When the Raiders announced their relocation to Las Vegas, many around the country questioned if the team had any fans in Las Vegas. Let us introduce you to a proud Las Vegan and hardcore member of Raider Nation Leon Hamner.
The last time the Raiders and Chiefs squared off, longtime Las Vegan Leon Hamner “nearly jumped out of my clothes.”
A fan of the Silver and Black for a mere quarter of a century, Hamner wears his loyalty to Raider Nation on his sleeve.
And his truck.
With the Raiders, it’s not just about the football. It’s about family and sticking together and being one. That’s what I see the Raiders as. – Las Vegas Raider Fan Leon Hamner
Las Vegans might even unwittingly know of the 41-year-old former security worker and not realize it. He quarterbacks the fully-loaded 2005 Ford Explorer Sport Trac pickup that’s been turning heads throughout the Valley.
“It felt like a Christmas present,” Hamner said of official word the Raiders would become his hometown team in 2020. “Learning the Raiders were coming here was like a dream come true for me.”
In turn, Hamner put the pedal to the metal with production of a traveling shrine to trumpet the move.
Born in Florida and an Idaho resident for a time, Hamner started watching football in the early 1990s in Texas, where his dad had turned him on to pro wrestling. Soon, Raider greats such as Howie Long and Marcus Allen KO’d Andre the Giant and Hulk Hogan in Hamner’s mind.
“As I got older and older, I started watching professional football and then saw the Raiders play and liked the colors, the symbol, everything about the team,” he said.
Hamner grew especially fond of the Raiders following Oakland’s 31-30 Week 7 victory that came after time had expired. The nationally televised Oct. 19 game almost certainly will provide the most memorable finish of the 2017.
Like the team’s $1.9 billion stadium construction off Russell Road, Hamner’s tribute truck remains a work in progress. Black rims, steering wheel and seat covers — you name it – are in his plans to complement the project he began about three years ago. He shifted into full gear upon the team’s announcement of its move here. His next major addition, he hopes, will be a black camper shell to enhance the overall viewing experience for family, friends and fellow fans.
“I can’t wait for the tailgating,” he said. “At first, I thought maybe too much detail, paint, too many stickers, too much stuff, would overdo it, but with the Raiders you can never overdo it,” he said.
Now the subject of cheers, snapshots and honking cars, Hamner confesses there’s been a fair share of “Raiders suck,” commentary, too.
“It’s a fun project,” he said. “When I started it, I didn’t think I’d get near the reaction I’ve gotten.”
Hamner said he’s anxious to visit the recently-opened Raider Image team store at Town Square to complete his shrine to the team. The store carries a wide selection of official team products, including jerseys, headwear, accessories and apparel. Hamner said he isn’t sure which player’s jersey he’d choose to wear.
“I’m not a fan of anyone specific,” he said. “I just watch the entire team. I just yell and get mad until we win. If we don’t win, I don’t give up on the team.”
Raider Nation undoubtedly experienced some defections following four straight losses that dropped Oakland from first to last in the AFC West. The Raiders have since ascended to a share of the division lead, making victory in Sunday’s rivalry game at Kansas City essential for a return to the playoffs.
Hamner said he would stand strong behind the team regardless of the outcome – maybe even add some large silver and black flags to the back of the cab.
“With the Raiders, it’s not just about the football,” he said. “It’s about family and sticking together and being one. That’s what I see the Raiders as.”