Lester Hayes Oakland Raiders

1980 – The Year Lester Hayes Broke The NFL – The Stickum Saga

There have been thousands of players who have played in the NFL over its 90 year history, but very few get rules named after them.  This is the story of one of those such men.

A man who took a little advice a long way.

A man who’s grip on footballs was firmer than gravity.

A man that pushed the rules to the limit, and then returned them for a touchdown.

A man who’s infamy now outshadows his greatness.

The man is Lester Hayes.  In 1980, he had perhaps the greatest single season for a cornerback, or any defensive player, in the history of the NFL.

The Raiders – Just Win Baby

For anyone fortunate enough to have watched the Raiders in the 1970’s, it was probably their second favorite team after whoever their hometown team was.  They had this fat, jolly, young coach named John Madden who would burn out as a head coach after a decade in the NFL, and then disappear into history without anyone ever hearing his name again…

Madden Raiders
Madden Raiders –  Madden(69-78) would win a Superbowl, become the greatest NFL Analyst ever, & help launch EA Madden Football.


It was a collection of castoffs, misfits, and malconents who spent the entire week goofing off or getting into trouble, and then would show up on a Sunday and beat the literal snot out of whoever they played.  By hook or crook.

And it was the by hook or crook that endeared them to their Oakland faithful and others around the country.   Whether it was an unnecessary hit, punch, kick, bite, forearm shiver, or crown of helmet – NASA launch angle – clean your clock blow.  How the Raiders stopped you was far less important to them than that they simply did.

Need to take six penalties and knock a few guys out with dirty hits, ok no problem. Make sure three guys pile onto every tackle just so the bottom guy can give the tackled guy a bit more of the business, check.  Just Win Baby.

giving him the business
Giving him the business

And to balance the gang of hoolighans on defense, was an offense who loved nothing more than 1 to 3 play drives, culminating with a 55 yard bomb to someone or another.  The opposing team’s offense would have to trod right back on the field for another jail house shower encounter with the Oakland defense.  You could see how delighted Raider defenders were to lay some more punishment by all the gaps in between their teeth when they smiled.

1980 Oakland Raiders
1980 Oakland Raiders

He Who Gives Shall Receive

Fred Biletnikoff was a 6’1″ 190lb receiver who played for the Raiders between 1965 – 1978.   He caught nearly 600 balls for almost 9000 yards, and 76 TDs.  He recorded over 40 receptions in 10 straight years during the 3 yards and a cloud of dust era of the NFL.  He retired as the all time leader in post season Receptions(70), Yards(1,167) & Touchdowns(10), and was MVP of Superbowl XI.  He is in the NFL Hall of Fame.

He wasn’t small, even by today’s standards, but the rules were a bit more lax back then, and refs would tend to let them play.  It wasn’t catching the ball that Biletnikoff was having a bit of trouble with, it was the wrestling for control of the ball, and holding on to the ball post catch, that could use a bit of, well, enhancement.  That enhancement was a tub of fly/rat paper glue that we know as Stickum.

Stickum Can
Stickum Can –  This is not what Biletnikoff & Hayes used.


Contrary to popular belief, Biletnikoff and Hayes did not spray it on, and it did not come from a can.  It was a tub of globby, sticky glue, much like the glue you see on fly paper, or a rat paper trap.  You can still buy it in modern form from the same company, Mueller, who made it back then for Biletnikoff and Hayes.


Mueller Stickum Paste Glue
Mueller Stickum Paste Glue –  Closest modern equivalent to the Stickum Hayes used.


Biletnikoff would dip a few fingers into the small tub, and put a large dollop of the glue on the tape around his ankle.  This would serve as the Stickum supply depot for the game.  If Biletnikoff felt he needed a bit more grip to hold onto the ball, he could just reach down, take a small amount from his ankle, and rub it on his hands.  No one gave it a second thought.  It was probably thought of in the same vein as eye black; if you want to use it go ahead, if not who cares.

Fred Biletnikoff Stickum Supply
Fred Biletnikoff’s Stickum Supply


Dec 10, 1978 was to be the next to last game of Biletnikoff’s HOF career.  He would catch 3 passes that week for 35 yards and 1 TD.  The following week, in his last game, Biletnikoff would perform an almost perfect encore to bring down the curtain: 3 receptions for 34 yards a 1 TD.  He would be inducted in the HOF 10 years later in 1988.

Fred Biletnikoff
Fred Biletnikoff

Hey Kid….Keep it.

At the very end of Biletnikoff’s career in 1978, the team had a young 2nd year cornerback who had played 28 games and had 2 interceptions.  It is entirely supposition, but let’s fantasize for a minute and imagine a young Lester Hayes approaching a retiring Fred Biletnikoff for a little sagely advice on December 10, 1978, the day of Biletnikoff’s next to last game.

In Fred’s locker is this new tub of Stickum, and clearly Biletnikoff won’t use it all in the next couple of games.  Would it be possible for Lester Hayes to try a little bit of the stuff?  In 28 games to that point, Hayes had only 2 interceptions.  Maybe he was dropping some potential picks and was looking for an edge.  Could Biletnikoff have said,

Hey Kid. Try a little bit of this stuff on your hands, it can’t hurt.

Biletnikoff tosses him the tub of Stickum.  Lester Hayes goes out that day and gets an interception with this new wonder potion sprinkled on his fingertips.

The next week, in Biletnikoff’s swan song, Hayes doubles the fun.  He picks off two passes in the final game, making it 3 in two weeks.  As Biletnikoff is packing up his locker the final time, he sees the tub of Stickum, grabs it, and tosses it to the new star young cornerback with a nod, and walks out the door.

And with that seemingly innocent, grizzled vet to young rookie gesture, Biletnikoff becomes Dr. Frankenstein, and his creation goes on to terrorize and threaten to break the NFL in 1980.

Lester Hayes Oakland Raiders
Lester Hayes Oakland Raiders

The Gap Year – 1979

1979 will be the year Hayes comes to grips with Stickum.  Combined with his natural talent, hard working attitude, and desire to be great, the Stickum is helping.   Whether it is a placebo that just makes Hayes believes he can catch the ball or not, it’s working.  Hayes goes on to have 7 interceptions in 1979, returning two of them for touchdowns.

It is a very good year for the 3rd year player, but it is simply the tip of the iceberg.  Hayes is going into 1980 with a recipe for something special.  And the recipe involves about three tubs of Stickum every week.

1980 – That’s the way the ball bounces….unless it hits Lester Hayes

If a little of something is good, a lot of something has to be great.  That pearl of wisdom could get a lot of people in trouble, but for Lester Hayes it made perfect sense.  If putting Stickum on his hands helped him pick off seven footballs in 1979, what would happen if he used a bit more Stickum?  Surely he would intercept more balls.  The logic is flawless.

So naturally, Lester decided to do just that.  He started showing up on Sunday as some kind of weird mucus colored gloss monster who squatted down on his hunches and dared you to try to run by him without being infected by Stickum.  And while I will admit this article is a bit flowery and liberal with the use of adjectives, calling Hayes a mucus covered gloss monster is being fairly literal as this picture shows.

Lester Hayes Oakland Raiders
Lester Hayes Oakland Raiders – Stickum Monster


Turns out that Hayes was bang on with his Stickum theory.  He started picking off balls.  Hayes got an interception in the first game of 1980 to start the year off right.   Then he got another one in game 2.  Then he got a third in game 3.  And yes, he picked off his 4th ball in game 4 and returned it for a touchdown.  He had an interception in the final game of 1979, so Lester Hayes had picked off a football in five straight games.

Surely this would be the highlight of his career.  Not quite, as it wasn’t even the highlight of his year.

Hayes needed time to catch his breath after the five picks in 5 games, so he didn’t get any for 3 games.  Still, he had 4 interceptions in 7 games so far in 1980, and his confidence was high.

Perhaps all he needed was a little more Stickum.  It worked once, why not go to the well, errr, tub, one more time.  And with that, Hayes dove in, and bathed in Stickum.

Lester Hayes Stuck to Himself
Lester Hayes Stuck to Himself


And you know what, he started intercepting balls like no one has intercepted them before.

  • 2 interceptions in game 8 against Seattle.
  • 1 interception in game 9 vs Miami.
  • 1 interception in game 10 vs Cincinnati.
  • 1 interception against the Seahawks in the rematch in game 11.
  • 1 interception vs the Eagles in game 12.
  • 1 interception vs Denver in game 13.
  • Gets shut out in game 14 against Dallas.
  • 1 interception in the rematch against Denver in game 15.
  • 1 interception vs NYG in game 16.
Lester Hayes with Stickum induced webbed fingers
Lester Hayes with Stickum induced webbed fingers


Lester Hayes in the 1980 regular season

  • 13 interceptions in the regular season – The modern NFL record that still stands.
  • 7 interceptions in a 6 game stretch.
  • Streaks of 6 consecutive games and 4 consecutive games with interceptions.
  • Picked off at least one pass in 12 games of a 16 game regular season.
  • Won NFL Defensive Player of the Year

In the 34 game stretch that began with the final 2 games of 1978, all of 1979, and all of 1980, Lester Hayes recorded 23 Interceptions, for 407 return yards, and 3 Touchdowns.  It is a span of modern* defensive cornerback greatness that I can only find one instance that is close to matching it.

In the first 34 games of his career, Everson Walls recorded 22 Interceptions and returned 1 for a touchdown.  I could find no other modern NFL player who could even get close to 20 interceptions over a 34 games span.

But Lester Hayes wasn’t done in 1980.

Dick Night Train Lane
Dick “Night Train” Lane

* Dick “Night Train” Lane is the only player to eclipse Hayes’ 23 INT in 34 games.  He intercepted 25 passes in his first 34 career games for the Rams & Cardinals between 1952-54. Lane also owns the all-time NFL record for most interceptions in one season with 14 in 1952 set while with the Rams.

The Raiders Jump On Lester Hayes’ Back For The Playoffs.  They May Still Be Stuck There.

So you have thrown together what might be the greatest 34 game stretch, and single season, for any NFL cornerback, and perhaps any defender, in modern NFL football.  What do you do for an encore?

Lester Hayes SuperBowl XV - So covered in Stickum he couldn't adjust his own helmet
Lester Hayes SuperBowl XV – So covered in Stickum he couldn’t adjust his own helmet


Well if you are Lester Hayes, you strap a saddle to your back big enough for the Raiders to ride all the way to the Superbowl.  And that is just what he did.

  • On Dec 28, 1980 Hayes picked off two passes in the Wild Card game aginst Houston, returning one for a touchdown.  Raiders win 27 – 7
  • On January 4, 1981 the Raiders met Cleveland in the Divisional Round.  Hayes picked off 2 more passes and the Raiders won 14 – 12.
  • On January 11, 1981 in the AFC Championship against the San Diego Chargers, Hayes intercepts his 5th pass of the playoffs.  The Raiders hang on to win 34 – 27 and head to Superbowl XV vs the Eagles.
  • On January 25th, 1981 the Raiders win Superbowl XV against the Eagles 27 – 10.  Hayes did not record an interception, but Rod Martin of the Raiders had 3 picks to secure the Raiders 2nd Superbowl.  The Eagles’ wide receivers caught a total of 10 balls in the game.  Jaworski was 18/38, 291 yards 1TD 3INT.  Most of the yards and the TD were in garbage time.
Lester Hayes NFL 1980
Lester Hayes 34 game stretch including the epic 1980 season and playoffs.

A Career Year For A Cornerback

  • Defensive Player of the Year
  • In 20 games in 1980, Lester Hayes had 18 interceptions; returning 1 for TD in the season, and another in the playoffs.
  • Including the playoffs, Hayes had at least one interception in 15 of the 20 regular and post season games.
  • Hayes had 4 interceptions negated for penalty, meaning he could have potentially had 22 INT in 20 games.

Hayes would play 6 more full seasons through 1986, when injuries and age finally got the best of him.  He intercepted 14 more balls over those 6 years to end up with a career total of 39 interceptions in the regular season.  Hayes sits tied for 85th in career interceptions, and he recovered 7 fumbles in his career.  He returned an interception for a TD against the Patriots in 1985, giving him a career total of four pick-6 interceptions.

Hayes added an interception in the 1982 playoffs, and 2 more in the 1983 playoffs to finish with a total of 8 post season interceptions.  He limited Redskins HOF Art Monk to 1 reception for 26 yards on 10 Targets in Superbowl XVIII.  The Raiders had 5 sacks, many of them coverage sacks.  He also played in the post season for the Raiders in 1977, 1984, & 1985, but didn’t record any interceptions or meaningful stats(few were kept back then).

Lester Hayes was voted to five Pro-Bowls.  He was selected All Pro 1st team once, and All Pro 2nd team five times.  He won two Superbowls with the Raiders, in 1980 and 1983.  And perhaps the ultimate measure; Lester Hayes played his best, against the best, in the biggest and most important games.

The NFL Bans Stickum

Stickum became a real issue in the NFL.  The balls would become unplayable if a player who used Stickum would handle it.  With more and more players using the substance, and some like Hayes coating themselves in it, there simply weren’t going to be enough clean balls to play a game.  And if you think this is an exaggeration, it isn’t.

Take a look at this Raiders Youtube video.  It talks about Lester Hayes’ use of stickum, but more importantly it shows an example of the effect Stickum would have on the game.  On Nov 17, 1980 Arthur Whittington, a seldom used Raiders halfback, tried a sprint right halfback pass against the Seahawks.  Except when he went to throw, he couldn’t because the ball was stuck to his hand thanks to Stickum.  Whittington reversed field, keeps the ball, and somehow out sprints the Seattle defense to the left endzone pylon for a touchdown.  Not exactly how they drew it up.

The NFL didn’t want this happening to quarterbacks several times a week.   Thus in 1981, NFL Rule 5 Article 4 Item 8, “The Lester Hayes Rule”,  was created.


Item 8  “adhesive or slippery substances on the body, equipment, or uniform of any player;  provided, however, that players may wear gloves with a tackified surface if such tacky substance does not adhere to the football or otherwise cause handling problems for players. “

Calling The NFL Hall of Fame

And that’s the story about how one cornerback and one, well several tubs, of rat glue nearly broke the NFL in 1980.  Lester Hayes still waits for a call from the HOF that has yet to come.  Hopefully he is not being kept out for simply playing by at the very edge of the rules in 1980.  He put together the greatest 2 years, and greatest single year, by any NFL cornerback in history.

And let’s be very clear,

Fred Biletnikoff used Stickum and is in the HOF.  Lester Hayes used Stickum and is ostracized from the HOF because of it.

Is it enough to get in the HOF with a bust?  Maybe not.  But there should a sticky, please touch, display in the HOF that honors Lester Hayes for his performance in 1980.  It is very likely NFL fans will never see another season like it by a modern NFL cornerback.

But if nothing else, the story of Lester Hayes in 1980 provides us with a twist on an old addage:

If the glue picks, wear it.

Lester Hayes Two time Superbowl winner
Lester Hayes Two time Superbowl winner