Bethea, Elvin

Cards: Topps 1970, Topps 1974.
Acquired: TTM 2010, C/o Home (Signing Fee)
Sent: 6/24  Received: 7/6  (12 days)

Always styling Elvin Bethea was known for his trademark afro, gap in his teeth or his winfield styled goatee.  Drafted by the Oilers in the 1968 AFL draft from North Carolina A&T in the 3rd round, Bethea would play technically in 3 decades of football for the Houston Oilers, from 1968-1983. He is believed to be the best prospect to come out of that draft, and a steal by the franchise. The sack statistic is widely accredited due to his amazing abilities from the outside at right defensive end, but Elvin originally began his career playing both end and guard for the Oilers. Over his career Bethea was named to the Pro Bowl 8 times, All Pro or second team 5 times, and a criminal amount of sacks unofficially listed at 105 -a team career record. He also holds the team record for most sacks in a season with 15, and made 2 career safeties.  Reliable and durable, Elvin’s 210 games at the time of his retirement were the most played by any player in an Oiler uniform. Bethea also was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2003 and since receiving a heaping of accolades has written a book entitled, “Smashmouth: From Trenton to Canton” , documenting his life from childhood to the NFL HoF. I got Bethea’s autograph at an insanely cheap price TTM from him earlier this year. He responded quickly and I was ecstatic to receive it.

G/Gs  210/ 178    Tac 691   Sac 105   Fum 16
Int 0    Yds 0     Avg -.-    Td 0   Lg N/a

Witkowski, John

Card: ProSet 1991
Acquired: TTM 2010, C/o home
Sent: 10/16    Received: 11/1  (17 days)

Drafted in 1984 draft in the 6th round by the Detroit Lions out of Columbia, John Witkowski was an offensive juggernaut for the Ivy League school setting numerous passing and Ivy league records. John would make the final roster of the Lions that year passing for 210 yards on 34 attempts but wouldn’t make the roster in 1985. He’d remain on the radar of the NFL however, signing with the Houston Oilers in 1986 as a strike player backing up Brent Pease playing for the team through 1987 before heading back to the Lions for 1988. Witkowski in the meantime began pursuing a career in financial services and continued to remain in playing shape after 1988.

In 1991, the World League of American Football invited John to workout, and the London Monarchs liked him so much they drafted him in the league’s positional draft. He’d play in one season in the league and throw two touchdowns. A little known fact about Witkowski is that he was the starting quarterback for the Monarchs on opening day of 1991, but yielded the job to Stan Gelbaugh (who was picked up later by the Monarchs in the Supplemental Draft) during the first game of the season.  John would play in a bit more garbage time, but he wouldn’t see anymore starting time for the team after that.  Witkowski since retiring has continued to be involved in financial management and climbed the ranks into being an executive vice president for the Five Star Bank Corporation and has done quite well.

ProSet made this card along with 31 other player cards in 1991 to promote the league and its upcoming WLAF set. They took a gamble that the players that they selected for cards would perhaps be marquee players as well. This would be the only card that was made of John, but it’s a nice one, and would appear on the cover of the WLAF magazine available for purchase at the games. John would write me back, “Thanking me for bringing back some great memories and for taking the time to build this site.” What a nice guy. Below are his WLAF statistics.

G/Gs 10/1    Att 40    Comp 23     Yds 232     Pct 57.5%    Td 2   Int 2    Rat 70.0

Barnett, Fred

Card: Action Packed Rookies 1990
Acquired: In Person 1994, Philadelphia Eagles Training Camp

Wide receivers weren’t highly rated coming out of the 1990 draft and there wasn’t even one taken in the 1st round. In fact the #1 rated receiver Reggie Rembert didn’t even log 500 career yards. There were 6 receivers taken (7 if you include supplemental pick Rob Moore,) before Fred Barnett out of Arkansas State, was drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles along with Calvin Williams (5th round) and Mike Bellamy (2nd round). The Eagles were desperate to rejuvenate a beleaguered wide receiver corps that had Mike Quick retiring due to patella tendinitis in 1990 and Cris Carter being cut the previous year.  With Mike Bellamy wearing out his welcome and being cut midway through the 1990 season, Barnett and Williams became Randall Cunnningham‘s go to duo. Fred would not disappoint, hauling in a 95 yard touchdown in his rookie year and was known to sacrifice his body to go up top to make the catch. (Perhaps there was added pressure because head coach Buddy Ryan hated wide receivers, even going so far as saying to Barnett, “To catch the damn ball or you’re fired!”) Barnett would make the ProBowl in 1992, – with 1083 yards and 6 touchdowns. After an injury plagued 1993, Fred would return to form and have a career high 1127 yards in 1994.  He’d leave the Eagles in 1996, playing two oft injured seasons for the Miami Dolphins before retiring in 1998.

Barnett since retiring has remained physically active and fit- even considering returning to the sport as late as 2005. He has dabbled in a variety of ventures including fashion design, acting, and a variety of charitable work. At last glance he still lives in the Philadelphia area and still passionately follows the Eagles. I got his autograph at Philadelphia Eagles training camp in West Chester back in 1994. Also of note is that Fred is a cousin of former wide receiver Tim Barnett of the Kansas City Chiefs.

G/Gs 96/88     Rec  361       Yds 5362        Avg  14.9       Td 32        Lg  95T

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