Cards: ProSet 1989,Action Packed Rookies 1990,Action Packed 1991,Upper Deck 1991,Topps 1990,GameDay 1992,Score 1990
Acquired: In Person 1993, CGA Youth Golf Tournament
A real tender moment in my autograph collecting- Billy Joe Tolliver, Browning Nagle and Steve Bartkowski were palling around really early in the morning, -I’d guess around 7:45AM and I was basically the only fan on the course. They actually saw me and started talking to me. Maybe it was because I just walked up onto the green and didn’t know my golf etiquette, but they absolutely loved the drawings I did of each one of them. Billy Joe and I started talking and he offered let me ride along with them to the next hole. How could I say no (especially comparing this in retrospect to my experiences with John Elway)? Tolliver the previous season had a hail mary pass against the 49ers, and we discussed how exciting and amazing the play was. Billy Joe just told me he tried to put it up to his favorite game maker (Michael Haynes) and he just got lucky. He also shared that it was his favorite moment (up to that point of his young career).
In the waning days of the Southwestern Conference, Texas Tech started really establishing itself with a dominating offense. Billy Joe Tolliver was the renaissance man that would be the genesis in the long line of record setting quarterbacks at Lubbock. Gifted with a cannon for an arm Tolliver would be drafted in the 3rd round of the 1989 draft by the San Diego Chargers, who traded a lion’s share to the Giants to get him. Expected to be the quarterback of the team’s future, he was thrust right into a quarterback competition between David Archer and Mark Malone. In the end the team traded the Bears for Jim McMahon and he and Tolliver would battle the rest of the season for the starting gig. San Diego was a tough place to play after the departure of Dan Fouts, with an eternal revolving door at quarterback (13 starting quarterbacks from 1987-1991). By 1990 Tolliver was firmly entrenched as the number one quarterback in San Diego- but was inexplicably benched in favor of Mark Vlasic. He’d quickly be renamed starter but was benched again at the end of the season for another ‘quarterback of the future’ –John Friesz. Friesz would be named the starter for the 1991 season and Tolliver would find himself traded to the Atlanta Falcons for a 5th round pick. Overall the Tolliver legacy in San Diego would surely be considered a ‘wash’.
It was an interesting situation in Atlanta to say the least for Tolliver playing under the Red Gun offense with injury prone starter Chris Miller and 3rd stringer distraction Brett Favre behind him. It was during the 1991 season Billy Joe would get some playing time in and make the Hail Mary pass against the 49ers and have a respectable finish to the season. In 1992, Farve would be sent packing to Green Bay for as coach Jerry Glanville stated, “To save him (Farve) from himself.” Tolliver would be in the starting role in 1992 after Chris Miller was injured and out for the season but would finish with literally average results (5Tds, 5ints, 55% completions and a 70.5 qb rating). The next season, he’d once again be backup to Chris Miller and Bobby Herbert. With Miller injured again, Tolliver would be the main backup again and would see some playing time in 7 games. After the 1993 season he would not be resigned. Playing in Atlanta was met with mixed results. Extreme highs (the Hail Mary) punctuated by big lows (arguments on the sidelines with Jerry Glanville and blowout losses).
When the 1994 season began, Tolliver was still looking for a job but was signed to be a 3rd string quarterback on the struggling Houston Oilers. By mid-season Billy would be the starter and would finish with another 7 starts under his belt splitting time with Bucky Richardson. He would be a free agent again and this time pursue a job in the fledgling CFL USA signed by the Shreveport Pirates for their final season in 1995. Returning again to the NFL Tolliver would go back to the Falcons, this time backing up Herbert and Browning Nagle at quarterback. He’d play sparingly through 1996 and be released mid-season in 1997, but would then be signed by the Kansas City Chiefs who needed an injury replacement. Tolliver would be cut in mid 1998. Billy Joe would return to the NFC South, going to the New Orleans Saints under Mike Ditka in 1999. He’d remain on and off the team roster through 2000. In 2001 Tolliver would be signed by Green Bay- remarkably with former friend and quarterback Brett Favre, where Billy Joe would retire shortly after losing the backup quarterback job to Doug Pederson.
Overall looking at Billy Joe Tolliver’s career, one could almost state that he had some of the best agents or was one of the best third string quarterbacks to play the position. The definition of a journeyman, Tolliver would play for no more than 7 teams, starting at some point during his career for at least 6 of them over a 12 season career. Since football, Billy Joe has remained extremely active. He was inducted by the Red Raiders into their Hall of Honor in 2002. An athletic competitor at heart- Billy Joe Tolliver is considered a great golfer frequently winning sports amateur golf competitions on a regular basis and in 2010 he beat Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo for the championship. Billy Joe was treated kindly by the Tecmo gods, who rewarded him with an amazing 81 in passing speed for his cannon of an arm.
G/Gs 74/42 Att 1707 Comp 891 Yds 10760 Pct 52.2% Td 59 Int 64 Lg 82T Rat 67.7