Card: ProSet 1989 Acquired: IP 2020, Houston Roughnecks/ Tampa Bay Vipers Joint Practice
After graduating from Drake University, Dennis McKnight signed with the Cleveland Browns in 1981, but didn’t make the squad. The following year, he signed with the Chargers. A gem in the rough, McKnight possessed versatility that allowed him to see action at every position on the offensive line (except at left tackle) over his time in San Diego. A gym rat, Dennis also was the team’s long snapper, and was a Pro Bowl alternate in 1988. He joined the Lions and played for them in 1990 and 1992, with a short stint in Philadephia in between during ’91. Over his football career he played in 141 contests, starting 100.
Dennis enjoys the sport so much that he went into coaching in 1999. As a positional coach he’s seen stops in college at Hawaii, Grossmont CC, San Diego State, SMU, and Lamar University. McKnight has also coached in the CFL for the Esks, and Ti-Cats. In 2020 he joined June Jones’ coaching staff for the Houston Roughnecks as Offensive Assistant/ Special Teams coach.
I completely missed Dennis on my inventory of Roughnecks players and coaches. Thankfully Lance was going with me to the joint practice, and brought an extra card for me. Dennis still posesses a strong and powerful build. When he speaks, its excited and loud, like a professional wrestler.
We watched him work with the kids after practice. I was very impressed by how he was handling them, and at one point exclaimed, “The whole point of this is to have fun!” As he was exiting, we stopped him and asked him for his autograph, where we talked about the current state of things. He thanked us for coming and how much it meant to the players. We also talked briefly about how the NFL is out of touch with fans and that they are missing out on the game of football.
Beniquez Brown was the motor in the middle of the Birmingham Iron defense during its lone 8 game season in the AAF. He finished with 51 solo tackles, 19 assists, 3 sacks, a forced fumble, and 4 pass deflections. His best week arguably game in Week 3 against the Legends, when Beniquez had 10 tackles, a pass deflection, and a forced fumble.
Beniquez played college ball at Mississippi State. He chased down 200 ball carriers, posting 6 sacks, 4 pass deflections, 3 interceptions, and 2 fumble recoveries. 39 games. After not going selected in the 2016 NFL Draft, he signed as a free agent with the Green Bay Packers but did not make the squad.
After the AAF folded, Beniquez was selected by the Houston Roughnecks during the 5th round of the XFL Draft. I was very excited that Houston got him under defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell, and Brown did not disappoint as the Roughnecks linebacker corps was among the best in the league. At a few games during the season, I narrowly missed out on getting his autograph before the world shut down due to COVID in 2020. Beniquez finished with 36 combined tackles, 2 quarterback hits, 4 tackles for loss, 2 pass deflections, and a forced fumble in 5 games.
Card: Panini Unparalleled 2016 Acquired: IP 2020, Houston Roughnecks/ Tampa Bay Vipers Joint Practice
After he was selected by the Roughnecks, I was willing to pay a couple of bucks to get this beauty of a card of Phillip. Although the canvas is blasted out with stars on a shiny background- it’s a very unique design and a solid shot of Walker surveying the battlefield. I then tried to figure out the best time to get him to sign this card, being that I’d have to make a long drive from Central Texas to Houston. I passed up a few events that he was the marquee player at, in favor of maybe a bigger event where I could corral him.
Look no further than the Houston Roughnecks/ Tampa Bay Vipers joint practice. I got wind of the event and figured it’d be my best shot at getting both the Roughnecks and Vipers. As a season ticket holder, the league gave us ‘access’ to the field- a joke of a cornered off area on the home side between the 20 and the end zone. I saw Phillip warming up and asked him for his autograph. He gestured to his teammate he was tossing the ball with and came over to sign his card. It’s a nice autograph, minus the smudge, but I see these mainly as like tattoos or scars- rather than blemishes. – They add personality.
Phillip Walker played in college for the Temple Owls from 2013 to 2016. A dynamic passer and playmaker for the Owls, he set numerous school passing and career passing records for the school. He finished with 10,668 yards (830/1,458) for 74 TDs (44 INT). Signed as an undrafted free agent by the Indianapolis Colts after the 2016 NFL Draft, he found himself on and off the team’s practice squad over the next 3 seasons.
In 2020, Phillip was assigned by the XFL to the Houston Roughnecks, after he was recommended by former Colts quarterback Andrew Luck. He’d compete with Connor Cook for the starting quarterback job in the Run N Shoot offense and win the starting job.
Walker was an untamed, wild talent, in the XFL to say the least. Every week he’d razzle and dazzle, impressing the local crowd and winning hearts and minds for the league. PJ led the team to a 5-0 record, completing 119 of 184 passes, for 1,338 yards, 15 TDs to just 4 interceptions. PJ had incredible pocket presence and awareness, but didn’t take off scrambling at the drop of a hat. He finished with 24 carries for 99 yards and a TD. Every game the home crowd was behind PJ chanting ‘PJ MVP’. It was electric.
After the XFL folded, PJ signed a free agent contract with the Carolina Panthers for the upcoming 2020 NFL season. He’d be reunited with his former college coach Matt Rhule, who had become the HC in Carolina. Walker backed up Teddy Bridgewater at quarterback, starting an 11/22 matchup against the Detroit Lions, and notching his first professional win.
Celebrating the game, the players, the cards, and the autographs for over 25 years.