Cards: Donruss Rookies & Stars Longevity 2009, Score 2009 Acquired: In Person 2018, Heisman House Tour See Also: LenDale White
Rumor swirled that maybe some former USC alumni would be in attendance for ‘Part III’ of the USC v Texas matchup and I figured the Heisman House would probably be the best place to catch some of them. This added up with the fact that Vince Young was already hosting a get together of sorts between the 2005 National Championship teams (USC v Texas) in Austin during this period. I pulled some cards from the 2005 USC team. I speculated Reggie Bush was too controversial to be there- since he had to forfeit the trophy he lost that VY later rejected. I thought well maybe Matt Leinart, or another USC Heisman winner. My friend Deadhorse suggested Charles White or Marcus Allen. I then thought, maybe LenDale White since he and Bo Scaife are good friend and have their own show called “The Players’ Lounge”- and packed them all in the infamous long box.
It was a terribly humid day with thunderstorms forecast for the entire day. I met up with a fellow collector- Jeff. He and I have many parallels in our life. We both had our first kid recently, and we both used to be denizens of autograph alley back when the Cowboys practiced at St. Edwards. I am always eager to network with other like-minded collectors and we make a pretty good fit. His wife and son also came and somehow managed to bare the humidity. (Not only does my wife deserve credit for allowing me to go to such things, Jeff’s wife should get a trooper badge for showing up to them with him.) We waited in line and got Ricky Williams– twice. In the meantime his wife got back in line for VY, so we joined her in that line after we got done with Ricky. Behind us a commotion occurred and I noticed that some USC players were taking photos with somebody with dreads. Before I could ask, he was already leaving to go inside. I found out then it was LenDale White. I pulled the extra cards that I brought of LenDale- numbering some 6, took two for myself and gave the other two to Jeff and then I vigilantly waited for him to appear.
It turns out that LenDale and Vince Young are really good friends. They got to know each other better when they played on the Titans together, and apparently talk on the phone almost every day. During Vince’s interview about the 2005 National Championship Game, LenDale came out from the trailer connected to the tent and onto the stage and was hanging out in between sets. It was then I was able to approach him and get him to sign two cards for me.
LenDale was looking quite svelte. When I asked him what he had been doing with himself to look so cut- he laughed and said, he stopped working out. I always felt like he got a bad wrap coming out of college, and that he was a better back than he was given credit for. He thanked me for the compliment, and we wished each other good luck for that evening. A few minutes later Jeff came back with his signed in hand as well. It was a great experience, and we were able to make the weekend signing worthwhile. The initial goal was the clear the table with Ricky and a VY or two. Anything else was just gravy- and nabbing LenDale White was quite the treat.
Card: Topps 1990 1000 Yard Club Acquired: 2018, Future Considerations See Also: Eric Martin
Eric Martin has some really nice cards but after getting the previous three signed, I was somewhat tapped out. Luckily while trying to locate a card for Dalton Hilliard I stumbled upon this gem as well. Topps wasn’t really well known for bringing out quality cards during this period but this action shot really got my attention. Since Eric retired he has received a few honors, being inducted into the Saints Hall of Fame in 1999 and the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame in 2006.
I was really pleased to get two of my favorite collectors connected. Lance and Deadhorse have been good to me over the years, and I’ve spotted them both freebees- and in return they’ve done the same for me. Deadhorse had big needs from the Topps 88 set in both Eric Martin (an erratic signer TTM) and Dalton Hilliard (a non-signer TTM). It just so happened that Lance let me in on a signing he was attending in Louisiana at a casino. After a bit of convincing I networked the two together. I did not need any thank-you’s. The act of knowing that I was able to connect two collectors by the sheer fact that they trusted me, was enough for me. We now have a tiny hobby network and try to collaborate together and help each other out when we can.
Ron Dayne ran into the college record books with 7,125 career yards rushing for Wisconsin over a 4 year period from 1996 to 1999. In both 1996 and 1999 he cracked the 2,000 yard plateau for the Badgers. During his senior season Ron ran 337 times for 2,034 yards and 20 TDs, culminating in him winning the Heisman Trophy and wresting the rushing record from Ricky Williams. Ron was selected in the 1st round of the 2000 NFL Draft by the New York Giants.
With Gary Brown on the way out in New York, the Giants were looking to shore up their woeful backfield which had a woeful combined 1408 yards rushing. Ron was a good fit for the team. With the emergence of Tiki Barber at runningback at a hair above 1,000 yards, Ron took on more of a fullback/ short yardage/ bam back role for the Giants. He’d start 4 games and rush for 770 yards on 228 carries and 5 TDs as NY made it to the Super Bowl. Fans dubbed Ron ‘Thunder’ and Barber ‘Lightning’ based on their 1 2 punch in the backfield- however this was the high point in his early career.
Ron really never found his footing in New York as a starting back. During 2001 he’d start 7 games, and there was always the concern about his yards per carry which hung consistently around 3.4 yards per carry. Injuries were also an issue, as it seemed unfairly that the idea of running players into the ground before they made it to the pros became popularized after Dayne was drafted. His stats dropped every season in New York until he was released after the 2004 season.
Ron signed with the Denver Broncos in 2005, eager for a fresh start, but after a dubious start, he finished with only 270 yards and a TD in 10 games. On the bright side, he had a career high 5.1 yards per carry- but it’d be his only season playing for the Broncos as he’d be unceremoniously cut in camp.
Ron was snapped up by the Texans looking for veteran help at the runningback position to pair alongside Vernand Morency and rookie Wali Lundy after Domanick Davis was shelved on IR. Ron had previously played under offensive coordinator (now coach of the Texans) Gary Kubiak in Denver so this made a good fit. In 11 games (6 starts) Ron would have a renaissance of sorts with the Texans, rumbling for 612 yards and 5 TDs (4.1 YPC). He’d return in 2007 to Houston, and start a career high 8 games filling in for Ahman Green, rushing 194 times for a career high 773 yards and 6 TDs (4.0 YPC), and helping the young franchise reach an 8-8 record.
Dayne lives in Wisconsin. I got his autograph through his website via jumping through hoops and paying a fee. I had always wanted to get his autograph for a variety of reasons, (Heisman Winner, College All-Time Cumulative Leading Rusher, he played for the Texans) and this great card. I couldn’t get a scan to do the bottom portion justice but based on the photo area alone, it’s a nice piece.
On a side note, I was told by a Texans player that Dayne loved to play cards on plane flights (and was an easy mark).
Celebrating the game, the players, the cards, and the autographs for over 25 years.