Category Archives: WLAF

Esiason, Norman “Boomer”


Cards: Score 1990 Hot Gun, Action Packed Rookies 1992.
Acquired: TTM 2011, C/o CBS Sports. TTM 2017, C/o The Esiason Foundation*
Sent: 5/23/2011   Received: 8/4/2012 (423 days) STAMPS
Sent: 12/20/2017  Received: 1/8/2018 (18 days)
* Donation included

So here’s an infamous example of an autopen or stamp. A really underwhelming ‘success’ from the Cincinnati Bengals’ greatest quarterback since Ken Anderson, I wrote to Boomer Esiason C/o CBS Sports in 2011. 423 days later I got these two ‘autographs’ back. It was obvious that they were facsimiles. I sat on this post for 6 years or so, annoyed that he stamped my cards and that he made me wait over a year to get them back. To further the insult, many fans were getting these obvious stamps and accepting them as legitimate. Then I started to see a slow trickle in of Boomers and had a good feeling that they were for real. Finally at the end of 2017 I shot these two out with a small donation and waited.  At long last I can remove those black eye stamps from the collection. For points and purposes, I have included the fakes in this post so that they can be identified easily. Note the thin pen and consistent weight. The facsimiles even both match from card to card, down to the dot on the ‘i’. So painful to look at…

I have been really impressed with how far Boomer has come as a broadcaster since retiring, and after the fervor erupted over him as a Monday Night Football commentator, Esiason was ousted and retreated to in studio work and radio where he has really honed his skills.  He technically began his commentating career along with Warren Moon and Dan Marino as color analysts for WLAF games on USA Network back in 1991.

A rarity in NFL drafts, no quarterback came off the board during the first round of the 1984 draft. Boomer Esiason would be the first, with the 38th pick of round 2. A very strong draft, Wilber Marshall, Dean Steinkuhler, Irving Fryar, Keith Millard, Carl Banks, Greg Bell, and Bill Maas, were among the recognizable names taken before Esiason. It is safe to say that just with these players alone, the 1984 draft helped form the backbone in depth and classic names through the early 1990s.  The pretty boy with golden hair, Boomer was a prolific passer for the quarterback manufacturing school, the University of Maryland.  While there he’d set 17 school records, and is considered by many to be the greatest and most recognizable Terrapin of all time. (The Washington Federals of the competing USFL drafted Boomer as well, but could not mount an offer that surpassed the Bengals.) With a mouth that always found the microphone, Boomer quickly established himself as a presence in the locker room as Ken Anderson entered his twilight years with the franchise. He was my arch nemesis in the classic AFC Central, and always put up big numbers and games against the Oilers. Ironically in his rookie season he started his first game against the Oilers, in which he guided Cincinnati to a 13-3 victory over Houston. It was head coach Sam Wyche’s first year, and he and Esiason’s fates would be tied at the hip to each other during their time in Cincinnati. With Wyche, a former quarterback himself and an apostle of the Bill Walsh West Coast System,  Boomer provided the new blood to reinvigorate the sagging Bengals franchise. Esiason became the face of the franchise as the team gave him playmakers in the shape of Anthony Munoz, James Brooks, Tim McGee, Eddie Brown, and Rodney Holman. With a lightning delivery and a devestating understanding of the innovative no-huddle offense (that Buffalo later employed full-time after witnessing the effectiveness of Esiason under center,) the Bengals quickly climbed the ranks of the AFC during the last days of the most brutal division in all of football. In 1986 he guided the Bengals to a 10-6 record throwing for a shade under 4,000 yards, and 24 touchdowns.  1988 saw the final ascension of the Bengals to Super Bowl XXIII, where they lost to the 49ers in the last final minutes of play. It was Boomer’s most prolific season as a pro, with a 97.4 quarterback rating and he was named the NFL MVP.

By 1991 free agency, sacks, and injuries began to catch up to the Bengals. Esiason posted a 3-11 record as a starter and combined with new management, Sam Wyche was fired at the conclusion of the season. New ownership felt new blood was needed and rookie head coach David Shula (son of Dolphins head coach Don Shula) was brought on board to handle the team. Immediately he decided to fix the offense by letting many of the team’s playmakers go, and drafted  David Klingler to be the heir apparent to Boomer. The writing was clearly on the wall for Esiason, and after another mediocre year behind the Bengals patchwork line and bland new offense, he was unceremoniously traded to the New York Jets in 1993 for a third round pick.

As the starting quarterback for the Jets, he was able to give the offense a certain level of credibility over the next 3 tumultuous seasons under 3 different head coaches. Holding firm he posted an 84.5, 77.3, and a 71.3 quarterback rating over those seasons with the team. Despite having more touchdowns to interceptions in each of those seasons, the Jets slumped, and Esiason signed with the Cardinals, playing there one season in 1996.  In a game during that season over the Redskins he’d throw for 522 yards in a game, the third most in NFL history. 1997 proved to be Boomer’s final season, as he indeed proved you can return home, and came back to the Bengals. It was a great ending for him, coming in as a backup to Jeff Blake. After Blake succumbed to injury, and the franchise was sitting at a woeful 3-8, Esiason came in leading the charge, posting a 4-1 record over the next 5 games, and a 106.9 QB rating. He’d retire after the season, and is considered the most prolific left handed quarterback in NFL history.

In addition to his broadcasting and radio duties, Esiason spends much of his time with charity, and the Boomer Esiason Foundation, helping with research into Cystic Fibrosis.  You can visit his website at http://www.boomeresiason.com/index.htm.

G/Gs  187/173   Att 5205   Comp 2969    Yds  37920   Td  247    Int  184    Rat  81.1  |
Rush 447   Yds  1598    Avg  3.6     Td   7    Lg  24

Maye, Mark (QB)

Card: ProSet 1991 WLAF Insert
Acquired: 2018, Amazon
Failure: TTM 2017, C/o Home x2

An exceptional all around athlete in basketball, football, and baseball, Mark Maye came back from rotator cuff surgery to turn things around for the Tar Heels in 1986. In his first start he’d break a school record throwing for 311 yards. Over the next year and a half, Mark broke that school record 3 more times, including a school record 406 yards and 4 TDs in a 30-23 win over Georgia Tech.  Maye finished as the school’s second leading passer in history.

Going undrafted in 1988, Mark was signed by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and spent the season as the 3rd string QB. Due to injury Mark spent his 1990 back at his Alma Mater helping out the Tar Heels’ coaching staff.  Mark opted to play in the WLAF in 1991. He’d be selected in the first round by his home state Raleigh-Durham Skyhawks.  It seemed like a perfect match, and Maye was the uncontested starter in camp.

After an underwhelming opener against the Sacramento Surge ended in a 9-3 loss, Mark was injured during a brutal hit in Week 2 against the Orlando Thunder. He’d be placed on season ending injured reserve and essentially his football career was over.  The Skyhawks didn’t really have a good offensive line or a back up QB plan. Joe Pizzo and Bobby McAllister battled it out the remainder of the season, but the franchise finished a woeful 0-10. After the season the franchise was dissolved and replaced by the Ohio Glory.

Mark lives in North Carolina. I’ve tried him twice now at least with no such luck. The first time I got a body bag from the USPS. The second has been in the mail for sometime. At this point I just threw up my hands and decided to take a shot. Seeing a WLAF autograph on an auction site is a rarity, so I just took it at face value that this one was authentic.

WLAF 2          ATT 33        CPD 15        YDS 158       PCT 45.5
TD  0        INT 2         RAT 47.1
RUSH 2        YDS 2       AVG 1.0       TD 0       LG 2

Henry, James

Cards: Pro Set WLAF 1991, Ultimate WLAF 1992
Acquired: TTM 2017, C/o Work
Sent: 11/15       Received: 12/7   (22 days)
Failure: 2017, C/o Home


James Henry went to college at Southern Mississippi. A dangerous punt returner and defensive back, he had 23 punt returns for 399 yards and 2 TDs his senior year. Over his college career James had 8 punt returns for touchdowns.  Selected in the 4th round of the talent laden 1989 draft by the Seattle Seahawks, James failed to make the squad both in ’89 and ’90.  He also briefly played for the Saskatchewan Roughriders.

Henry was selected in the 8th round of the WLAF positional draft in 1991. He played both defensive back and punt returner for the Birmingham Fire. His 10.7 punt return yard average was second in the league, and a 50 yard punt return for a touchdown in a 28-7 win over the Skyhawks.  Despite the Fire’s deep secondary, James contributed with 2 interceptions- including a 77 yarder he returned for a TD against the Thunder.

James returned to the Fire for 1992. but was unable to duplicate his success from the previous year as teams were aware of how dangerous he was in the open field. He finished with 14 punt returns for 47 yards.

During one of those games in 1992, I’d corral most of the defensive secondary and have them pen their autographs on their cards. James eluded me essentially for 25 years.  With James Henry’s autograph, I am now just down to one player from the Birmingham Fire’s ProSet WLAF set- Kenny Bell. I thought I had found Henry earlier this year via Spokeo and cross referencing his information with his trading cards, but the address in Mississippi never responded. Mark (Mark’s Signing Bonus) and I have collaborated on addresses of players from the WLAF. He got a hit from Henry and passed the information along to me. I was very happy that this worked out.

WLAF    INT 2         YDS   83         AVG  41.5        TD 1        LG 77t
PR   37           YDS  294              AVG   7.9      TD 1        LG 50t