All posts by Lee Bolton

Thornton, James “Robocop”

Card: Fleer 1990
Acquired: In Person 1995, Houston Oilers Training Camp

James Thornton was an able bodied tight end with fairly soft hands where his first touchdown catch from Mike Tomzcak was a critical game winner in 1989. A Cal State Fullerton grad in 1988, “Robocop” (as team mates nicknamed him because of his biceps,) was a shrewd 4th rounder during the heyday of Ditka and the Bears. He’d have his best season in 1990 grabbing a career high 24 balls for 392 yards and 3 touchdowns. Robocop also averaged well over 14 yards a grab while with the Bears during his 4 seasons there. Greener pastures would call to Thornton and in 1993 and 1994 he’d play for the Jets, before finishing it out with the Oilers in 1995 where I got his autograph on this great Fleer 1990 card at training camp that year.

G/Gs 96/70    Rec 107   Yds  1338   Avg 12.5   Td 7   Lg 36t

Friesz, John “Deep”

Cards: Action Packed 1992, Action Packed Rookies 1991
Acquired: TTM 1993, C/o The San Diego Chargers

John Freisz was drafted by the San Diego Chargers in the 6th round of the 1990 draft. Considered to be the ‘future’ of the franchise- based on his amazing performance at Idaho leading them to an 8-0 record and throwing for over 4,000 yards- the future came sooner than anybody expected when Billy Joe Tolliver left after the season concluded. In 1991 Friesz took over as starting quarterback of the Chargers, starting all 16 games. Allowed to flourish- he threw for 2896 yards and 12 touchdowns as a traditional drop back passer. Friesz would suffer a season ending injury in the 1992 preaseason and would not return until 1993 throwing 6 touchdowns and only 4 interceptions. A new head coach would lead him in a new direction- as John would become a journeyman quarterback, playing in Washington for a season, before a four season stint with Seattle starting in 1995. In 1996, his best year, he’d win 4 starts and lose only 2 putting up a respectable 86.2 quarterback rating.  In 1995 he came off the bench for the Seahawks leading the team back from a 20-0 deficit against the Denver Broncos- engineering 3 4th quarter touchdown drives. After his stint in Seattle, Friesz would play two non-discript seasons for the New England Patriots and retire. Friesz was the epitome of the walking wounded. Over his career he broke his thumb, leg, suffered injuries to his knees and separated his non-throwing shoulder. He also spent 15 games of his rookie season on IR, and the whole 1992 season there as well. John was well liked by his teammates. With a workman like attitude and a team player, Friesz rarely if ever complained when salary cap problems, politics and injuries caused him to lose his starting job.

An avid outdoorsman, John especially enjoys fishing and is a certified Scuba diver. John’s last name is pronounced “Freez” and was nicknamed “Deep” by his teammates in college. In 2006, John’s number was retired by Idaho and he became the school’s first inductee into the College Football HoF that year as well. In 2009 he’d also be inducted into the Inland Northwest HoF. He remains active to this day in his community participating in golf tournaments, hosting numerous charities for the Special Olympics and participating in Big Brothers & Big Sisters of America.

G/Gs 69/38     Att 1364    Comp 745    Yds 8699    Pct 54.6%      Td 45       Int 42        Rat  72.3

Bates, Bill

Cards: ProSet 1989, Fleer 1990, Score 1989
Acquired: In Person 1990, 1992, 1997, Dallas Cowboys Training Camp

Bill Bates is a special player and is one of those players of Dallas Cowboys lore. Undrafted out of Tennessee in 1983, he’d sign a free agent contract with Tom Landry’s Cowboys, where Bates excelled as a fan favorite and a special teams commando.. Undersized and considered slow, Bates had a heart and a motor that made up for both of those shortcomings. His ability to get down the field and uncannily make the jarring hit on the returner was so unbelievable that the NFL basically created a special teamer’s slot in the Pro Bowl just for him. He was named AP and to the Pro Bowl in 1984.  Bill early in his career was also utilized well on safety blitzes as he made 9 sacks over his first two seasons. He had a career high 4 interceptions in 1985 and a career high 124 tackles in 1988 from his strong safety position. With a new coach on board (Jimmy Johnson) in 1989 there was some fear that Bates would be cut. Instead he found himself back on special teams again where he remained a key backup with the team through 2 Superbowl victories and retirement after the 1997 season.

Bill has remained quite active since retirement and has spent time as an assistant coach with the Jags and at the high school level. He’s been a motivational speaker, penned his own autobiography and owns a ranch outside of Dallas. -And of course Bill Bates remains a Cowboys spokesperson.

G/Gs 217/47    Tac 667      Sac 18      Fum 7     Int 14    Yds 122     Avg 8.7     Td 0      lg 29