Category Archives: NFL

Degrate, Tony ‘The Great’

Card: University of Texas Upper Deck 2011
Acquired: EBay, 2020

Tony Degrate was a monster at defensive tackle, for the Texas Longhorns from 1982 to 1984- and is considered one of the finest D-linemen to play at the school. In his 1984 campaign, he amassed a then school defensive lineman record 123 stops and 12 sacks to clench the Lombardi Award, given to the nation’s top lineman. All together, Tony had 47 career tackles for loss and 31 sacks.

The Tampa Bay Bandits made an offer to Degrate, which he turned down, but this ruffled the feathers of the concerned NFL who thought he had all but flown the coop. In the end, Tony was selected in the 5th round of the draft by the Cincinnati Bengals. After spending a season with the team, he saw time in camp with the Packers, and later the Bucs.

Tony’s story is a cautionary one, and I relate to him immensely. Degrate is a great talent who let those little nagging voices in his head get to him, and his confidence just kept slipping, and it affected him physically and mentally. Self doubt and guilt are terrible burdens to bear.

I can understand why he is a difficult autograph to get in any capacity, as he probably feels that he let a lot of people- and himself down. He went back to school and finished his art degree, but at one point I believe that he was a personal trainer in the Austin area.

Degrate’s first card came out in 2011 as part of the Upper Deck Texas set. There are 3 cards in the set of him, and he is very difficult to get an autograph from. He doesn’t sign TTM and when I attended an event at the UT Coop he was scheduled to be at, he cancelled at the last moment. I really liked this card of him leaping up and making a play, and I was more than happy to pick up this card via EBay at a reasonable price.

I hope Tony is doing well.

Nichols, Deatrick

Card: Topps XFL 2020 Certified
Acquired: EBay, 2020

Deatrick Nichols played cornerback for 3 years at South Florida from 2014-2018. He concluded his college career with 174 total tackles, 15 tackles for loss, 1 sack, 3 forced fumbles, 24 pass deflections, and 11 interceptions for 109 yards and a TD.

He wasn’t selected in the 2019 NFL Draft, but made the squad of the Arizona Cardinals eventually being elevated off the practice squad and into the lineup a few times during the season. After being waived, Nichols was selected by the Houston Roughnecks of the XFL 2020. Deatrick led the XFL with 3 interceptions, 6 pass deflections, a sack, and 24 tackles in 5 contests.

After the league suspended operations, Deatrick has been on the off-season rosters of the New Orleans Saints, and the Miami Dolphins.

Polian, Bill

Cards: Topps AAF 2019 Custom, Panini 2016 HOF
Acquired: TTM 2019, C/o Home
Sent: 11/2 Received: 11/12 (10 days)

Bill Polian has a long and storied career as a football executive that spans across 4 leagues: The NFL, CFL, USFL, and the AAF.

After graduating from NYU in 1964, Polian began his careeer as a scout for the Chiefs in 1978. He also spent time with the Blue Bombers and Alouettes in the CFL as well working his way up to Personnel Director. A one year stint in the USFL Chicago Blitz in 1984, led Polian back to the NFL. He’d then begin a long and storied career with the Buffalo Bills later that year as the Pro Personnel Director. He’d help transform the Bills into an NFL powerhouse laying the foundation for the franchise to appear in 3 consecutive Super Bowls. He was released by the team after they lost their 3rd Super Bowl in 92.

A 3 year hiatus saw Polian return to the NFL with a vengeance as GM of the expansion Carolina Panthers. He was able to assemble enough talent that the franchise posted a expansion record 7 wins in 1995, and an even more impressive 12 wins in 1996. After a down year in 97, Bill joined the Indianapolis Colts as General Manager.

His first move was a no brainer: Selecting Peyton Manning with the first overall pick of the 1998 NFL Draft. Later he’d hire Tony Dungy to coach the franchise, and the rest is history. After the reorganization of the divisions in 2002, the Colts would dominate the South- winning 7 divisional titles under his watch. Indianapolis appeared in two Superbowls winning XLI. He’d not be retained after the 2011 season.

In the meantime he began to roll in the accolades, being inducted into the Buffalo Wall of Fame in 2012, the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2015, and the Colts Ring of Honor in 2017.

Bill felt the siren’s lure and resurfaced again in 2018, where he signed up to be Head of Football of the upstart Alliance of American Football, co founding it alongside Charlie Ebersol. The league was able to pull off 8 weeks of football before it collapsed due to financial strain. Bill Polian was greatly disappointed in the failure of the AAF and in chief financial cow Tom Dundon who pulled the plug.

I wrote to Bill after creating a dead on custom of the Topps AAF certified card. Thanks to COVID I had to find a new custom printer. The card quality was outstanding, but I didn’t prep the high gloss card, so the autograph didn’t stick properly to the card. He also signed this Panini HOF card for me as well.