Friday, December 16, 2011

#24 - JOHN SCHMITT, C, Jets

John Schmitt, Jets center on this third rookie card in a row for the set. Hardly a rookie by this time, Schmitt had been a Jet since 1964 and a starter since 1966. Undrafted out of Hofstra, Schmitt would steady a line that had Winston Hill, Randy Rasmussen and Dave Herman that fronted Joe Namath for their great Super Bowl win over the Colts.

The Jets had held training camp at Hofstra for the first time before that season, odd coincidence.

Schmitt played eleven years, ten with the Jets. He would appear on a card in the 1974 set, then in the 1975 set as a Packer though he was not a starter for the whole 1974 season. Schmitt was an interim short-timer during a Packer period where they basically started three centers over a 30-year period. Jim Ringo started from 1954 to 1963, Ken Bowman from 1964 to 1973, then Larry McCarren from 1974 to 1984. Ken Iman, Bill Curry, Bob Hyland and John Schmitt....none cracked the lineup during this time. Schmitt was released by the Packers, ending his pro career.

John Schmitt went on to the board of directors of many charities, and was a chairman of Schmitt-Sussman Enterprises, a national insurance distributor. He was honored by the Epilepsy Foundation of Long Island in 2010.

A New York Times article in the 1990s about the Super Bowl champion Jets mentioned Schmitt showing off his Super Bowl ring proudly. They didn't know it was a replica. Schmitt had lost the original in 1971 surfing off the coast of Waikiki.

Reports surfaced a couple years ago that the ring had been found by a lifeguard, and his family found the ring in the lifeguard's estate. As of this last September the family had said they wanted to get the ring back to him, and Schmitt had offered to fly the family to New York. I hope it either happens or has happened by now, he seems like a good guy and has waited long enough for something he should be proud of.

CARTOON! Big Smilin' Football Guy can't get enough baseball tomfoolery! Could Jackie Robinson have been the 40's Bo Jackson? The real question I have is, what NFL team would have allowed him to play at that time?

Sunday, December 11, 2011

#23 - WAYNE COLMAN, LB, Saints

Here's linebacker Wayne Colman of the Saints. He started his pro career with the Eagles in 1968, as the back helpfully explains.He was a free agent signee in a time where the NFL had 17 rounds of draft... and the Eagles had 20 picks in 1968.

They chose five players listed at linebacker in those 20 picks, none of which played as many pro games as Colman. The number one pick, Tim Rossovich, became well known for off-field antics and some Hollywood roles later on, but he would play ten less games than Colman for his career.
Of all those 1968 picks, nine would make the pros in one fashion or another. Only OL Mark Nordquist would play more pro games than Colman.

Colman would make his way to the Saints in an injury-filled 1969 season (broken leg), and stay with them thru the end of his career in October of 1976 (retirement). He missed the entire 1975 season after breaking an arm in a preseason game.

Later in life, Colman would play a big role in young people's lives as a coach and teacher at Ocean City High School in New Jersey. One of his student/athletes was his son, Doug Colman, who penned a nice tribute on his father's retirement right here.

Doug Colman went to Nebraska, and was drafted by the Giants, having a nice five-season career as a LB in the NFL.

A picture of Wayne Colman from 2010 with his other two Topps cards (1974 and 1975) is here.
Notice that Topps re-used his 1973 shot on the 1974 card.

Upping the number of cards in the set to over 500 for 1973 allowed Topps to give some recognition to some of the solid veterans of the game, the day-to-day grinders like Wayne Colman who fought thru injuries and passed the game along to his son. I am very happy to present to you Mr. Wayne Colman. Linebacker, father, coach, teacher.

CARTOON! Big Smilin' Football Guy has a baseball glove on! This card was put together after the Braves traded for Davey Johnson, who was a high school teammate of Atlanta's Tommy Nobis. Who knew that Johnson would explode for over 40 homers in a couple of months.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

#22 - DICK ENDERLE, G, Giants

This is Dick Enderle, airbrushed into a stylish neon blue to indicate that Topps did not take a picture of him during the 1972 season. He was a Falcon, as the back text describes, from 1969 to 1971. He was dealt to the Giants in 1972 for a late draft pick and placed on the taxi squad before the 1973 season, activated before the games started up.

During that season, he got into at least one scrape in practice with a teammate, LB Pat Hughes, and the team as a whole suffered through a terrible 2-11-1 season. They won the first game in 1973 over the Oilers, and Enderle would play a controversial part in the second game of the year against the hapless Eagles. Pete Gogolak launched a field goal as time expired to salvage a 23-all tie, but Eagles coach McCormack said game film showed Enderle moving before the snap. The refs didn't see it, and some press said the Eagles were "robbed" of an "upset" victory. Philly would actually finish with three more wins than the Giants, the Giants would go 1-11 the rest of the season.

Enderle was waived by New York in November of 1975, and his career gets sketchy after that. He was in the Saints training camp in 1976 but was cut, picked up by the 49ers a couple days after that. Cut in September after a few games, he was signed by the Packers in October and finished his career there. A Milwaukee newspaper article at the time mentioned that Enderle had played for the Broncos, but I could not find any confirmation of that at all.

The 1973 Topps series can be looked at the same way one would look at expansion teams in major sports. Many athletes would play just the one expansion year, and not before or since. Enderle's only football card was this 1973, and there will be many more one-and-dones at we continue this set. Topps made some interesting choices on who to include, and I've managed to cull a few 1973 pics of players who did NOT make the cut that I'll display sometime.

Enderle would pass away at age 60 in 2008.

ERROR ALERT! The otherwise useless stat on the back of this card has Enderle falling on a kickoff just once in his career. Pro Football Reference says he returned another kick in 1971 for 20 yards against the Vikings. Not bad for an offensive lineman.

CARTOON! Smilin' Big Football Guy clobbers running Big Football Guy with a billy club, causing a star to erupt from the player's helmet. If smilin' guy can get to that star, he will be invincible for a short period of time.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

#21 - HOWARD TWILLEY, WR, Dolphins

Here is Howard Twilley, College Football Hall-of-Famer and member of the undefeated Dolphins 1972 squad. Twilley was an original Dolphin in 1966, and remained with the team through 1976.

Twilley was also a bit of a forgotten man on a team that ran about 99% of the time (exaggeration) and that had Paul Warfield getting all the plaudits. Topps forgot about him frequently as well. After getting a card in the 1968 (with his helmet on) and 1969 sets, Topps decided not to put him back in the series until the greatly expanded 1973 set, here.

And in looking up his cards to get some background for the set, I found that they had RECYCLED the shot from his 1969 card in the process!

(Thanks to the superstar, All-Pro Vintage Football Card Gallery site )

This is a bit tough to swallow, given that there was FOUR YEARS between cards, and that Twilley had been in two Super Bowls since 1969.

Twilley would miss out on the 1974 set after an injury-filled 1973, but bounce back to return to cards for the rest of his career. Twilley never once led the Dolphins in receiving, as the likes of Karl Noonan, Paul Warfield and Nat Moore usually took that role, but he was a steady possession man and filled a solid role as the team progressed from expansion tackling dummy to All-Time Greatness.

Twilley SHOULD be remembered for his college days at Tulsa, where he was the first athlete to make 100 catches in a single 1965. The next year, he snagged 134 in 10 games.

Let that sink in a bit.....13.4 catches PER GAME. Still the NCAA record. If you were looking for someone solid who knew how to catch a football, certainly you would have chosen Howard Twilley. The Dolphins did, and he was part of the foundation that carried them to two Super Bowl wins.

CARTOON! Big Smilin' Football Guy has a leather helmet on, so we are going to the wayback machine for the trivia question. And we KNOW we are going way back when we look for a good Bears quarterback!!!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

#20 - JIM JOHNSON, CB, 49ers

One of the more decorated DBs ever to play the game, Jim Johnson. Hall-of-Famer and quite possibly someone you never heard of.

Johnson was a great football player for the 49ers from 1961-1976. Starting out in the defensive backfield, the Niners moved him to offense in 1962. Johnson responded with 34 catches for an 18.4 yard average, and had a great 11-catch, 181 yard day against Detroit and a 90-yard TD catch against the Bears. San Francisco was 6-8 that year, with some young players on the rise, but injuries to QB John Brodie and HB-QB Bill Kilmer brought in vagabond journeyman QB Lamar McHan in, and they sunk to 2 wins in 1963. Johnson was used occasionally on offense, but had gone to safety for the most part.

While the team didn't improve much the next season, they did get above .500 in 1965 with the addition of a better running game with Ken Willard and John David Crow, and another go-to receiver in Dave Parks. Johnson had settled into the cornerback position by then. The defense had some very solid parts, with Johnson, Kermit Alexander and Elbert Kimbrough in the backfield, HoFer Dave Wilcox and Matt Hazelstine at linebacker, and Charlie Krueger on the line.

The Niners hung around .500 the next few seasons, with a drop to 4-8-2 in 1969. They surged to first place with 10 wins in 1970, as Johnson, Krueger and Rosey Taylor were the veterans of a younger defensive crew that had added Tommy Hart, Frank Nunley, Bruce Taylor, Mel Phillips and Skip Vanderbundt over the last couple of seasons. The offense had a solid offensive line, reliable Willard in the backfield, and Gene Washington the new "it" at WR. They edged the Vikings in the playoffs but lost to the Cowboys for the conference championship. Johnson was All-Pro the second year in a row.

For 1971, they added RB Vic Washington and TE Ted Kwalick became a big part of the offense. They won the NFC West again, and advanced past the Redskins before getting snuffed out by Dallas again. And again, an All-Pro year for Johnson.

Next year, 1972, Johnson made first team All-Pro for the fourth straight year. The 49ers won the division again, and were eliminated by the Cowboys again, this time in the first round. But many of the Niners vital key players were getting up there in years, and they couldn't hold on to their success.

In 1973, Johnson was 35, Krueger was 36, John Brodie 38. The team limped home to a 5-9 record, and Johnson did not make All-Pro or the Pro Bowl. He did return to the Pro Bowl in 1974, and the team registered some fine defensive games. Two shutouts in a row late, and two straight single-digit allowances. Unfortunately, the offense was mediocre at best...they lost one of those games 7-0 ad won one 7-6. 6-8 was the won-loss mark. Johnson stuck around a couple more seasons, but the Niners didn't hit postseason either one.

Johnson was the Niner's first round draft pick in 1961, and one of their all-time best selections. He was thought of as one of the best one-on-one defenders ever, and was certainly good enough to have been an effective offensive player as well.

His first football card is a short print from the 1962 Post Cereal series, and he was on a few Philadelphia cards while Topps was AFL-only. His first Topps card was in 1968. This card is the only game-action shot Topps used for his cards and it is a good one, apparently taken against the Giants on October 15, 1972 in a game the Niners lost.

A columnist once wrote that Johnson was the best defensive back never to play in a Super Bowl. Johnson has the Cowboys to thank for that.

Check out Jim Johnson's website HERE!!!!

CARTOON! Big Football Guy fumbles as crazy Al Davis ropes him as an Oakland Raiders draft pick!!! Roman Gabriel foils Crazy Al by going with the Rams......yeah, see how THAT turned out. RIP Al Davis, the football world ain't NEARLY as zany now.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

#19 - DIRON TALBERT, DT, Washington

Diron Talbert is about to kick your butt and drink your beer. Though the card isn't in the greatest shape, it boasts one of the best pictures of one of the best defensive linemen of the seventies.

Like the back of the card says, Talbert was one of several brothers to play football. I only knew of Diron; there was a great feature on ESPN Classic...perhaps by Heywood Hale Broun...that interviewed both Diron and his older brother Don during a Rams-Saints game. Diron was on the Rams defensive line, and Don was on the Saints OL. This had to have been filmed in either 1969 or 1970. Diron was on the Rams from 1967 to 1970, then Washington until 1980. Don started with the Cowboys, then hopped to Atlanta from 1966 to 1968, the Saints for two years, then Dallas again in 1971.

Talbert was traded from the Rams to Washington as part of former Rams coach George Allen's anti-youth movement.  In a massive deal, the Rams sent Talbert, linebackers Myron Pottios, Maxie Baughan and Jack Pardee, guard John Wilbur, RB Jeff Jordan and a 1971 fifth-round draft pick for LB Marlin McKeever, Washington's first and third round draft picks for 1971, and Washington's third THRU seventh round draft picks for 1972. Whew.

All of the newcomers but Talbert would be a part of Allen's geriatric bunch that made it to the Super Bowl after the 1972 season to be beaten by the Dolphins.

Diron Talbert would go on to the Pro Bowl in 1974, and be a second-team UPI All-Pro in 1973. Amazingly this is his rookie card, though he had been around for about six years. He would miss the 1974 set, before becoming a Topps regular in the ensuing seasons.

By the way, the Rams' first three picks of the 1971 draft were Jack Youngblood, Isiah Robertson and Dave Elmendorf, mainstays for years. In 1972 their best pick was a fellow named Lawrence McCutcheon in the THIRD round.

Washington picked Cotton Speyrer in the second round of the 1971 draft, but he never played for them. 11th-round pick George Starke was a lifetime Washington player, getting in aver 150 games until 1984. They had no pick until the 8th round in 1972, where they took RB Moses Denson, who went to the CFL for a year before putting in two seasons for Washington. The only other player from that draft to make it into the NFL was WR Frank Grant in the 13th round, and it took him a couple of years to get past Charley Taylor and Roy Jefferson for playing time...

George Allen went 67-30-1 during his time in Washington, winning records every season. However, he only won two playoff games EVER, and those were in 1972.

CARTOON! Big Football Guy has the ball, a big grin on his face, and a giant "G" on his chest as he runs full-speed to the Big Leagues! For more information about the Grambling question, please refer to the Bob Atkins entry!

Friday, September 16, 2011

#18 - BOB ATKINS, S, Oilers

Here is Bob Atkins, making his debut on a Topps card despite having been in the league since 1968. He would get one more card, in 1975. He had a perfectly respectable career in the pros, starting with the Cardinals as a second-round pick and going to the Oilers with QB Charlie Johnson for DB Miller Farr and QB Pete Beathard. He was injured for awhile in 1973, and was done in the NFL in 1976.

Atkins came from Grambling. Looking it up on Pro-Football-Reference , I see about 110 other NFL pros from that storied college. Some great ones, too.

Just from Grambling alone you could have a starting defensive line of Buck Buchanan, Ernie Ladd, Willie Davis and Gary Johnson. Try running through that line. And your defensive backfield could have Willie Brown, Everson Walls, Rosey Taylor and Albert Lewis. A few Pro Bowls there.

Tank Younger was the first Grambling player to make the NFL, in 1949. The next one wouldn't be until Younger's last year in 1958 (Willie Davis), then the floodgates opened, thanks a lot to the AFL creating more opportunities for players like Willie Brown, Buchanan and Ladd. Do yourself a favor and look up some of the articles on how the AFL helped integrate football.

Back to Atkins and the Oilers. Despite having some pretty good players on their defense like Atkins, George Webster, Elvin Bethea and Ken Houston they managed to win just ONE game. They allowed the second-most points in the league and scored the second-fewest. That ain't a blueprint for success.

With their #1 pick in the draft and first overall, they took John Matuszak, who didn't come around for the Oilers and was in a Chiefs uniform the next season. With their second first-round pick they chose RB George Amundson, who averaged less than three yards a carry in his three-year career. They lost their first five games in 1973, brought in Sid Gillman, and went 1-8 the rest of the way.

Cartoon! Big Football Guy is confused by spinny ball thing! In case you can't read the off center scan, it says Garo Yepremian was born in Cyprus. Spinny ball thing bad!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

#17 - WALKER GILLETTE, WR, Cardinals

Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Walker Gillette. Gillette was a solid receiver for the Cardinals and Giants, but had the unfortunate start of his NFL career on the Chargers. He was drafted in the first round by San Diego to a team that had both Lance Alworth and Gary Garrison. Not a whole lot of playing time there.

Alworth went to Dallas the next season, but Gillette still did not get a lot of playing time. The Gray Ghost Garrison was still there, plus rookie Billy Parks had passed him on the depth chart and Jerry LeVias had been added from Houston. Still no playing time.

The Chargers dealt Gillette and another former first round pick Leon Burns to the Cardinals for RB Cid Edwards and WR Dave Williams...check Edwards' entry in an earlier blog for details of his career. In St. Louis Gillette found himself teamed with Ahmad Rashad and Jackie Smith at receiver on what should have been a pretty good offensive team.  It wasn't, with an unsettled QB situation, and the Cards finished 4-9-1.

Mel Gray came back from losing almost the year before to injury for the 1973 season, and, again, Gillette found himself an extra wheel on the bus. He was 6th on the team in receptions behind Gray, Rashad, Smith, and RBs Johnny Roland and Donny Anderson. Gillette was waived before the 1974 season.

Picked up by the Giants, Gillette helped a terrible team improve from 2-11-1 in 1973 to 2-12 in 1974. Wait, that's not an improvement. Anyway, Gillette could have been Gale Sayers wrapped in Jerry Rice and the 1974 Giants weren't going to win much. Gillette improved to 29 passes caught, third best on the team behind RB Joe Dawkins and solid TE Bob Tucker.

1975 would be Gillette's career year, as he led the Giants with 43 catches for 600 yards. The Giants still weren't very good. The next year would be the final one in the NFL for Gillette, as the Giants would demote him after some drops in favor of free agent Jim Robinson. Gillette was waived in early 1977. One Canadian newspaper had the Saskatchewan Rough Riders talking about bringing him in after that, but I could not see where he played for them or anyone else after 1976.

Talk about a tough career path.

 This 1973 Card was Gillette's rookie card, and the picture was used, airbrushed very badly into Giants colors, on his last Topps card in 1976. Topps couldn't find the time to get ANY pictures of Gillette on the Giants as his 1975 card was also airbrushed.

Walker Gillette was a Sporting News All-American from Richmond for 1969. On that same team were Phil Olsen (card 14) and Al Cowlings (card 16). Three members of that team in three cards!

CARTOON: Two Big Football Guys, one wide, one skinny. One appears to have lost his down, but his teammate has volunteered to help find it for him! TEAMWORK!

Monday, September 5, 2011

#16 - AL COWLINGS, DE, Bills

What must it be like to live in the shadow of a great player who went so wrong?

Al Cowlings was a very good college player, an All-American, followed O.J. Simpson from his neighborhood to USC and then the Bills. He wasn't a bad NFL player, never an All-Pro, but not bad. After this card came out, his first with Topps, he was dealt to the Oilers for a draft pick. He would have his second and last card as an Oiler in 1974. But that wouldn't be the end of his career.

Cowlings, then a linebacker, was dealt to the Colts in July of 1975 according to one newspaper article here. I could not find anything else to back that up, I do know that he signed with the Rams in Nov. of 1975. That article said he was cut by the Oilers in the spring...oh well...mysteries...

Some newspaper pundits called him "gimpy-legged" so one could assume his knees were failing. He was picked up by the Rams because they had lost a couple players to injury, and would be cut in Sept. of 1976.

Just in time for the fledgling Seahawks to snap him up! He lasted one game. waived by Sept. 30. (The same day the Seahawks signed Cowlings, they traded Ahmad Rashad to the Vikings for draft picks. Not a great day for Seahawk history.)

Cowlings ended up back on the Rams for 1977, and was cut again before the 1978 season. The only article I could find mentioning Cowlings and the Rams was one mentioning his part as O.J. Simpson's stand-in in the movie "Capricorn One."

When O.J. Simpson decided to give a second year a go with his home town 49ers in 1979, Al Cowlings was back in the league after a year away, and with his old friend. Well, kind of. He spent the first few weeks of the season on injured reserve after knee surgery. Coming back, he got into a fight with teammate Ron Singleton, which then-49er Tony Dungy talked about in this article. That's about all I could find about Cowlings on the Niners, and he and Simpson retired together. 

And now all Cowlings is remembered for is the drive he took with Simpson that everyone watched.

Cartoon! No Big Football Guy, but the kick is good! And the record for Lou Groza still stands!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

#15 - TERRY BRADSHAW, QB, Steelers

As you can see, this one is a bit dog-eared. It may be one I pulled from a pack back in 1973 and kept ever since. Young Terry Bradshaw. Looks focused and ready to go on this card.

In 1969 the Steelers won their first game of the season and then lost the last 13. If a rookie head coach did something like that today, he'd be gone at the end of the season. Chuck Noll, however, stayed on. It was going to take a lot of work to build the Steelers into champs from chumps, and they'd started by drafting Joe Greene in 1969. This dismal unit was led by Dick Shiner, Kent Nix and Terry Hanratty.....time to get a quarterback.

One of the biggest wins in Steelers' history was the coin flip with the Bears for the #1 pick in 1970. With that pick they selected Terry Bradshaw from Louisiana Tech. Later in the draft they would take another fair player named Mel Blount...and the building had begun.

Bradshaw had a terrible rookie season, completing just 38% of his passes and throwing four times as many interceptions as touchdowns. The team improved, though, to 5-9.

The next season, seeing Bradshaw didn't have enough friendly targets to throw to, Pittsburgh drafted WR Frank Lewis in the first round. They also took Gerry Mullins for the offensive line later, and a few defenders of note....Jack Ham, Dwight White, Ernie Holmes and Mike Wagner. Bradshaw's percentage went up, to 55% but he was still throwing way more interceptions than touchdowns and the team improved only one game, to 6-8. Bradshaw was getting extreme heat from critics for his perceived lack of intelligence and was becoming withdrawn and moody with the press. Steve Sabol from NFL films did a retro piece on the young Bradshaw and how the criticism affected him in the day.

The sub-.500 record just gave the Steelers another chance to pick high and well in the draft, and they did, taking Franco Harris. His 1000-yard running took the pressure off of Bradshaw and the rapidly developing Steel Curtain defense added up to a 11-3 record, and two playoff games. The Steelers were now THE STEELERS and would be for some time, especially after they drafted 4 Hall-of-Famers in five rounds in 1974.

How much of this can be attributed to Bradshaw? Well, not all of it, but he was the center of the offense (aside from a short benching in 1974) for one of the most dominant teams in NFL history. After his first two seasons, the Steelers won 99 games and lost just 38 when he started. You do the math.

Of course Bradshaw came out of his shell more as the wins started to come, but every once in awhile you can see some bitterness come out in his TV studio coverage. Maybe he wasn't ever the most talented QB or the book-smartenest one either, but if you wanted to win a football game from 1972 to the early '80s and your life depended on it, you better have had Terry Bradshaw behind center.

Cartoon: Big Football Guy has a BIG FOOTBALL TROPHY that looks nothing like the Heisman. Maybe that's what it looked like when Jay Berwanger won it.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

#14 - PHIL OLSEN, DT, Rams

Meet Phil Olsen, younger brother of all-time great Merlin. Before you go placing him in the Tommie Aaron/Ozzie Canseco unfortunate brother category, check out his story.

This Olsen was a great football player. In college he was a monster, one of the greats to ever put on a uniform in the state of Utah, and he was drafted in the first round of the 1970 draft by the Patriots. He suffered a terrible knee injury in a practice for the College All-Star Game (my bet this resonated in the cancelling of the entire concept of that game) and never played a down for the Pats. Traded to his brother's team, the Rams before 1971, he injured the knee AGAIN, but still recovered quickly enough to join the starting lineup later that season. In 1972 he was again at DT alongside Merlin for a good part of the season. That 1972 defensive line didn't have the vaunted Fearsome Foursome name, but listen to who they had: Merlin and Phil Olsen, Coy Bacon, Jack Youngblood, Fred Dryer and a rookie named Larry Brooks who would be in the All-Pro game five times.

After becoming a reliable backup for two seasons, he was traded to the Broncos for 1975 and 1976, Switching to offense at center, he was big on special teams, and I see where at least one source has him with four blocked kicks in 1976. He finished his NFL career on the injured list in Buffalo.

So just because he wasn't the Hall-of-Famer in the family....don't cha know. Besides, there was a third Olsen brother in the pros: Orrin, who was a center for the Chiefs in 1976.

I had a chance encounter with Mr. Phil Olsen in the late 1980's. While working as a postgame co-host for the flagship radio station for the Fighting Illini football team in Champaign, IL, and after the Illini beat up on the visiting Utah State squad, my also-young co-host went on a screed about how Utah State was bad and always had been and always would be.

Phil Olsen was in town, as I think he was working the radio booth for Utah State, and was driving to the airport when he heard this. He called us on the air, rather angry at what he just heard. My co-host's eyes got huge and he clammed up...all I could think about was the thought of this guy from the football card above lunging at me in anger...

I let him get his frustration out, then slowly edged the talk into an interview about how Utah State had been having rough times and what they needed to do to get back to where they were when the Olsens were there. Everytime my co-host started to open his yap, I stopped him. He got us there in the first place.

Eventually, Mr. Olsen was calmed and it turned out to be as pleasant as one could have hoped for. Thank you Mr. Olsen for not squashing two young loudmouthed radio guys way back when. You are a gentleman and very large.

By the way, the co-host went on to some real success in the business, running several stations in some good sized markets. And here *I* am.

The cartoon is about Night Train Lane! And of course there's a train, engineered by Big Football Guy holding a football again and smiling that big smiley smile.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

#13- CID EDWARDS, RB, Chargers

Cid Edwards, looking every bit the fullback in this picture. Cleophus J. Edwards was an undrafted free agent when he made the Cardinals in 1968 out of Tennessee State. In his first year as a pro, he carried only 31 times but he averaged 6.9 per carry. He kept up the high per-carry marks in 1969 and 1970 (4.7 and 5.0) but dropped dramatically in 1971 to 2.9. The Cardinals decided to go for a younger, former first round draft pick for their backfield, so they traded Edwards to the Chargers for Leon Burns. Burns had fizzled with San Diego in his rookie season. He fizzled even more with the Cardinals, averaging 2.7 per carry in the lone year he was there.

Edwards flourished at first with the Chargers. He was second on the team to Mike Garrett's 1000-yard rushing season, and caught 40 passes to boot. His 1973 year was almost as good, and he led the team in rushing that year, but San Diego faltered to a terrible 2-11-1 season as Dan Fouts was in his rookie year and Johnny Unitas was 40. Time for a new head coach.

Tommy Prothro took over, and newspaper reports say he and several veterans did not see eye to eye. Edwards was quoted as saying "The man never communicates with his players" after he was suspended indefinately by Prothro when he didn't show up to a pre-game meeting before a 34-0 destruction at the hands of the Packers. A bad flight home afterwards saw future All-Pro Coy Bacon suspended as well, and several other Chargers fined. Edwards said he'd never play for the Chargers again, and he didn't.

By the way, Prothro's team finished 5-9 in 1974 with an amazing season from Don Woods at RB. In 1975 they lost their first 11 games, 3 by shutouts, and finished 2-12. Prothro would stick around until Don Coryell took over in 1978.

Edwards was dealt to the Chicago Bears on draft day 1975. Unfortunately for him, the Bears drafted a couple of guys named Walter Payton and Roland Harper, so Edwards wasn't utilized very often. He was waived after the season.

Cartoon: Big Football Guy is smiling big, carrying a boatload of footballs in this one. Kind of a random subject, but Mel Renfro was a great player, so ok.

#12 - GREG LANDRY, QB, Lions

A big welcome to Greg Landry and his very 70's haircut!

Greg Landry was the Lions' number one pick in the 1968 draft. He didn't play much his rookie year, as Bill Munson got all but two of the team starts. Those two would alternate as starting QBs in two winning seasons for the team, then Landry took over in 1971, finishing second in the league in passing. In 1972, not only did Landry finish in the top 10 in passing again, he had over 500 yards rushing, good for second on the Lions. He also rushed for *9* touchdowns that year. The Lions were 8-5 with a good young QB, a strong rushing attack (Altie Taylor, Mel Farr, Steve Owens) and looking up.

In 1973, Landry suffered a knee injury and sat out a lot of the season. Bill Munson and Landry would share the duties through a couple mediocre seasons and would be joined by 49ers castoff Joe Reed later. Landry bounced back for a good 1976 season (17 TD/8 INT) but was sacked a league-high 55 times in the process.

Still hobbled by knee problems, Landry went to the Colts in 1979 and threw the most passes in his career that season as Bert Jones was injured. Unfortunately the team around him was lousy and his personal won-lost record was 2-12. Jones was back the next season and Landry backed him up for two years before moving on the the USFL, and back for one game with the Bears in 1984.

His won-loss record reads 25-17-2 from 1968 to 1972, and 19-34-1 from 1973 to 1984. Logically, the injury had something to do with the decline.

Landry was involved in some off-the-field controversy after the 1971 season, as his contract was about ready to run out. The Lions squawked openly about teams meeting with Landry and his agent before Landry's contract was to expire. Landry eventually re-signed with the Lions, of course.

Later in his coaching career, Landry would become the University of Illinois offensive coordinator under Lou Tepper. He installed a high-performance passing offense but was booted out right after a bowl win. Covering that story locally was not easy and some of the facts still haven't come out about it, but Landry had been angling for other jobs while out on the recruiting trail. That did not please Tepper, and Landry was gone.

In his NFL career he completed 55% of his passes for over 16,000 yards, and rushed for 2,000+ yards at 6.2 per carry. Would have been interesting to see what might have been had there been no injury, or if he was around in today's mobile-QB days.

In the cartoon Big Football Guy is still running, though exhausted and apparently he fumbled the football somewhere. Forrest Gregg's record at that time has been LONG eclipsed, and is currently held by a PUNTER. Jeff Feagles. Yes, Jeff Feagles with 352.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

#11 - RANDY JACKSON, T, Bears

Meet Randy Jackson of the Bears. No I'm not doing any American Idol joke.

This picture of Jackson ranks right up there with Mel Tom's in that it is clean, with the perfect blue in the background. Jackson is striking the generic blocking pose that picture takers loved to get in the fifties through the seventies. "I'm not holding, Mr. Referee!"

On second look, I've noticed a bit of an outline over the right shoulder of the lineman...could the impossibly blue sky behind this man be a photo trick? Eh. At least his uniform is correct.

Randy Jackson was a 4th round draft pick of the Bears in 1966 out of Florida, and Pro Football Reference has him listed as a starter all 14 games of the 1967 season, despite what the short bio on the back says. He was a solid, unspectacular player, never an All-Pro, but certainly reliable. This is his Topps rookie card, though he is on a Sunoco stamp for 1972. He would be in the 1974 and 1975 sets, and one of the cards in the Pro Draft Milton Bradley game. (loved that game) He was done after the 1974 season, after an eight-year career.

The back of this card shows one of  Topps' mortal weaknesses in football cards: the meaningless stat. Instead of a couple more lines about Jackson, we get to see that he did not pick up the ball on a kickoff return in 1972, but he DID pick it up once SOMEtime in his career, and fell on it for no yards. Big whoop. Research says it was all the way back in 1967 in the SECOND GAME OF HIS CAREER. This is worthy of taking up valuable bio space on a card? Unfortunately, more of that to come.

Hope you can see the back better, I'm trying something new. The cartoon shows huge football guy again, measuring the crossbar. At least this time he isn't running with a football again, but he is smiling. I wouldn't be smiling standing on a crossbar eight feet off the ground in metal slippery spikes, I'd be planning my fall and hoping medical insurance would cover it.

Friday, August 5, 2011

#10 - JOHN NILAND, G, Cowboys

Here is John Niland taking a break on the sidelines with fellow linemen Rayfield Wright and Blaine Nye. Looks like Calvin Hill in the far back there.

Niland was a great lineman for the Cowboys, starting in 1966, drafted in the first round out of Iowa. He made it to six pro bowls and a dozen post-season games and should be a Hall-of-Famer eventually. He finished his career with a stop in Philadelphia in 1975.

Topps didn't think that Niland was worthy of a card until 1972, when they also gave him an All-Pro card. Both his regular and All-Pro rookies are in the all-expensive third series, so they are worth a pretty penny. Niland did have a 1969 Glendale Stamp. (Credit: Vintage Football Gallery. Go there!)

Topps used some game action shots in a "Highlights" subset in the 1961 set, and used black-and-white small shots on the 1962's. Of course some of those 1962's weren't of the actual player on the card, but there you go. That was it for Topps and game day shots for awhile, though the Philadelphia cards had some nice team play cards with in-game shots.

We would have to wait until 1971 for in-game and sideline shots to come back. Joe Kapp and Dennis Shaw each had game action shots on their card, and O.J. Simpson had a sideline shot. 1972 saw a few sideline (or at least game day) pictures, and three IN ACTION subsets. The playoff and Super Bowls cards had action shots too.

The 1973 series brought back the in-game action, in a sometimes confusing way as we will see later. This is the first horizontal individual player card of the set...Topps used these with varying success this year after bringing them back in 1972.

The back shows the TD he scored against the hapless Eagles, and there's that monster player again in the cartoon, carrying a football! Looks like he is Cali bound.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

#9 - CLARENCE ELLIS, S, Falcons

Clarence Ellis gets the award as having the first individual card with an airbrushed jersey. Best guess is that picture is from the 1972 College All-Star game, Topps used several photos from the College All-Stars in the 1972 set, non-airbrushed.

Ellis was a great player at Notre Dame, even if Ara P didn't say so himself on the back of the card. The Notre Dame website says he was voted one of the top 25 Irish since 1970, not bad at all. He was a consensus All-American in 1971, picked off 7 passes in the 1970 season.

After being picked first by the Falcons, Ellis stayed for three years, getting a couple interceptions per season. This is his rookie card. Topps would skip a year and bring him back in 1975, at another low number card (18).

He wouldn't play anywhere in the NFL in 1975. Googling up some newspaper articles, we find that Ellis had asked to be traded, which he was, to Denver for Jerry Simmons and more. About a month later the Sarasota newspaper mentions Ellis going in for minor left knee surgery. Minor knee surgery in 1975 does NOT equal minor knee surgery in 2011.

In September of 1975, in a Miami newspaper artice, Ellis is listed as out for the season. In July of 1976, after failing a team physical, Ellis became a free agent after passing through waivers.

In 1979. Ellis lost a lawsuit brought against the NFL for negligence. The AP article stated the Colorado court agreed with the broncos' claim that "Ellis failed to comply with the mandatory arbitration requirements of his contract and his personal injury claims were barred by reason of the Colorado Workmen's Compensation Act." And that was that.

So when you hear about the NFL veterans trying to get a little compensation for the injuries suffered in the "older days" of pro football, now you can see how the players were treated in the court system back in the day.

The matter what position the player is at (Freitas was an OL) he is always HUGE and carrying a football.

Monday, July 25, 2011

#8 - MEL TOM, DE, Eagles

What a great picture of Mel Tom. His uniform has a very odd color to it, a washout green reminiscent of what a washout the 1972 Eagles season was.

Tom had been with the Eagles since 1967, but Topps didn't get around to a card for him until 1973. He had been on the 1972 Sunoco Stamp set for the Eagles. As his career would have it, Tom would go to the Bears during the 1973 season. He would have to wait a year for his last Topps card, a mustachioed picture of him looking quite different than the regal form here. He also was on a 1975 Wonder Bread card.  After playing just a few games for the Bears in 1975, he was done. Wikipedia at one time listed Tom as the first native-born Hawaiian to make the NFL, but that is not true. Charley Ane was a Giant ten years before Tom was drafted.

According to Pro Football Reference, one of the most similar careers to his was Eagles teammate Gary Pettigrew.

Now to the 1972 Eagles. They finished 2-11-1, having started the season 0-5. They beat the Chiefs by one, lost to the Saints, tied the Cardinals 6-6 (!!!!), beat the Oilers by one, then lost five straight to finish the season.

One of their losses was a 62-10 thrashing by the Giants. Another loss, 28-7 to the Cowboys, saw them get only 6 yards net passing for the game. QB John Reaves threw for 85 yards on the plus side, and he was sacked 9 times for a loss of  79 yards. Net gain: 6 yards.

 In that game, Dallas scored TWO safeties on Eagles punting plays, and Cowboy guard John Niland scored a TD on a fumble recovery in the end zone.

The Eagles were a much better offensive team the next season due to some key acquisitions and the emphasis on different players under a new coach, but the 1972 team was just not very good at all.

The cartoon's growling dog refers to the "rover" defensive scheme that the Giants used in 1972. It helps the Giants to a, yes, 2-11-1 record. That dog needed a muzzle.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

#7 - BOB TRUMPY, TE, Bengals

Bob Trumpy was a fine TE for the Bengals from their inception until 1977. The college he was drafted from was Utah, as the card says, but he started college at Illinois. After not cutting it academically (he has been less generous to himself in describing what happened) at Illinois, he went to Utah.

In 1972 he had the most passes caught in a season for his career, second on a pass-happy Bengals team. In 1969 he averaged 22 yards per catch, and in 1971 he lined up occasionally as a WR. He finished with 298 catches, averaging over 15 yards each time. His best comparisons career-wise according to Pro Football Reference include Billy Joe DuPree, Steve Jordan, Alge Crumpler and Keith Jackson, some pretty good company. After he retired, Trumpy went successfully into broadcasting, first on TV football casts on NBC, then to radio. He was on the TV broadcasts of a couple Super Bowls, and has done several other sport events over the years.

This card has a picture taken fro the same set of photos his 1972 card came from. Topps would simply re-use Trumpy's 1975 cards photo for his 1976 final card photo. His rookie card came out in 1970, then Topps skipped a year with him (1971 was another odd year for Topps subject choices in a small set) before issuing cards from 1972-1976 for Trumpy.

Topps had all sorts of trouble with Bengals cards in the team's early years. In 1968, as an expansion, the Bengals pictured all had different uniforms on. In the messy 1969 set, again, none of the Bengals were given shots with Cincinnati uniforms on.

The 1970 cards re-used blurry head shots from the 1969 Glendale stamps set for the few Bengals used at all, Trumpy no exception (Eric Crabtree was pictured in a clear shot, but a different uniform). The worst of these was QB Greg Cook, who had been a rookie sensation, whose blurred photo was used not only for his regular card, but for his glossy, Topps Super, and Kellogg's 3D cards as well! Cook would not get another Topps card as his career was cut short by injury.

In 1971, none of the Bengals featured in the first series were pictures in Bengal uniforms. In the second series, four Bengals were pictured in head shots, fuzzy quality once again, actually in white team uniforms. Two Bengals, Virgil Carter (whose Topps story is a bit strange - we'll get to him later) and Steve Chomyszak were in different team's uniforms. Chomyszak was in a Jets uniform...he had played only two games for them in 1966! He had been on the Bengals since 1968, yet Topps couldn't be bothered to get a picture from the last three years! I'm just one card away from the 1971 set, that deserves it's own blog.

Finally, in 1972, Topps featured all Bengals players in Cincinnati uniforms in good quality pictures. Fifth time's the charm!

The Dutchman Van Brocklin looks awfully burly to be a QB in the cartoon....

Sunday, July 17, 2011


This is the last of the leaders cards for 1973, and the first time Topps put out a punting leader card. Heck for years, Topps wouldn't even acknowledge that punter was a position! Punter specialists were listed as QBs or halfbacks or just backs. Punting stats were on the backs of some cards, but they were not listed as punters only.

In 1968 and 1969, punters got their own cards, but their position was listed as KICKERS. That gave a couple teams two kickers, like the Vikings in 1968 with Fred Cox and Bobby Walden. In 1970 Topps finally relented and cards #185 and #222 were PUNTERS Dennis Partee (who, ironically was also a placekicker) and David Lee. So having a punting leaders card show up just a couple years after Topps finally recognized the position was a victory for punters everywhere!

Dave Chapple is airbrushed into an oddly blue outfit, and that might have been a Bills uni as he played one game for them in 1971. Jerrell Wilson is one of the all-time great punters, you see him right after booting yet another 50-yarder in practice.

On the NFC side on the back, John James finished second in punting but did NOT get a card. HE would wait another year for his rookie Topps card, and would later get a Record Breaker card in 1975, and an All-Pro card in 1976. Strange omission.

Jim McCann would never have a Topps card. He came out of Arizona State and was the regular punter for the 49ers for two years, 1971 and 1972. He floated to the Giants in 1973 and averaged an ugly 24.5 yards/kick and had 3 of his 12 punts blocked. Not good to lead the league in blocks when you only kick 12 times. He got one last chance with the Chiefs in 1975 far a few games as a fill-in and averaged 35.2 in 14 kicks with one block.

Everyone else on this card got their own solo card in 1973. Several on the list played other positions, Bill Bradley led the league in interceptions, Dan Pastorini was a QB, Bill Van Heusen and Larry Seiple were listed on their cards as punters but both were used quite a bit as receivers. Partee and Don Cockroft were among the last combo punter-placekickers in the NFL.

Next up: individual player cards!

Saturday, July 16, 2011


This marked the first time that Topps issued an Interception Leaders card. One the front, you have the angelic-looking Bill Bradley (not the basketball-playing politico) of the Eagles, and Mike Sensibaugh of the Chiefs, looking as if Bradley just passed gas.

Topps found it a little rougher go on the back that the other leader cards...finding a top ten when the leaders don't even HAVE ten we get shortened lists and "players tied with" line.

In the AFC list, the only player to not get his own card in the set was MLB Ken Lee of the Bills. He only played two years, 1971 and 1972, and drops off the pro football planet after that 6 interception season. The Hawaiian-born Lee was with the Lions in 1971, and started 6 games for the Bills in 1972. His 6 picks went for 155 yards and a TD.

On the NFC side, Charlie Waters would have to wait until 1975 to get his first card. Tom Hayes would never get a Topps card, despite an awfully interesting career. (He is on the 1972 Sunoco stamp set at the great Vintage Football Card Gallery here.) In 1971, Hayes scored three touchdowns, one on a fumble return, and TWO on blocked punt returns. He had two interception return TDs for the Falcons in 1973, and one more for the Chargers in 1976. The cornerback finished his career that year in San Diego (he had gone to San Diego State). Given some of Topps choices for cards over the years, Hayes is a strange one to ignore.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011


Here we have the 1972 Scoring Leaders, featuring 12-year-old Chester Marcol and 88-year-old Bobby Howfield.

This is actually the first card for both, 1972 being Marcol's rookie season, and Howfield not getting a card though he'd been around since 1968. Marcol, originally from Poland, is airbrushed green apparently in a picture of him in a College All-Stars jersey. A LOT of those were seen in the 1972 set. Howfield, originally from England, is coming off his career year by FAR.

Every player on the back is represented in the set except Toni (misspelled Tony on the card) Fritsch. He would not get his own card until 1974, though he was on the team in 1971. Mike Clark got the card nod then as Dallas kicker.

Notice, too, that Ron Johnson guy is there again from the Giants. That makes three of the first four cards his name appeared on.

This is a very green card.

Saturday, July 9, 2011


Ugh please excuse the cockeyed scan of the back, I'll get the hang of this yet. That is a pinhole above the N on the front of the card, the only scar on a nice example.

The receivers are well represented here, listed by number of receptions rather than yardage. Harold Jackson, classy wide receiver from the Eagles at the time, was nicely ahead in the NFC, while Fred Biletnikoff (with the 70's long hair) edged out Otis Taylor of the Chiefs and Chip Myers (!) of the Bengals by just one catch in the AFC.

There is a good sprinkling of tight ends, WRs, and running backs on the lists. With Norm Snead winning the NFC passing title, you'd think there would be a few Giants and there are, TE Bob Tucker and RB Ron Johnson (see the Rushing Leaders card). The 49ers get a pair of  unrelated Washingtons, Gene and Vic in the top 10.

In the AFC, no Dolphins. They just didn't pass that often. The Chiefs had two, Taylor and RB Ed Podolak; the Chargers had the "Grey Ghost" Gary Garrison and RB Cid Edwards; and the Bengals would have two-and-a-half, with Myers, TE Bob Trumpy, and RB Fred Willis, who went to the Oilers during the season. Willis would lead the AFC in receiving while with the Oilers later on.

One sad note, the Colts leading receiver was TE Tom Mitchell. He had pretty much replaced John Mackey at that point. The Hall of Famer Mackey passed away very recently.

The only player on the back to not get a 1973 card was Bob Newland of the Saints, he would have to wait until 1974 for his rookie card. Topps made some strange choices of Saints to feature in 1973...more on that to come!

Big thanks to Johngy for being follower #1! He's always got great stuff on his page, please check it out!

Friday, July 8, 2011


Well after getting card #1 with those great running backs leading the way, you would expect REAL greatness in card #2 and passing leaders. Well...

You get Norm Snead, a perfectly good player for the Giants at the time, and Earl Morrall for the Dolphins. On the back you see a sideways accounting of some sort of bizarro world algebra that decided the top passers of 1972. I didn't understand it when I was 7, and I don't understand it now.

We couldn't even use this card as a checklist of great quarterbacks to look for in the packs! Daryle Lamonica didn't get a card in 1973 and Roman Gabriel's situation was a real mess for Topps.

Morrall ended up playing a lot for the eventual World Champion Dolphins due to an injury to Bob Griese. Unfortunately, Topps couldn't get a picture of him in a Dolphin uniform. Morrall's high number 1972 card has him in a Colts uni and I believe his 1973 close-up shot does too. Here they re-used his shot from the 1972 set and painted his uniform a weird blue hue that I'm sure was all the rage in the early 70's, but wasn't very close to the Dolphin blue.

To our young minds, this card made no sense. Where was Roger Staubach (Craig Morton was the Cowboy representative on the list) and Terry Bradshaw (absent)? Who were John Reaves and Dennis Shaw? Was Bob Berry really a better quarterback than Fran Tarkenton??

Sunday, July 3, 2011


1973 Marked the second year Topps put league leaders in their football sets, and the first to put both AFC and NFC leaders on the same card. When I first got this card way back in '73 I thought it was the greatest thing. First of all, here's O.J. - pre-2000 yard season and all them legal trouble things, looking young and halfbacky (new word for you) and every bit the superstar. Second, here's Larry Brown...just off the Super Bowl all big and fullbacky (spell checker hates me). And on the back...

A handy list of all the great running backs in the league!...Hey! What's that Bobby Douglass guy doing there? Douglass, the Bears QUARTERBACK was a strong-armed big fullbacky guy that was all the Bears running attack after Gale Sayers was retired.

Back in 1972, 1000 yards in a season was an amazing feat...and so many made it! Csonka and Morris of the champs (HAD to get the Mercury Morris, one of the most fun cards of the set)...Brockington of my favorite Packers...some guy Ron Johnson of the Giants....Mike Garrett....the guys used these league leader cards as checklists to get the best players in the league. Most of us were still too young to really KNOW most of the players...but if they were LEAGUE LEADERS they must be good.

The Packers (who almost never threw the ball in 1972), Cowboys and Falcons each had two players in the top ten in the NFC while the Dolphins (who also rarely threw) were the only two-player team in the AFC (and that didn't include Jim Kiick).

The number 1000 was fully ingrained in us as kids with this card and the RECEIVING LEADERS cards...if the player was at or near that magic mark, he was worth hanging onto.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Hello and Welcome!

In seeing what a great job other collectors have done with various years and sets I decided to feature my favorite football card set, 1973 Topps.

This was the first card set I really chased when I was a kid, before I even knew about any of the players. It's design is simple, but effective, and it was by far the largest Topps football set at the time. Plus, it was one series of 528 cards (plus team checklists) so it seems the impossible dream for a kid to finish it.

Well, I ain't a kid no more, and I've finished the main set. Hope you enjoy this trip through it.