Cards: Panini Contenders 2016, Leaf Draft 2016, Panini Prism 2016 Acquired: IP 2019, SA Commanders Team Signing Dick’s Sporting Goods at The Rim
The Commanders big signing event of the season came at Dick’s Sporting Goods and with big names from the team appearing, it made total sense for me to go. Even though the event said NO OUTSIDE ITEMS, I figured I would take my chances and show up with my cards. It turned out nobody cared and I was able to go through the line 2 times to get all my cards covered. Mekale was next to Derron Smith, and they argued over which had the better cards. Mekale was sold on his Prism card, but he got trumped by Derron who had a Prism die cut card that looked like a fence. Overall it was a great event and I was happy with getting all the players’ autographs that were in attendance, as about two weeks later the league would disappear. Mekale’s autograph is very unique. I have never seen an M shaped quite like that.
Mekale was not drafted coming out of Arkansas (2012)/ Cincinnati (2013-2015), where he posted 108 receptions for 2034 yards and 19 TDs over his time between the two schools. A huge target stepping in at 6-5, McKay averaged an improbable 30.3 yards per reception in 2013 when he hauled in 16 catches for 485 yards and 7 TDs. He’d sign with the Colts after the draft in 2016, but be cut after training camp. Mekale then bounced around between the Jaguars, Broncos, Titans, Bears, and Cowboys over the next two years.
In 2019 McKay signed with the San Antonio Commanders of the now defunct Alliance of American Football. He’d post 22 receptions for 375 yards and 4 TDs including 1 2 point conversion. Mekale’s 17 yards a reception also was among the league leaders in that category. After the league ‘suspended operations’, Mekale drew interest from the Buffalo Bills and attended minicamp with the Browns.
Mekale was then selected by the New York Guardians of the XFL 2020, during the second round of the initial phase of the player draft. Over the course of the season he caught 12 passes for 184 yards and a TD, before the COVID pandemic cancelled the season. Two months later, McKay signed with the Blue Bombers of the CFL, but roughly a month later the league suspended play due to COVID as well.
ACQUIRED: IP 2019, Dick’s Sporting Goods Signing at The Rim, San Antonio, Tx
I absolutely knew that this was going to be my best shot to get as many players as I could from the Commanders that season. I did not realize this would be my only chance to do so. I arranged to go to the event on a Wednesday- taking the day off and hanging out with my brother and we got there super early to ensure our spot in line.
We were the second or third people in line. There were no rules about the autographs. Players were not limited to signing swag specifically from Dicks, and they allowed us to go through line multiple times if we desired. This was a great trade off for me, as I ended up getting all the cards I had on me signed as well as this promotional card. (It was the same week that the AAF cards from Topps were coming out, so I had hoped that there would be a stack of player cards there, but unfortunately I was out of luck.)
Dick’s Sporting Goods came out in big support for the AAF, carrying team goods at many of their host stores that were around AAF host cities. The store at The Rim in San Antonio was no different, and they carried a whole bunch of things from chairs and coolers, to lego figurines and jerseys.
Fans were very split online about supporting this event. I ended up defending not only Dick’s, but the Commanders, as fans who were up in arms still about the second amendment, were ‘boycotting’ Dick’s because the store had recently decided not to sell guns or ammo. Their argument was pretty lame. Many of the fans who were ‘boycotting’ had never even stepped inside a Dick’s before so- it’s not like they felt the loss of their business. It was pretty weak and it really emphasized the problem the league had with bush fans who were politicizing the game over social media.
It was a good event overall. A solid lineup of players from the Commanders attended and I got to meet one of my favorite sports people, Tiff, (although I frowned at the fact I did not win any of the special raffle drawings). She ran a very tight show for the Commanders promotional team and kept things on track. (After the team folded, she moved on to work for the XFL Renegades. Unfortunately the Wuhan virus did that league in as well.)
Scott Daly LS #49- Daly is a rare breed of career long snappers in football. He played his college ball for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, from 2012-2015 and over that period never missed on a snap. In 2017, he signed with the Cowboys but did not make the squad. He joined the AAF Commanders in 2018, and then played for the New York Guardians of the XFL in 2020.
“I was very lucky to be with the organization in San Antonio. We had a great coaching staff, great team, and it was just an awesome experience.”
– Scott Daly
Cam Clear TE #85- Cam was one of the more local products hailing from nearby Texas A&M. He was the largest receiving target on the team clocking in at 6’5″, 278. As the Commanders offense was a TE rich scheme, Cam saw a decent amount of action, most notably against Atlanta, where he caught 5 passes for 45 yards. He finished the season with 10 catches for 72 yards, and joined his former head coach Mike Riley with the Seattle Dragons of the XFL in 2020.
“He’s found his little niche in the offense of how to get open in the intermediate game,”
-QB Logan Woodside
Winston Craig DE #96– Craig played his college ball at Richmond. There for the Spiders he made a name for himself posting 166 total tackles, 13.5 sacks, and 2 interceptions for the Spiders. Going undrafted, he’d sign with the Eagles, and was on and off their practice squad from 2017 to 2018. He joined the Commanders later that year and started 7 games logging 14 total tackles, and 2.5 sacks. After the AAF folded, he signed with the Steelers but couldn’t crack their squad. He subsequently played for the by the Dallas Renegades of the XFL in 2020- only a short drive up I-35 from SA, posting 4 tackles.
Joel Lanning LB #57– Joel was a quarterback who converted to middle linebacker, starting at some points at both positions over his college career at Iowa State. Going undrafted, he saw some time in the preseason with the Dallas Cowboys in 2018, but did not make the squad. Later that year he signed with the Commanders and finished the 2019 season with 28 total tackles.
“I love the guys that play multiple positions because they have a versatility sense to them. For a quarterback to move over to linebacker, it’s unique. We’re really glad to have him.”
-Head Coach Mike Riley
Zack Sanchez CB #33– A rangy defensive back with good closing speed, Zack played collegially for Oklahoma. He started 37 contests for the Sooners, recording 15 interceptions (3 TDs) and 134 tackles. He was selected by the Carolina Panthers in the 2015 NFL Draft, and spent time on and off the team’s practice squad and injured reserve through 2018. He saw action in 5 games (1 start) and recorded 9 tackles. Eager to prove himself after he was cut by the Panthers, Zack joined the Commanders for the 2019 season, and helped solidify an already burgeoning secondary. He played a key part in SA’s victory over San Diego in the first week, and finished the season with 3 interceptions. As of 2020 he’s a member of the Saskatchewan Roughriders of the CFL.
Mekale McKay WR #82– Mekale was one of the chosen poster boys of the Commanders squad. After splitting time at both Arkansas and Cincinnati, Mekale was not drafted in 2016. He spent time on and off the practice squads and preseason rosters of the Colts, Jaguars, Broncos, Titans, Bears, and Cowboys. In early 2019, Mekale joined the Commanders, and in 7 starts had 22 catches for 375 yards and 4 TDs as a long bomb threat. After the Alliance folded, Mekale signed with the New York Guardians of the XFL. He caught 12 passes for 184 yards and a TD.
Kenneth Farrow II RB #20– Farrow quickly came in and established himself as the lead back in San Antonio. The powerback finished as the AAFs 5th leading rusher (372 yards and 4 TDs), and holds the league record for most yards rushing in a game with 142. After the league, Kenneth like much of the AAF talent joined the XFL. He played for the Seattle Dragons, rushing 38 times for 156 yards and a TD.
Cyril Richardson G #73– Cyril was a well regarded big man out of Baylor who was selected in the 5th round by the Buffalo Bills in 2014. He then played for the Bears in 2016 and 2017. After a year’s hiatus Cyril caught on with the Commanders, and then joined the XFL Dragons in 2020.
Derron Smith S #32- Smith went on to become the Defensive Player of the Year for the shortlived AAF. Rarely out of position, he recorded 3 interceptions (1 TD), 21 tackles, and 8 pass deflections. Derron was the first player selected in the free portion of the XFL Draft by the Dallas Renegades. He finished the 5 game schedule with 16 tackles, an interception and 2 pass deflections.
Shaan Washington LB #54- Big Hit Shaan was the guy who blasted Mike Bercovici in the first game of the season and helped put the league on the map. He finished with 13 total tackles, a forced fumble, and 5 sacks.
Celebrating the game, the players, the cards, and the autographs for over 25 years.