Category Archives: NFL

Wisnewski, Steve “The Wiz”

Card: Action Packed All Madden Team 1991
Acquired: In Person, Dallas Cowboys Training Camp 1991

Originally drafted by the Dallas Cowboys in the stacked 1989 draft, Wisniewski’s rights were immediately traded to the Los Angeles Raiders.  A two time All-American out of Penn State, “The Wiz” as he was affectionately known was one of the last great moves of the Raiders organization during the 1980s.  Wisnewski would play in 8 Pro Bowls over his 13 seasons and was named to the All-Decade Team of the 1990s. A fine technician, Steve had great feet and was well coordinated athlete -which allowed him to compete at the upper echelon of the league and handle bull rushing defensive tackles with ease. Steve was also considered in many circles to be one of the dirtiest players in the league and in 1997 topped the rankings list.  He retired in 2001 as a member of the Oakland Raider organization after starting 175 games.

I got Steve’s autograph at Dallas Cowboys training camp, where he personalized the card with a passage from the bible. Philippians 1:13. “As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ.” An interesting passage. Steve since football has continued his quest for Christ. As a born again Christian he works with fellow ex-Raider Napoleon Kaufman’s church, and sells software for CIMA systems to the automotive industry. His fondest memory was being selected to the Pro Bowl for the first time in 1990, and most enjoyed playing against the arch rival Chiefs. Offensive linemen- specifically Guards rarely if ever get selected for the NFL HoF, and Steve is one amongst many that should have more fair consideration.

Culver, Rodney (1969-1996)

Card: Star Pics 1992
Acquired: TTM 1992, C/o The Indianapolis Colts

Rodney Culver, from Detroit, was the starting tailback (and first African-American Captain) at Notre Dame in 1990 and 1991. He was drafted in the 4th round of the 1992 NFL draft by the Indianapolis Colts during the ‘dark days’ of the franchise (before the current ‘golden age’ of the Manning Era). With the departure of Eric Dickerson the team was going in a new direction at runningback and had a platoon of players at the position. Culver was used primarily as a goal line and short yardage back. He played in 1992 and 1993  for the Colts, before signing with the Chargers in 1994.  I’d get Rodney’s autograph during a blitz of the Colts franchise back in 1992. His autograph oddly has 2 numbers on it- his college number and a star with a 2 next to it. I have assumed it meant it was the second Star Pics card he signed. Culver played in San Diego for an additional two seasons in another platoon system, making an appearance in the Superbowl for the Chargers, after the 1995 season. Over his short career Culver showed flashes of starting potential, was a tireless team player, and dedicated hard worker. Full of wisdom beyond his years and an inspirational presence, Rodney was also a devout Christian going as far as when he’d score a touchdown he would point towards the sky in thanks.

On May 11th, 1996 shortly after takeoff from Miami, Rodney and his wife were tragically killed when their flight, Value Jet 592 crashed in the Florida Everglades killing all 110 on board. The crash would highlight massive oversight failures by the airline industry when dealing with safety, contractors, and transportation of potentially hazardous materials on commuter flights. In 1999, on the 3rd anniversary of the disaster, a memorial was dedicated to the victims of flight 592 in Miami-Dade county. Truly an unsung and quiet player, leaving us before his prime- Rodney Culver is another example of a exactly why I have been putting these autographs on my site. It’s not fair- really- and this is the best I can do to remember players like Rodney.

G/Gs 43/5      Att 241        Yds 689         Avg 2.9      Td 13      Lg 36  |
Rec 42      Yds 343       Avg 8.7      Td 3    Lg 27

Johnson, Travis

Card: Upper Deck Rookie Foundations 2005
Acquired: Purchase, Beckett.com 2010

Travis Johnson was the number one rated defensive tackle coming out of Florida State in 2005. The Texans (with Texas linebacker Derrick Johnson on the board) traded down drafting Travis with the 16th overall pick. It was considered an overall weak draft at this position. I was incredibly angry at this pick -but supportive of the team’s move going for an unglamorous position of need. Johnson saw playing time in his rookie season starting 3 games making a sack and 23 tackles. In terms of being a two gap lineman or having a high speed motor, Johnson would have problems amounting to even generating the power of a weed whacker- constantly outperformed by grizzled veterans and free agent fodder. In 2006, Johnson started 8 games making  just 11 tackles in the team’s 3-4 defense. After the season, head coach Dom Capers and the staff were fired. With a new regime and general manager in charge the Texans made the switch to a 4-3 defense. Starting 13 games in 2007 Travis had 41 tackles and 5 pass defensed and an interception from the defensive tackle position. In a controversial play against the Dolphins that season (that virtually ended quarterback Trent Green’s career,) Green dove low on a block, hitting Travis near the knees, flipping Johnson up in the air. As Green laid unconscious on the turf, Johnson got up and angrily lambasted the downed quarterback. He was reprimanded on the sidelines by head coach Gary Kubiak, but after the game, Travis maintained that he was angry about how Green was trying to end his career by diving at his knees. Johnson was largely labeled a ‘hood’ after the incident and maligned both in the media and by fans. His 2008 saw him playing more from the doghouse in a rotation of defensive tackles with occasional flashes of brilliance followed by complete mental lapses. During training camp in 2009 the Texans traded Travis to the San Diego Chargers for a conditional 5th round draft choice where he currently plays through 2010. The trade stunned the young tackle who was recovering from a sports hernia which he claims to have limited his effectiveness since his drafting. As the Texans certainly regarded this pick as a failure because of his non-eye opening stats, how he will be judged remains to be seen till his career ends.

Travis is a much kinder and smarter person than the media portrays him and while off the field incidents and situations such as the Trent Green one didn’t help, a change of scenery was probably best for the young tackle where hopefully he can rehabilitate his image, as Travis’ fire has been misunderstood as a ‘thug mentality’. While getting together my blitz for the 2010 Texans, I thought it’d be great to try to get the autographs of all the former first round Houston Texans. I checked into the values of the cards and found all of the players authenticated autographs reasonably cheap on Beckett.com. I rarely purchase autographs, but from the historical aspect thought I could make an exception for Johnson, Carr, and Babin.

G/Gs 54/38    Tac 133   Sac 3   Fum 1    Int 1  Yds 0   Avg 0.0   Td 0  Lg 0