Cards: Topps AAF 2019 Certified, Topps AAF 2019 Acquired: 2019, EBay. IP 2020, Houston Roughnecks /Tampa Bay Vipers Joint Practice
A 3 year starter for Eastern Michigan at linebacker, Ike Spearman medical redshirted his 2015 season, granting him a 5th year of eligibility. He’d play for them from 2012-2017, posting 179 total tackles, 10 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks, 2 interceptions, and a forced fumble.
Ike joined the Alliance of American Football in 2019. He’d sign with the Birmingham Iron and start 1 game, posting 8 tackles and 3 assists for the team before the league folded. Afterwards he’d join the XFL Tampa Bay Vipers for the 2020 season.
Noticing that players from the Vipers had their gear against the wall, I waited patiently for them to finish practice and come over. Ike was one of the first players over, and he gladly signed this card for me. Early in February though, Ike suffered an injury and was placed on the Vipers injured reserve.
Hunter Sharp played wide receiver for Utah State from 2014-2015. He posted some solid numbers playing for the Aggies, catching 66 passes for 939 yards (7 TDs) in 2014, and 71 receptions for 835 yards (9 TDS) in 2015.
Sharp was not selected in the 2016 NFL Draft, but signed as a free agent with the Philadelphia Eagles. Later in the year he joined the practice squad of the Denver Broncos- a team he’d be on and off the roster throughout much of 2017. The Giants picked Hunter off the Broncos roster in December of 2017, where he’d finish the season with 5 receptions for 54 yards and a TD. Unable to make the cut with the Giants in 2018, Hunter subsequently joined the Bills, and the Bengals. He’d be selected by the Houston Roughnecks of the XFL in 2020 during the supplemental portion of the draft- but was injured in camp.
A versatile and consistent linebacker, AJ Tarpley played for the Stanford Cardinal from 2011-2014. Over his 4 years he totaled out 299 total tackles, 21.5 tackles for loss, 6.5 sacks, 4 interceptions, 8 pass deflections and 2 fumble recoveries.
He was not selected in the 2015 NFL Draft, however AJ was snatched up by the Buffalo Bills. After bouncing off and back onto the roster as a practice squad member, he was elevated late in the season to the regular season roster. AJ turned out to be a stellar find by the franchise, and saw action in the final month of the season, starting 2 games, recording 8 tackles, a forced fumble, and 2 interceptions.
“I have no current residual effects that I am aware of, cognitively or physically. The decision I made to retire from football is about coming to terms with the totality of my concussion history and what is asked of me as a linebacker.”
-AJ Tarpley at his retirement in 2016
In early 2016, citing concussion concerns, AJ retired, stunning the football world. AJ had suffered 3-4 concussions the previous season, and doctors were advising him to be careful. He briefly entered the financial world working on wall street, but he kept hearing the siren’s call of football.
AJ decided to return to football in 2019, signing with the San Diego Fleet of the AAF. AJ started 6 games for the Fleet, posting 35 total tackles and an interception he returned 27 yards for a touchdown in San Diego’s route of the San Antonio Commanders 31-11, in Week 3. For his efforts in that game, AJ was named AAF Defensive Player of the Week and enshrined with his Topps AAF Now card (that routinely is overpriced at $50,00 on EBay). After the league folded Tarpley was mentioned by Coach Mike Martz as being the ‘most NFL ready’ of his players.
“He’s the centerpiece of our defense. I don’t know why he is not in the NFL.”
– Fleet Head Coach Mike Martz
It was hard not to like the Fleet in general. A team full of characters, I really took to Ja’Quan Gardner, Dontez Ford, and Berco on offense, but the defense- in particular- there was Ron Brooks and AJ Tarpley. I had identified Tarpley as the motor of the Fleet defense in the preseason and really liked his background. I am glad that he was able to resurrect his career (even at the expense of the Commanders).
When I pulled this card, I knew I had to have it signed. MSB (Mark’s Signing Bonus) came through and helped me out again on the address. I was hoping to get his Topps Now entry on the cheap, but I could not get the price down so after a slight delay I go this out the door to him.
AJ was selected by the DC Defenders of the new XFL 2020 intiative during the open phase portion of the league’s initial draft.
Celebrating the game, the players, the cards, and the autographs for over 25 years.