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
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
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