Coach: Roman Gabriel
Record: (1991) 0-10
The Raleigh-Durham Skyhawks were one of the ten founding members of the WLAF in 1991. Owned by Carolina sports enthusiast George Shinn, the team boasted former LA Rams quarterback Roman Gabriel initially as GM, -who later took over head coaching duties as well.
Johnny Walton (who was best known as a quarterback in the WFL of the 1970s, and HC of the Boston Breakers of the USFL during the 1980s,) was the offensive coordinator. Doug Kay was named the defensive coordinator of the Skyhawks and future CFL GM Jim Popp served on the staff as well.
The Skyhawks colors were decided early on. The team wanted red as the definitive color of the franchise. As the area is considered the birthplace to modern flight, the design firm wanted to come up with something futuristic looking and unexpected- so instead of a bird, the franchise went with rocket trails. The logo itself felt abstract- or influenced by Memphis design style.
Carter-Finley Stadium was to serve as the backdrop to the team’s future and it boasted a reasonable seating capacity of some 50,000 at the time.
Things seemed optimistic enough for the young franchise.
The Raleigh-Durham Skyhawks won the first overall pick of the specialist portion of the draft and went for offense, choosing the No. 1 wide receiver, the No. 2 running back, the No. 3 tight end and the fourth quarterback.
The Skyhawks marquee players were NC product Mark Maye at quarterback, linebacker Shawn Woodson, and defensive end Jon Carter. Paul Wulff- future Washington State head coach, played center for the franchise.
The team opened its first game on USA Network at Sacramento where Raleigh-Durham went to lose its first contest 9-3. Right out of the gate, the team lost promising QB Mark Maye to injury for the season. Joe Pizzo stepped in at quarterback for RD and guided them until Bobby McAllister supplanted him in the lineup due to ineffectiveness. Woefully none of the quarterbacks would finish with over a 55 quarterback rating, highlighting the team’s issue at the position.
The team got walloped by the Orlando Thunder 58-20 in week 2. (The 58 points stood as a league record.) By the time the team played their first home game- in week 3, fans were clearly discouraged, but nonetheless a season high 17,000 showed up for the Skyhawks. They’d play a close game to the Frankfurt Galaxy 30-28, but that is as close as the franchise ever got to winning.
One could point to the running game as well. With the Skyhawks playing from behind or getting little penetration on the line, the team’s leading rusher was Darryl McGill with 187 yards. The team finished with a woeful 748 yards and 7 touchdowns on the ground. Receiving was the bright spot for the franchise. Marvin Hargrove finished as the team’s leading receiver with 38 catches and former Duke star Clarkston Hines had 614 yards.
The defense had its share of issues, but boasted Quentin Riggs as the team’s leading sacker with 4. Jon Carter, Shawn Woodson, and Ezekial Gadson would all tie with 3 a piece.
In the secondary, Peda Samuel chipped in 3 picks, but the true black hole back in the secondary was Pat McGuirk. McGuirk finished with 6 interceptions- good for 3rd in the league, but as an ultimate slap to the franchise, he wouldn’t be nominated for the All World Team at season’s end.
Near the end of the 1991 season only a paltry 4,200 showed up to see rematch between R-D and Orlando. The writing was on the wall for the 0-10 franchise, and the Skyhawks would be euthanized.
Players were reallocated to the draft pool for the next upcoming season, and the Ohio Glory would replace them in the WLAF for 1992.
Since the Skyhawks were only in existence for one season, only ProSet made cards for the franchise.
Although Carolina proved to be a disastrous venture for the league attendance wise, surprisingly the market grabbed the expansion Carolina Panthers in 1995 where it has enjoyed NFL football ever since.
Raleigh-Durham itself hadn’t been mentioned seriously for Spring football until 2019- as AAF ‘owner’ Tom Dundon lived in the area, however that league folded before the expansion process even began.
At this time I am still missing autographs on these cards from:
ProSet WLAF 1991: Darryl McGill & Marvin Hargrove.
Promotional Commerical for the RD Skyhawks tickets: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7sd9AcPr2JU&list=UUwErpZzjTR1EgdyLR3GDkMA&index=8&feature=plcp