played a large part in that. “I like catching passes,’ he regularly declared. “I would be lost if I were ever told to do anything on a football field except catch passes.’