Card: ProSet 1991, ProSet WLAF 1991
Acquired: In Person 1992, San Antonio Riders v. Sacramento Surge
Kay Stephenson would get his break playing backup quarterback in the AFL for the San Diego Chargers in 1967 and the Bills in 1968. Stephenson played in the WFL and was the starting quarterback in the first game of the league’s existence for the Jacksonville Sharks. In 1975 he’d be named player personnel director and offensive coordinator of the Jacksonville Express. After the WFL folded he’d be hired on by legendary coach Chuck Knox to be an assistant coach of the Los Angeles Rams where he’d follow Knox to the Buffalo Bills, becoming a member of Knox’s coaching tree.
Stephenson was named head coach of the Buffalo Bills in 1983, replacing Knox who was hired by the Seattle Seahawks. He is most notable in his stint as the man behind the Bills helmet color change from white to red. It is rumored that the reason behind this was a need to differentiate the Bills from the rest of their division to help the team cut down on interceptions. (At that time the Patriots, Dolphins and Colts all had white helmets.) After an ignominious debut with the Bills where the team posted a 10-26 record, Kay would be fired in 1986. He’d actually be selling real estate when the WLAF approached him in 1990 to coach the Sacramento Surge. While the team had a rough inaugural season- Stephenson would guide the team in its second season to a World Bowl II with a dynamic offense led by former NFLer David Archer. After their thrilling victory over the Riders– I got Kay’s autograph on his two cards as they were leaving the locker room. I remember quite distinctly that he smoked like a chain smoker.
After the WLAF folded, he’d hop over to the Sacramento Gold Miners of the CFL to coach there for the 1993 and 1994 season. Stephenson during his time with the Gold Miners would post a 16-19-1 record before the franchise relocated to San Antonio and renamed itself the Texans. With the Texans the team posted a 12-6 record and qualified for the playoffs, but lost in the semi-finals. With the disbanding of the other CFLUSA teams after the 1995 season, Kay would find himself in the assistants’ chair again until he was promoted to head coach for the Edmonton Eskimos for the 1998 season where he resigned after a 9-9 season. Interesting tidbit about Stephenson is that he has been involved with 5 teams that experienced major downturns, contractions, or all together folded (Surge, Goldminers, Texans, Express, and Sharks). Below are his WLAF coaching statistics:
G 20 W 11 L 9 T 0 Pct .555