Tag Archives: detroit lions

Martz, Mike

Card: Topps AAF 2019 Certified
Acquired: EBay, 2020

An offensive mastermind, Mike Martz has had a career in coaching that has lasted nearly 50 years, in stops through college and the pros. He’d make his mark after joining the Los Angeles Rams in 1992 as a quarterbacks coach, and after the franchise moved to St. Louis in 1995, he moved to coach the wide receivers. After a brief stay with the Redskins in 97 and 98, Martz returned to the Rams, as the franchise’s offensive coordinator in 1999 as they won Super Bowl XXXIV over the Tennessee Titans- with ‘The Greatest Show on Turf’.

“He was by far the smartest football mind I’ve ever been around. The things he was teaching was so far ahead of what others were teaching.”

– Rams QB Marc Bulger

In 2000, Mike would replace retiring Dick Vermeil as head coach, but the Rams failed to return to the Super Bowl, losing in the wild card to the Saints. Martz’s Rams rebounded in a big way in 2001, posting a 14-2 record and returning to the Super Bowl, but ultimately losing to the New England Patriots on a last second field goal. Mike coached with the Rams through 2005 and finished with a 53-32 record. His teams made the playoffs 4 times and finished in either first or second place every season.

Mike since then has coached with the Lions, 49ers, and Bears, as an offensive coordinator. He semi-retired from the sport in 2012, working as an analyst and occasional NFLPA Collegiate Bowl coach, before deciding to give it another shot in 2018.

Mike joined the Alliance of American Football in 2018, where he was hired to coach his hometown San Diego Fleet.

“It didn’t make any difference whether I was in high school. That’s what you do. You walk onto the practice field, and that’s who you are, that’s what you are. I can’t stop and go. That’s just where it is. To be any different would cheat these players. I love this game. I wouldn’t disrespect it by not being intense.”

-Mike Martz

Mike led the Fleet to a 3-5 record, dogged by quarterback issues. Still there were shades of the mad genius coming through with the Fleet as they finished second in total yards (2,649 yards), passing yards (1,798), and 4th in rushing (851 yards).

As previously discussed, AAF certified autographs from coaches are severely overpriced. Thankfully with all the XFL hoopla this autographed card snuck under the EBay radar set with a low bid. Typically Martz’s certifieds have floated around anywhere between 30-75 dollars. I think I sniped this one out under 10. It was doubly happy to nab this one, as Mike is not a great signer through the mail.

Mike was within two feet in the visitors’ endzone coaching his quarterbacks before the Fleet’s opener, but feeling his intensity, I chickened out on chatting it up with him or asking for his autograph. Charlie Ebersol came up to Mike and chatted with him about the league before they shuffled off to another drill.

McKnight, Dennis ‘Conan’

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.

Okine, Earl

Card: Topps AAF 2019
Acquired: 2019, EBay

Earl Okine is a giant of a physical specimen clocking in at 6’8″, 290. He played defensive end and tackle for the Florida Gators from 2009-2012. Over that period he managed 27 tackles and a sack. He’d go undrafted in 2013- later signing with the Houston Texans, and then briefly joining the Calgary Stampeders of the CFL. In 2014, Earl played for the Orlando Predators of the Arena leagues, where I saw him play against the San Antonio Talons that year. He notched 28 total tackles, 5.5 sacks, 3 pass blocks, and a forced fumble. Later he hopped over to the FXFL to join the Brooklyn Bolts.

Earl finally found a home in the NFL with the Colts in 2015, spending nearly the entire season on and off the Colts regular season roster and practice squad. He then spent the next year on the Kansas City Chiefs on the bubble of the roster as well at OLB. After a short stay on the Lions, he’d spend the entire 2017 season on the practice squad of the Cardinals.

He’d join the Alliance of American Football in 2018- signing with the Orlando Apollos. The Apollos decided to put Earl’s strengths to best use at outside linebacker. Earl started 7 games for the 7-1 Apollos. He finished with 26 tackles, 5 sacks, and a critical tipped ball interception that he made to seal the win against the Memphis Express in Week 8.