Category Archives: NFL

Smith, Al

Cards: Proset 1991, Fleer 1995, Score 1991, Score 1992, Action Packed 1992
Acquired: In Person, Highland Mall 1992. Oilers Training Camp 1995. TTM, 2010 C/o home.
Sent:  6/24        Received: 7/10   (16 days)

In 1992 the Oilers were doing a media and fan blitz outside of their normal home territory and were appearing at a local mall sending in coach Jim Eddy, Jeff Alm and Al Smith. It was one of my first memorable face to face interactions with players and Al and Jeff cracked jokes with me while they set up the tables in front of the food court. Al signed my Pro Set 1991 and then jokingly told me I could have probably carried in the table for them. It was a kind and cherished moment at an emotional time of my life. I would later get his autograph at my last time at Houston Oiler training camp in 1995 on the Fleer 95 card. In 2010, when I was tracking down former Oilers I found Al’s address and sent out for his autograph.

Al Smith was drafted by the Houston Oilers in the 6th round of the 1986 draft from Utah. Smith would go on to lead the team in tackles his rookie season, as an inside linebacker for the 3-4 defense.  In 1990 he officially became the team’s starting middle linebacker and held down the starting job through 1994, garnering Pro Bowl honors twice and All-Pro once finally retiring in 1997.  Probably the Oiler’s best kept secret, Al Smith came up with big plays for the Oilers, including 2 goal line stops in a row to seal victory against the Jets in the playoffs. Smith after football would serve as a scout for the  Tennessee Titans and currently lives in Franklin, TN.

G  125      Tac  833        Sac  5.5         FF   8
Int  2        Yds 42      Avg 21.0      TD 0

Bartkowski, Steve

Cards: Topps 1978, Topps 1983
Acquired: In Person, CGA Youth Golf  Tournament 1993.

I got to the Golf Tournament early in the morning (before 8am) and was able to catch the early birds on the course before the crowds got there. The first three I got were the trio of quarterbacks, Steve Bartkowski, Billy Joe Tolliver and Browning Nagle. Bartkowski and the others were extremely nice and even let me ride around in a golf cart for a hole or two with them. They were more than happy to sign any cards I had, and Steve signed these two cards for me after I gave him and the others the drawings I did for them.

Steve was the #1 pick of the NFL draft of 1975 for the Atlanta Falcons, and garnered NFL Rookie of the Year Honors that year. Bartkowski lead the Falcons from 1975 to 1985 (and Rams in 1986).  He still owns many of the Falcons passing records to this day. Bartkowski’s career got off to an extremely rough start but blossomed as his career continued under center leading the team to division championships in 1980 and 1982. (You see in those days #1 choices and quarterbacks were given 5 or 6 years to blossom.) Steve was a two time Pro Bowler and threw 22 touchdowns to 5 picks in 1983. (He is also notable for being Leigh Steinberg’s first client and for being taken ahead of HoF runningback Walter Payton.)  After retirement Steve has continued to live and work in the Atlanta area, working for contractual commercial building firms, in sports broadcasting and television as a color analyst, sits on the board of directors for the Atlanta Falcons and is an avid golfer with a scratch handicap.

G 129    Att  1932    Comp 3456      Pct 55.9      Yds  24124
Td  156       Int  144       Rat  75.4

Dunbar, Karl

Cards: Ultimate WLAF 1991, Wild Card WLAF 1992.
Acquired: TTM 2010, C/o  The Minnesota Vikings
Sent: 6/11  Received: 6/18   (7 days)

After playing at LSU (Karmichael) ‘Karl’ was drafted by the Steelers in 1990 and then played for the Orlando Thunder of the WLAF in 1992 finishing tied for first on the team with 5.5 sacks. (He appeared in World Bowl II.) After the league reorganized, Karl became a journeyman, playing for the Saints for one year then jumping to the Cardinals for the next two retiring at the end of 1995 after playing for the Rhein Fire of the NFLE. With an insatiable love for the game, coaching had gotten in Karl’s blood, and he began to start working his way up the ranks starting from the high school level soon after. In 1998 he started coaching in college and in 2004 he was back in the pros working for the Bears. As of 2010 he’s in his 5th season as defensive line coach of the Minnesota Vikings.  He is attributed with the success and emergence of the ‘Williams Wall’ and is considered to be a master technician. His name has been thrown around recently for head coaching jobs in college as well.

Karl is an interesting and engaging alumni. (Karl has vitiligo, a skin pigmentation discoloration that affects about 1 percent of the population and is decorated with fraternity tattoos on his arms and elbows.) In between his time as a player in 1991, he put his degree to work as an undercover police officer helping make drug stings and was nicknamed ‘the battering ram’. At the World Bowl II media event day, Karl actually sought out media to answer questions for, even stating to one intrepid reporter, “Why haven’t you asked me a question yet?”

Another former WLAFer, I was witness to the Thunder’s victory over the San Antonio Riders that season in 1992. The Riders kept it close till the 3rd quarter but then got blown out late. (Because there was only 3 divisions in the WLAF, the Riders who were really the 3rd best team in the league, didn’t make the playoffs that year, despite being 7-3.) I never got the cards for Karl until recently and sent them out with the photo memorabilia of the game for him. He responded in about a week, I’m sure feeling quite good about himself because his defensive linemen probably get all the autograph requests.

(Thunder)  Games 10      Tac   N/a          Sac 5.5       FF  N/a    Int 0    Yds 0     Avg -.-       TD 0