Paul McQuistan....

Angry Pope

All Raider
Feb 2, 2006
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Kragthorpe: McQuistan made in the Raider image

By Kurt Kragthorpe

Kurt Kragthorpe

NAPA, Calif. -- The flowing red hair that inspired poetry and made Paul McQuistan resemble the quintessential Oakland Raider is gone.

The buzz cut that displaced it, exposing huge freckles on the back of his neck, was a case of defensive strategy by the former Weber State offensive lineman. It was a veteran move by the rookie, heading off any training camp maneuvers from the other players and leaving one vital question: Is it coming back?

"Probably," said McQuistan, in what qualifies as a full-length speech for him.

In his regrowth process, he will have a veteran role model in left tackle Robert Gallery, whose long, curly, black hair makes him look like Slash - the guitarist, not Kordell Stewart.

Even without the classic Raider look, McQuistan is fitting right in with the team. He's starting at right guard for a franchise that values offensive linemen, considering how coach Art Shell played his way from the Silver and Black trenches into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

And Shell approves of the rookie. "I like his toughness," Shell said recently at the Raiders' camp in the Napa Valley, north of the Bay Area. "I like his quickness and his attitude about playing the offensive line."

In other words, he's a little bit nasty - the highest compliment to any lineman, especially a Raider.

In his second tour as Oakland's coach, Shell is trying to instill that physical approach, and there are finally signs that it is working. In Sunday's preseason win over San Francisco, the first-team offense gained more than 200 yards in the first half, protecting quarterback Aaron Brooks and opening holes for running back LaMont Jordan.

That's what McQuistan did for Weber State, where he played left tackle for four seasons before moving to guard in the NFL.

"That nastiness, he's had that since day one when he stepped on this campus," said WSU athletic director Jerry Graybeal, who recruited McQuistan and coached him for four years (including a redshirt season) before Ron McBride took over. "That includes practice."

And it reflects an apparent daily transformation for McQuistan, one of those players who's as quiet and easygoing off the field as he is mean on it.

"I've always envied those kinds of guys who can take care of two worlds," Graybeal said. "You have the horror stories of the guys who can't separate it."

McQuistan's background of being the co-youngest of seven children on a farm in western Oregon explains his off-field personality and keeps him grounded, amid a growing following of Raiders fans. A tribute Web site ( was launched by a Salt Lake City-based member of the Raider Nation, wanting to express support and confidence after Oakland drafted McQuistan in the third round in April.

The devoted fan base of a franchise that has gone 13-35 over the past three seasons needs somebody to latch onto, even an offensive lineman from a Division I-AA program, and McQuistan has become that guy. The hairstyle undoubtedly boosted his popularity, as reflected by a sample of entries in the 1st Annual Paul McQuistan Haiku Contest on another fan site.

Red mullet machine/Brings the linemen to their knees/Unmercifully

Flame headed field ox/Plowing the painted green turf/Making grown men cry
Mullet maned war god/Scorched fury of the Midwest/Defense falls, wheat-like
That's quality stuff, even if the "Midwest" depiction would have to offend McQuistan, a geography major at WSU.

And the poetry is a sad reminder of what once thrived on McQuistan's head, although he says the only real adjustment is having to worry about the sun.
A friend's wedding just before training camp played into the shearing, which allowed McQuistan to avoid the hijinks that ruined his twin brother's similar look. In the Dallas Cowboys' camp, Pat McQuistan was left with a lonely patch on top, but with hair still extending in back.

A seventh-round draft choice who played two seasons alongside his brother at Weber State, Pat McQuistan is a second-team tackle and should make the final Dallas roster, or at least the practice squad.

The more experienced Paul McQuistan has bigger responsibilities with the Raiders. He also has the backing of veteran lineman Barry Sims, who played for McBride at Utah. "He's handled himself well," Sims said. "He just needs to continue to work and develop into the player that everybody thinks he can be."

Besides Shell, the Raiders have Hall of Famer Jackie Slater and 14-year veteran Irv Eatman as co-offensive line coaches. "They've been there," McQuistan said. "They know exactly what techniques work well and they have a high expectation level."

So do a lot of Raider fans, when it comes to the flame headed field ox and mullet maned war god, with or without all that hair.
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