Today in Patriots History
Don 'Tree' Oakes
Don 'Tree' Oakes
Happy 83rd birthday to Don Oakes
Born July 22, 1938 in Roanoke, Virginia
Patriot LT, 1963-1968; uniform #71
Pats 21st round (162nd overall) selection of the 1961 AFL draft, from Virginia Tech
Before enrolling in college Donald Sherman Oakes went to Fork Union Military Academy in Virginia, home of one of the nation's premier prep school football programs; the school has produced 117 NFL players. While there he was a a member of their 1956 all state championship team as well as their wrestling team. Don then enrolled at Virginia Polytechnic Institute, where he again participated in those two sports. At Blacksburg he was named to the All-State and All-Southern Conference Teams in 1959.
Oakes was selected in the third round (42nd overall) of the 1961 NFL draft by Philadelphia. Knowing that he would likely sign with the more established league, he was passed by American Football League teams until the Pats took a flyer on him in the 21st round, 162nd overall.
The Eagles used Oakes on the defensive side of the ball, at defensive tackle. In his two seasons in Philly he played in 22 games in a reserve role, starting six games. In 1962 the Eagles were not a good team (they finished in last place in the NFL East with a 3-10-1 record, and would go 2-10-2 the following year), and the two starting defensive tackles were guys their head coach seemed to be satisfied with. A month after the conclusion of the 1962 season Don signed as a free agent with the Patriots, seeking a better opportunity.
That year Mike Holovak revamped his offensive line, adding Oakes at right tackle, moving Milt Graham from RT to LT and all star Charley Long from tackle to guard. The Patriots won the AFL East, the first title in franchise history that season, before falling to San Diego in the AFL championship game.
The following year Oakes was moved to left tackle, a position where he would remain in for the rest of his time with the Patriots. Here are some of the comments from the 1968 Boston Patriots media guide:
Selected first team Eastern All-Star last season . . . "one of the top two or three in the league I face" says Raiders' Ben Davidson . . . the "Roanoke Oak" is known as "Tree" by his teammates . . . he is the Pats' quiet man . . . former winner of the Pats Unsung Player Award . . . Coach Holovak said then of Don, "he's the quietest guy on the club, but certainly one of the best all-around players. I's like to have eleven more like him." . . . exactingly consistent rather than spectacular in his blocking . . . came to Boston highly recommended by Pats' coach and former NFL All-Pro Jesse Richardson . . . has been a regular all of his five years with the Pats and is getting better with each year . . . gets down field well on second blocks for Nance
Don Oakes played in all but two games for the Patriots from 1963 to 1968. He then returned to his hometown of Roanoke, Virginia and became a school teacher there, as well as a high school football coach. I am guessing none of the kids messed with the 6'4, 255 pound former pro football player despite his quiet demeanor. He was named to the Virginia Tech Athletics Hall of Fame in 2001.
Don Oakes, Boston Patriots Football Player, Discusses the Upcoming Super Bowl Game on January 12, 1969 (3:51 video)
Hidden Heroes 2015: Don Oakes
Don Oakes was a college football player, a NFL football player, and a teacher. For college he went to Virginia Tech and played football for four years. He played for the Boston Patriots for six years in the NFL and then played for the Philadelphia Eagles for two years. He is married and has two children and in fact Mrs. Oakes the science teacher is married to his son. He is a retired teacher from Roanoke county schools and occasionally substitutes for the school. He currently lives in Vinton.
Mr. Oakes was hard working when he played football. He said, “It’s hard work and you have to be dedicated and be in the weight room.” He took his role as a NFL player very seriously. He said, “Hard work, sacrifice and physical fitness is key in being a successful player.” The qualities he had as a player made him all pro in 1967.
Mr. Oakes is a substitute teacher and a former football player. His dedication of stopping football and start to teach is what makes him a Hidden Hero.
Don S. Oakes, Class: 1957 Induction: 1997 Sport(s): Football - Don Oakes came to FUMA in 1956 where he as a member of the All-State Military Championship Football