By STEVE GORTEN, Tribune correspondent

They called him Killer.

Henry Lawrence liked the nick name and enjoyed dominating de fensive linemen for 13 NFL sea sons. On Raiders teams notorious for toughness and intimidation, the 6-foot-4, 270-pound right tackle had his own mystique.

It was because of him that left-handed quarterback Ken “The Snake” Stabler had time to slither away from charging blindside defenders. Lawrence was Killer on Sundays. His reputation was much softer other times.

“The thing Henry doesn’t get enough credit for is his humanitarian efforts,” said former Raiders lineman and teammate Gene Upshaw, now executive director of the NFL Players Association. “He would never talk about it. He just did it and never looked for a reward. He has such a great heart.’

Henry Lawrence: Manatee ’70
  • Highlights: Played in 159 consecutive games with the Raiders. … Played in two Super Bowls, 
    including the 38-9 victory against the Washington Redskins in 1984 at Tampa Stadium. … Played in two Pro Bowls (1983 and ’84). … Named to Sports Illustrated’s All-Pro Team in 1981. … Raiders’ first-round draft choice in 1974, the 19th player selected overall. … Lineman of the Year at Florida A&M; in 1973. Pittsburgh Courier All-America selection as a junior and senior. … Began high-school career at Palmetto Lincoln, where he played receiver. After integration in the Manatee County public school system, finished at Manatee.
  • Today: Lawrence, 48, still lives in Palmetto. He has worked in various businesses. Now he’s with LTC Data Systems in Ontario, Calif., but he also works in farming and produce shipping.

Upshaw recalls a Saturday before a game the Raiders played at Buffalo. Lawrence asked teammates to go with him and visit nearby migrant camps on the weekend of his birthday.

“I used to be one of those people,” Lawrence said. “Guys were just in amazement I grew up living that kind of life. It helped me in every aspect.”

He knew the workers; some were family. They had plodded up the East Coast from Florida, much like Lawrence did as a youngster when he drifted from Long Island to Virginia to Palmetto working the fields with his family.

“He knew the route, he knew they were going to be there,” Upshaw said. “He was going regardless if no one went.”

Other Raiders went. They found the workers and talked with them, signed autographs, “took gifts, whatever. That part stayed with [Lawrence]. He’s still doing the same stuff.”

Three years before he retired in 1987, the three-time Super Bowl champion and two-time Pro Bowler visited Bradenton Bayshore High School to speak against drug use. Lawrence, who attended Lincoln High in Palmetto before graduating from Bradenton Manatee, gave strong advice.

It was one of his many public service activities. He also has his own youth foundation based in California for underprivileged youth.

“I tried to do my part to promote to kids that one doesn’t have to be limited by his background,” Lawrence said. “It is a fact proven time and time again.”

Upshaw remembers Lawrence as stubborn, a player not afraid to stand up to Coach John Madden.

“They used to go at it all the time,” Upshaw said. “[Madden] loved Henry.”

So did teammates. They saw Lawrence as a big ox, with huge muscles molded during years of picking everything from strawberries to cauliflower. Even workday was a competition.

“I wanted to win and it carried over to football,” he said.

Lawrence, 48, said he did it from the time he was “old enough to walk out into the rows” through his sophomore year at Florida A&M; University. Then with the Raiders, he stood out even among teammates such as Upshaw and Art Shell.

“Henry was so big. I’m talking muscular, not some fat hog,” Upshaw said. “You could tell he worked in the field, and he came and brought that work ethic with him to the rest of the Raiders.”

Up next, No. 91: Jefferson’s Ricky Gallon, a 6-foot-11 center, competes in the 1975 Final Four with Louisville, then plays professionally in Europe and South America.