Willie Fears took a strange,winding, inspiring route, to his dreams of being a professional football player and coach. Undrafted out of Northwestern Louisiana St in 1985, Willie played 5 games for the Ottawa Rough Riders in the CFL. Invited to the Miami Dolphins minicamp, he showed up admittedly out of shape and had to put his career on hold. He became a corrections officer at the Arkansas State Maximum Security Prison, but along came the NFL Players Strike in 1987. At 6’4″, 280, Fears had the frame to still play, and probably had the greatest vacation time ever from work, spending 3 weeks as a member of the Cincinnati Bengals. Afterwards he went back to the CFL, playing for both Ottawa and Toronto in 1988 and 1989, before returning again to the NFL in 1990 as a member of the Minnesota Vikings.
Willie was then drafted by the WLAF San Antonio Riders in 1992. Willie’s technical precision, skillset, and size, allowed the team to shift him into any of the 3 places on the line, which was invaluable to the Riders 3-4 alignment. An experienced force on the line, he proved difficult for offensive linemen to handle, and helped the Riders be one of the staunchest defenses in the league. After the league went on hiatus, Willie begun a career playing in the Arena Football League. He’d sign with the Cleveland Thunderbolts and played for them through the 1993 season, before hopping back into the CFL with the Sacramento Gold Miners. In 1994 the Gold Miners moved to San Antonio and became the Texans. He’d join them there back in his old stomping grounds. Afterwards, Fears joined the AFL again, playing in 1996 for the Tampa Bay Storm, and then in 1997 for the Nashville Katz.
He then continued his dream by becoming a football coach. In the ArenaFootball2 league, he’d coach with the Arkansas Twisters for 3 seasons, before joining Jay Gruden on the Predators to coach the linemen. Ironically, later Pat O’Hara, joined the staff replacing Gruden as head coach. Pat was a member of the Ohio Glory and probably felt Willie breathing down his neck more than once during the Riders 17-0 stomping of the Glory back in 1992. Fears remained with the Predators through 2011. Currently he lives in Arkansas. My first success from the Meiselman 2014 list, I had been looking for Willie for quite sometime, and had been unable to locate him since his stint ended with the Predators. He was kind enough to not only sign the Wild Card WLAF 1992 card I enclosed, but like Billy Hess also enclosed one of his own from the Jogo 1995 set. Unfortunately both of the autographs were smudged as he signed with an overhead Vis-A-Vis instead of a Sharpie. The Riders card was smudged beyond recognition, so I resent it back out with a team photo of him and the other linemen for Willie to keep. He sent it back in about 2 weeks signed with the marker I gave him.
AFL Tac 46 Sac 9 FF 2 Int 0 Yds 0 Avg -.- Td 0 Lg -.-
WLAF Tac N/a Sac 2 FF 0 Int 0 Yds 0 Avg -.- Td 0 Lg -.-
NFL 2 Tac N/a Sac 0 FF 0 Int 0 Yds 0 Avg -.- Td 0 Lg -.-