Harlow, Pat

Cards: Action Packed 1992, Action Packed Rookies 1991
Acquired: TTM 1992, 1993 Patriots Blitz

In a world where snail mail was the world and the internet was just a single swimming sperm, I used to camp by the mailbox waiting to see what came. An autograph kept the mail interesting, and was like receiving a present every day of the year- or whenever I got one. Case in point, I sent off bulk to the Patriots in 1992 and after a few months wait got a stack of autographs back from the team. I’d send another bulk load later that they’d go ahead and kindly fulfill the next season as well.

Originally the fourth best defensive lineman on the USC Trojans squad, Pat Harlow would make the switch to offensive tackle and make an immediate impact. At 6″7′, 295, Pat Harlow was drafted from USC by the New England Patriots in the first round of the 1991 draft (which at first was a highly maligned draft, but in retrospect was obviously not on talent with the 1989 draft, rather it was ‘respectable’.) The pick was originally part of the blockbuster Herschel Walker trade. With the first two tackles off the board in Charles McRae and Antone Davis, Pat Harlow would be the third Tackle taken in the first round by New England. Offensive line however would not be where the depth was in this draft as only one lineman, (Erik Williams- Dallas, Rd.3) from this draft would ever to make the ProBowl.

An aggressive offensive lineman with the desire to finish off the block downfield, the knock on Pat was his relative lack of playing experience at the position. This was viewed by Patriots’ management actually as an advantage as his full potential hadn’t been completely tapped. Harlow went on to play respectably from 1991-1995, starting 64 games. Pat was traded to the Raiders for a second round pick in 1996, and moved to left tackle, (uncomfortably) where he ended his career prematurely in 1998 due to back injuries at the age of 29.

Schottenheimer, Marty

Card: Proset 1990
Acquired: TTM 1994, C/o The Kansas City Chiefs

Linebacker Marty Schottenheimer was selected in by both the AFL (Buffalo, 7th round) and NFL (Baltimore, 5th round) of their respective 1965 drafts out of the University of Pittsburgh. He spent 4 seasons on the Bills roster (where it was comically shown on the retrospective “Full Color Football” that Schottenheimer’s name was so long on his jersey the type ran off the name plate and onto his right shoulder). He’d earn All Star honors in 1965, and be traded in 1971 to the Pittsburgh Steelers and again to the Boston Patriots before retiring.

Schottenheimer went into coaching in 1974 and worked for the Portland Storm in the World Football League as a linebackers coach, but before you knew it, less than 10 years after he got drafted by the Bills, Schottenheimer was coaching linebackers for the Giants in 1975. He’d then coach for the Lions on another 2 year stint, before catching on in 1980 with the Cleveland Browns as defensive coordinator where he established a smash mouth defense. In 1984, he’d get his chance as head coach, when Sam Rutigliano was fired midway through the season. He’d then be the face of the Browns for the next 4 seasons through 1988. The Browns would experience their last consistent slate of respect and success during the Schottenheimer era. He’d also establish what is commonly referred to as ‘Marty Ball’ and the team would lose two heartbreaking games in the playoffs, known as ‘The Drive’ and ‘the Fumble’. With the reemergence of the Oilers in 1988 as playoff contenders, The Browns would host them in the first round of the playoffs. Although favored to win, the Browns lost by a point. After the season was over Marty was fired, which angered many fans. His legacy with the team over 4 seasons was a large one as he finished with a 44-27 record and a 2-4 mark in the playoffs. The Browns alsobadvanced to the deepest levels of the NFL playoffs since before the AFL merger.

Schottenheimer wouldn’t be on the market for long. He’d head over to the Kansas City Chiefs to coach there for the next 10 seasons turning the team around from a laughing stock to playoff contender in 2 seasons. He’d win over 100 games with the franchise and the Chiefs would make the AFC Championship game in 1993. In addition they won the division 3 times and made 7 playoff appearances in those 10 seasons. He quit after a disappointing 1998 season. Marty served as an analyst for ESPN for a season or two, and then was hired to be coach of the Washington Redskins in 2001.

Sights were high for the capital city after Schottenheimer came to town that year and the media circus quickly circled Marty. With Deion Sanders ducking out the back door and quickly announcing his retirement to get away from Marty, controversy erupted. Schottenheimer installed his brand of Martyball and the team was off to a slow start out of the gate losing its first 5 games. The media portrayed Marty as being outdated and out of touch with the current league, both with players and in offensive philosophy. The Redskins would respond by winning their next 5 games- (a first in NFL history) and narrowly missed the playoffs at 8-8 . In fighting between Schottenheimer and owner Daniel Snyder, as Marty wanted more control of the franchise.  He was unceremoniously dismissed after one season.

Marty was quickly named coach of the San Diego Chargers, where he’d guide the team to two playoff appearances and named coach of the year in 2004. Despite posting a 14-2 record in the latter season he was fired. -The first coach to be fired after securing the home field advantage through the playoffs. The reason for his dumping ranged from the fact that he had a 0-2 playoff record with San Diego, to charges of nepotism as he brought on more of his family on board as coaches. A public fight between the Chargers and Deion Sanders didn’t help either, when Sanders announced his ‘unretirement’ to come back to the league to play for the cross state Raiders, Schottenheimer quickly nabbed his rights before the Raiders. Sanders tore the team for its archaic practices and swore never to play for the team. In the end, the Bolts continued to hold Sanders’ rights throughout the season. Anyway regardless of it all, Schottenheimer was fired in what was considered without cause and still collected his salary for the next season, which damned the franchise even more.

Marty has been since rehired to be an analyst by ESPN where he does an excellent job. After the Jets victory in the 2009 playoffs last season over heavily favored San Diego Chargers, coached by Marty’s replacement, he received a game ball in the mail from the team. His son coaches for the Jets and Rex Ryan felt his firing was an injustice to the game.

Schottenheimer’s greatest legacy besides the sheer number of victories is the impact of his coaching tree. A Lou Saban apostle, Schottenheimer has many notable coaches that have been under his wing including: Marvin Lewis, Bill Cowher and Tony Dungy.   To this date, Marty Schottenheimer is the winningest coach in the NFL not to be inducted into the Hall of Fame with 14 winning seasons in a 21 year career.

I really lobbied hard and hoped the Texans would hire Schottenheimer after they released Dom Capers but have been pleasantly surprised with Kubiak in the meantime. I got Marty’s autograph after the 1992 season in a few week’s time. Marty does want to return to coaching and was rumored to have been in line for the Buffalo Bills job in 2010, but the team went in a different direction.

Update- In 2011, Marty Schottenheimer created quite a buzz when he signed to coach with the Virginia Destroyers of the UFL. He won the UFL championship later that year before the league was reorganized.

Games 327     Wins 200     Losses 126     Ties  1       Pct .613%

Wilkerson, Eric

Card: ProSet 1991
Acquired: TTM 1992, C/o New York/ New Jersey Knights
See also: Eric Wilkerson (2)

Okay, unlike most fans, I don’t care if a player signs with a ball point pen. It’s not really a big deal and as far as I know it could be a part of that player’s style. I know it technically ‘ruins’ the card, but I am just happy to get the autograph.

The all time leading rusher at Kent State, (and MAC player of the year in 1987) Eric Wilkerson ran for 3,830 career yards (before the mark was broken in 1997). Wilkerson was a free agent signee by the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1989. Unable to crack the starting lineup he was out of football for the next season when he was drafted by the New York/ New Jersey Knights of the WLAF. The Knights under Mouse Davis were a Run and Shoot offense, where you pass first and run second. It became evident by week 2 though that Wilkerson was going to handle the load for the team as he rushed for 121 yards on 11 carries against future World Bowl Champion, the London Monarchs. Wilkerson in fact went on to lead the WLAF in 1991 with 717 rushing yards, placing him on the Second-Team All World League. He tied for the league lead in rushing touchdowns with 11, and second in total yards (990). He also was third in the league in rushing average, and had 3 touchdowns in one game against Orlando. His 4 touchdowns receiving topped the team as well.

His Sophomore season would not be as spectacular as Reggie Slack emerged as a force at quarterback for the team. Wilkerson still finished 8th in the league in rushing with a respectable 4.4 yards per carry but the WLAF reorganized shortly thereafter and Eric became the short lived original league’s career leading rusher. His 72 yard scamper in 1991 would also stand as the league record. He’d play one final season of football for his hometown Cleveland Thunderbolts in the Arena leagues as a WR/DB and then retire.

Since football, Wilkerson had his number retired at Kent State, and was inducted into the Varsity “K” Hall of Fame in 1995. He also was inducted into his local high school’s hall of fame at Central Catholic High.  In 2007, Wilkerson was stabbed in the arm and was in critical condition, however there is no follow up information after this. His current whereabouts are unknown, but I was able to reach him a few years later via the Kent State Alumni Association.

Games n/a  Att 208  Yds  1121   Avg 5.4  Td 10  Lg 74 |  Rec 37  Yds 414  Avg 11.2  Td 6  Lg 31

Celebrating the game, the players, the cards, and the autographs for over 25 years.