Category Archives: NFL

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

Gault, Willie

Card: ProSet 1991
Acquired: In person, Dallas Cowboys Training Camp 1990

So Josh and I by the time the Raiders came to town were quite adept at finding ways to get autographs and Willie Gault is a great example of this. We had heard rumors while at camp that the Raiders stayed at a hotel just across the highway from St. Edwards. (Right across the highway meant a 45 minute walk.) Josh and I had a choice: Keep the primo spot in autograph alley and get some autographs from Cowboys and Raiders, or take a dice roll on the Raiders hotel and rake it in. We took a shot at the latter and started walking. Josh and I would arrive a few minutes before the bus would and stood out front salivating to get signatures. The streamliner pulled into the parking lot, but instead of pulling around front- it passed us to go to the back. In a panic, we started chasing the bus like little kids after school trying to get to the ice cream man. I managed to pull in front of the group surprisingly keeping up with the bus. Players looked out the tinted windows with amazement – pointed and laughed. When they pulled around back they dropped the players off at a shed in the parking lot to change. Willie didn’t bother. He got off the bus and walked straight up to me and proclaimed,”Wow man! We kept telling the bus driver to go faster and almost got it up to 30 before you started falling behind! You looked like a full on sprinter at the Olympics, with arms up and everything!” He signed our cards with a beaming smile and humorous zeal and truly this is one of my favorite football memories of all time.

A track and field speedster beast that  (NFL teams tried to duplicate the luck the Cowboys had with Bob Hayes-) the closest anybody got over the last 30 years was Willie Gault. In 1980 during the height of the Cold War, the United States boycotted the Olympics being hosted by the USSR. Instead the USA Olympic Committee decided to hold their own ‘Boycott Olympics’ in Philadelphia. Willie Gault would win a Gold in the 100 M and a Bronze 4×100 M relay. He would also win at the Helsinki Championships for hurdling (Bronze) and  the 4×100 again (Gold).  Drafted in the first round of the 1983 draft by the Chicago Bears, Willie would primarily be utilized to stretch defenses with his incredible speed.  In 1985, he would be a part of the “Super Bowl Shuffle” helping the team dominate the New England Patriots winning SuperBowl XX with 129 yards on 4 catches. After a successful career with the Bears, averaging a breathtaking 19.8 yards on 184 catches, Willie would be traded to the Los Angeles Raiders and Al Davis who loves that speed. Gault would have perhaps his best seasons there, averaging over 24.5 yards a catch his first two seasons in LA, and a career high 985 yards in 1990.

In 1993, Willie would retire and pursue his dream of acting. As of 2010 he’s been in 31 different productions both TV and film, and also been a producer and even a costume designer. Recently he also appeared in the 25th anniversary of the “Super Bowl Shuffle” hosted by Boost Mobile on the most recent SuperBowl half-time show. He remains incredibly in shape and has set numerous records at the Masters athletics championship.

G/Gs  170/141       Rec 333        Yds 6635        Avg  19.9      Td 44      Lg 87T

Tolliver, Billy Joe

Cards: ProSet 1989,Action Packed Rookies 1990,Action Packed 1991,Upper Deck 1991,Topps 1990,GameDay 1992,Score 1990
Acquired: In Person 1993, CGA Youth Golf Tournament

A real tender moment in my autograph collecting- Billy Joe Tolliver, Browning Nagle and Steve Bartkowski were palling around really early in the morning, -I’d guess around 7:45AM and I was basically the only fan on the course. They actually saw me and started talking to me. Maybe it was because I just walked up onto the green and didn’t know my golf etiquette, but they absolutely loved the drawings I did of each one of them. Billy Joe and I started talking and he offered let me ride along with them to the next hole. How could I say no (especially comparing this in retrospect to my experiences with John Elway)? Tolliver the previous season had a hail mary pass against the 49ers, and we discussed how exciting and amazing the play was. Billy Joe just told me he tried to put it up to his favorite game maker (Michael Haynes) and he just got lucky. He also shared that it was his favorite moment (up to that point of his young career).

In the waning days of the Southwestern Conference, Texas Tech started really establishing itself with a dominating offense. Billy Joe Tolliver was the renaissance man that would be the genesis in the long line of record setting quarterbacks at Lubbock. Gifted with a cannon for an arm Tolliver would be drafted in the 3rd round of the 1989 draft by the San Diego Chargers, who traded a lion’s share to the Giants to get him. Expected to be the quarterback of the team’s future, he was thrust right into a quarterback competition between David Archer and Mark Malone. In the end the team traded the Bears for Jim McMahon and he and Tolliver would battle the rest of the season for the starting gig. San Diego was a tough place to play after the departure of Dan Fouts, with an eternal revolving door at quarterback (13 starting quarterbacks from 1987-1991).  By 1990 Tolliver was firmly entrenched as the number one quarterback in San Diego- but was inexplicably benched in favor of Mark Vlasic. He’d quickly be renamed starter but was benched again at the end of the season for another ‘quarterback of the future’ –John Friesz. Friesz would be named the starter for the 1991 season and Tolliver would find himself traded to the Atlanta Falcons for a 5th round pick. Overall the Tolliver legacy in San Diego would surely be considered a ‘wash’.

It was an interesting situation in Atlanta to say the least for Tolliver playing under the Red Gun offense with injury prone starter Chris Miller and 3rd stringer distraction Brett Favre behind him. It was during the 1991 season Billy Joe would get some playing time in and make the Hail Mary pass against the 49ers and have a respectable finish to the season. In 1992, Farve would be sent packing to Green Bay for as coach Jerry Glanville stated, “To save him (Farve) from himself.” Tolliver would be in the starting role in 1992 after Chris Miller was injured and out for the season but would finish with literally average results (5Tds, 5ints, 55% completions and a 70.5 qb rating). The next season, he’d once again be backup to Chris Miller and Bobby Herbert. With Miller injured again, Tolliver would be the main backup again and would see some playing time in 7 games. After the 1993 season he would not be resigned.  Playing in Atlanta was met with mixed results. Extreme highs (the Hail Mary) punctuated by big lows (arguments on the sidelines with Jerry Glanville and blowout losses).

When the 1994 season began, Tolliver was still looking for a job but was signed to be a 3rd string quarterback on the struggling Houston Oilers. By mid-season Billy would be the starter and would finish with another 7 starts under his belt splitting time with Bucky Richardson. He would be a free agent again and this time pursue a job in the fledgling CFL USA signed by the Shreveport Pirates for their final season in 1995. Returning again to the NFL Tolliver would go back to the Falcons, this time backing up Herbert and Browning Nagle at quarterback. He’d play sparingly through 1996 and be released mid-season in 1997, but would then be signed by the Kansas City Chiefs who needed an injury replacement. Tolliver would be cut in mid 1998. Billy Joe would return to the NFC South, going to the New Orleans Saints under Mike Ditka in 1999. He’d remain on and off the team roster through 2000. In 2001 Tolliver would be signed by Green Bay- remarkably with former friend and quarterback Brett Favre, where Billy Joe would retire shortly after losing the backup quarterback job to Doug Pederson.

Overall looking at Billy Joe Tolliver’s career, one could almost state that he had some of the best agents or was one of the best third string quarterbacks to play the position. The definition of a journeyman, Tolliver would play for no more than 7 teams, starting at some point during his career for at least 6 of them over a 12 season career. Since football, Billy Joe has remained extremely active. He was inducted by the Red Raiders into their Hall of Honor in 2002. An athletic competitor at heart- Billy Joe Tolliver is considered a great golfer frequently winning sports amateur golf competitions on a regular basis and in 2010 he beat Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo for the championship. Billy Joe was treated kindly by the Tecmo gods, who rewarded him with an amazing 81 in passing speed for his cannon of an arm.

G/Gs  74/42  Att  1707    Comp 891    Yds 10760     Pct 52.2%       Td 59   Int 64   Lg 82T  Rat 67.7