Card: ProSet WLAF 1991
Acquired: In Person 1992, San Antonio Riders v. Birmingham Fire
See Also: John Miller (2)
The Fire were good at creating turnovers on defense and John Miller was a key cog at safety for the team, snagging All-World honors in 1991 with 6 interceptions. Originally a 5th round selection of the team in the WLAF’s positional draft in 1991, John came from the Detroit Lions whom he played a total of 10 games for in 1989 and 1990. Exceptional in pass coverage and a hard hitter, Miller would also lead the Fire in forced fumbles (4) and had a 99 yard interception return for a touchdown against the Sacramento Surge. In 1992, John made an additional 3 interceptions to finish with 9 for his career, helping the team reach the playoffs for a second year in a row on the back of the team’s stingy defense. I’d get his autograph on this card after the Fire lost against the Riders in San Marcos in 1992. Of note a small production error as his name is spelled incorrectly as M-I-L-L-L-E-R on the front of his card.
G N/a Tac N/a Sac N/a Fum 4
Int 9 Yds 253 Avg 28.1 Td 1 Lg 99T
Cards: Fleer 1990, Score 1990
Acquired: In Person 1990, 1993, Dallas Cowboys Training Camp.
So it all technically began with Ray Horton on that Fleer 1990 card. He was the first autograph I got in Dallas Cowboys training camp way back in 1990. It was happy times back then, and I grabbed every card and my black sharpie before I headed out the door that morning with Josh. We’d ride the bus back and forth from North Austin or have our mothers drop us off for what turned into an all day affair. We quickly established where the best place was to get autographs- (the second fence line as the street narrowed to get onto the field) and would camp the spot to grab signatures. I think on the first day I got 7 autographs on cards and I had a hard time sleeping because I was so excited to go back the next to see who I could get. I never thought that almost 20 years later I’d pick up the hobby again and enjoy it just as much.
Ray Horton was drafted out of Washington, where he played alongside Cowboy Vince Albritton. Horton would be taken in the second round by the Cincinatti Bengals, where he’d play in SuperBowl XXIII for the Bengals, before leaving the team in Plan B for the Dallas Cowboys in 1989. Ray’s rookie season was solid in 1983, with 5 interceptions, 121 yards and a touchdown -which would be his career high. He’d record 13 interceptions with the Bengals and in 1989 would sign with Jimmy Johnson‘s woeful Cowboy team, providing solid depth and a bright spot in the secondary pulling down 6 more interceptions and then retiring after the 1992 season and ten seasons winning SuperBowl XXVII. A nose for the endzone, Horton would have four touchdowns via interceptions and one from a fumble.
Since retiring Horton has moved right into coaching picking up almost right where he left off. He’s made stops with the Lions, Redskins, Bengals, and Steelers where he added two more rings in SuperBowl XL and XLIII. In 2011, he was named the defensive coordinator for the Arizona Cardinals.
G/Gs 147/ 99 Tac N/a Sac 3 Fum 5 Int 19 Yds 269 Avg 14.16 Td 4 Lg 65T
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