Card: ProSet 1991
Acquired: TTM 2014, C/o Home
Sent: 2/3 Received: 6/25 (142 days)
Failure: TTM 2010, C/o Home
Kevin Sweeney played for the Fresno State Bulldogs from 1983-1986, where he became one of the first Fresno QBs to really land on the radar of NFL scouts and a Heisman Trophy Watch List. In 1984, he threw for career highs in attempts (421), completions (221), yards (3,259), and touchdowns (20). His 10,585 career passing yardage mark stood as a school record, (until it was recently shattered by 2014 NFL draft pick Derek Carr), and as the NCAA mark, which has been beaten many times over in the modern spread era.
Kevin was taken in the 7th round of the 1987 NFL Draft by the Dallas Cowboys. It was a dream come true for Kevin, who grew up as a fan of the team, attending training camps on a regular basis. Undersized at 6’0″, Cowboys’ director of Personell Gil Brandt loved his personality and tenacity. During his time at Fresno St, Sweeney got to prove his grit, durability (started 46 games), and experience starting in a pro style offense as well. It was a difficult period for the team to say the least. As the luster was dulling on the stars that played in Dallas, there was a quarterback derby underway between Danny White and Steve Pelleur. He’d lose out though in training camp to 3rd stringer Paul McDonald. Then the NFL Strike happened and everything changed. With the ‘official players’ sidelined, Sweeney was the Cowboys ‘in-pocket quarterback’, – a guy they knew that if the strike was to happen, they were going to call him up, and make that investment pay off from the extra snaps and time Tom Landry and the organization invested into him- and did Sweeney ever. Many ‘scab’ teams were given silly strike nicknames. The Cowboys’ was particularly good. They were dubbed the Rhinestone Cowboys. Kevin came out in his first game as a starter and found Cornell Burbage streaking down the field. He’d hit him for the first touchdown during the NFL strike. The former Fresno St kid, parlayed it into a 2-0 record under center for the Boys. He’d throw for 291 yards and 4 touchdowns and a 111.8 quarterback rating. While the strike ending sent many players packing, Kevin returned to the Cowboys for 1988. While he wasn’t as successful for the team the following year, his time was up when new owner Jerry Jones came into town and fired Tom Landry and his whole staff, replacing him with Jimmy Johnson. Kevin signed with the San Fransisco 49ers in 1989 but was cut during training camp that year. At that point he went into a period of semi-retirement.
In 1991 the WLAF was getting off the ground, and Sweeney was being eyed by the young league. He’d be the second quarterback taken off the board by the Montreal Machine, after Brent Pease (Bir). He’d battle Mike Proctor for the starting job throughout the season. Benched and replaced, he’d reemerge during a contest against Sacramento with the team down 20-10. As he put 2 chipshots from Nittmo on the board, he’d rally the Machine for one final drive down the field trailing now 20-16 with a bit over 3 and a half minutes left. He’d put together a solid 93 yard drive in 8 plays, but suffer a fearsome hit from linebacker Pete Najarian – separating his shoulder. While the Machine won the game 26-23, Sweeney’s season and career was over. Kevin returned to Northern California and currently is a senior VP for Wells Fargo as of 2014. Well worth the wait and the failure I’d say, as not only did Kevin sign his Pro Set 1991 WLAF promo card, but he also included a signed photo of him with the Cowboys and Tom Landry in his own envelope. Really nice pick up here.
NFL 6/4 Att 106 Comp 46 Yds 605 Pct 44.3 Td 7 Int 6 Rat 61.2
Rush 11 Yds 42 Avg 3.8 Td 0 Lg 10
WLAF Att 69 Comp 24 Yds 219 Pct 34.8 Td 1 Int 3 Rat 31.0
Rush 19 Yds 84 Avg 4.4 Td 0 Lg 24
Cards: Ultimate WLAF 1992, Pro Set WLAF 1991
Acquired: TTM 2012, C/o Home
Sent: 11/16/12 Received: 1/4/14 (419 days)
Failure: TTM 2010, C/o The Tennessee Titans
I had a feeling that I might get something from my old address, I just didn’t expect it to be from so long ago. I had failed previously to get Shelton via the Titans for whom he was a long time scout back in 2010, but armed with his home address I just wasn’t ready to give up yet. With this TTM from 2012 it pushes my successes from that year to nearly 70%.
Richard was a standout defensive back and punt returner for Liberty. His college totals include 12 picks, 136 tackles, 21 punt returns for 176 yards and a TD. He was originally taken by the Denver Broncos in the 1989 draft. Unable to make the team Shelton bounced around the league with the Seahawks and Steelers before being drafted by the Montreal Machine of the WLAF in 1991.
Richard had a strong season for the team and became one of the league’s better known success stories along with Chris Mohr and Anthony Parker. He finished 1991 with 28 tackles, 3 interceptions for 65 yards and a TD. He also demonstrated his knack for special teams both on kick returns and punt returns, as Richard became the first player in the league to score a touchdown on a kick return and punt return in the same game. Richard also earned WLAF Player of the Week honors against Birmingham when he picked off a pass and returned it 63 yards for a score and also returned a fumble 25 yards in the Machine’s 23-10 win. After the season Richard earned All World League Second Team Honors, and resigned with Pittsburgh.
In the season finale in 1992 against the Browns, Richard made 3 interceptions for 57 yards and a TD, earning player of the week honors. The next season in 3 starts he’d have 2 fumble recoveries coming off the bench. After his career ended in 1993, Shelton moved right into coaching and scouting and is currently a scout for the Tennessee Titans organization.
NFL 44/8 Tac N/a Sac 0 Fum 4 Int 3 Yds 72 Avg 24.0 Td 1 Lg 57t
WLAF Tac 28 Sac N/a Fum N/a Int 3 Yds 65 Avg 21.6 Td 1 Lg 63t
Kr 2 Yds 108 Avg 54.0 Td 1 Lg 90t |
Pr 25 Yds 228 Avg 9.1 Td 1 Lg 67t
Coach: Jacques Dussault Stadium: Olympic Stadium, Montreal Record: (1991) 4-6, (1992) 2-8
The Montreal area had an on and off love affair with American football because of it being a tricky market. This was due to the need to market it to both English speaking and French speaking Canadians without ostracizing either parties. As the NFL at the time saw the growing threat of the Canadian Football League coming down from the North, the NFL strategically and preemptively struck by granting a franchise to the Montreal area in the WLAF for play in the 1991 season.
Roger Dore owned the franchise and Lionel Vital served as director of player personnel. Jacques Dussault, was shrewdly hired by Dore, due to his prominence in French Canada as a football coach. Joe Faragalli and Don Sutherin respectably would round out a CFL pedigree heavy staff.
Olympic Stadium was their chief venue and really North America’s crown jewel at the time of stadiums in the league. Fans would not disappoint posting some of the higher attendance numbers in the league, averaging over 30,000 a contest in 1991 and 25,000 in 1992.
Montreal’s name was a given out of the gate. It was the design that took a bit. Eventually the design team settled on an M that looked like it were created by a large stamping machine- projecting an image of a big, powerful entity. It was a slam dunk afterwards to use the machine gray which stood out solidly on the burgundy background.
In 1991, Montreal’s team focus was squarely on a solid ground game. After Elroy Harris was cut early on, Ricky Johnson shouldered the RB load fulltime. Fullback Broderick Sargent was the lead man up for them making holes, and finished second on the team in receptions with 20. The team’s most solid receiver was NFL caliber receiver and blocker KD Dunn at tight end.
Kevin Sweeney started at quarterback, but later yielded due to injuries to Michael Proctor- a dangerous scrambler. (He’d need it as the line was quite porous.)
On defense, the team had a strong linebacking corps built around Kansas City Chiefs loaner Tracey Simien and Ray Savage. In the secondary, Richard Shelton was a ball hawking mercenary that graduated back to the NFL when the season ended.
Special teams also boasted punter Chris Mohr, who after his time with Tampa Bay, stop-gapped in Montreal before returning to the NFL with the Bills where he became a mainstay of the franchise. Bjorn Nittmo would be named to the All-World team at kicker, and dangerous speed merchant Mike Cadore was a threat every time he touched the ball.
Opening the 1991 season against the Birmingham Fire, the teams played a defensive struggle on USA Network until the Machine pulled away late to win 20-5. Two things of note from the game I remember were NFL players giving bumbling commentary, and Tracey Simien sporting the helmet camera.
After losing to Barcelona, Montreal again beat the Fire, this time 23-10 to move to 2-1, but then the wheels fell off the well-oiled Machine. Getting thumped at home by the New York New Jersey Knights 44-0 was a wake up call, and the Machine would lose the next two contests against grueling opponents London and Frankfurt, before beating Sacramento 26-23 in overtime to crawl back into the playoff hunt. A win against hapless Raleigh-Durham the next week 15-6 helped move the franchise to 4-4, however the door had already shut on any chances of the Machine making the playoffs, and losses to the Riders and finally closing out the season in an OT thriller to the Thunder 33-27 dropped the Machine to 4-6.
Turnovers, injuries, and line play killed the Machine. At the end of 1991, Simien, Mohr, and Shelton, would go to the NFL. Nittmo also saw some time on the roster of the Giants, but came back for the 1992 season. Among the WLAF teams, Montreal surprisingly led the way with 7 players being signed by NFL teams for the 1992 season.
1992 saw the maturation of young quarterback Michael Proctor into a solid passer with 8 TDs. This was despite Dussault’s best efforts to hand Craig Cupp (on loan from Dallas,) and Anthony Dilweg (on loan from the LA Raiders,) the job. After losing the job in camp to Dilweg, Proctor posted good numbers and an 85.8 qb rating once Dilweg went down to injury in week 1 against the Riders. Ricky Johnson actually led the league in rushing, until injuries brought him down too against the Glory. Aaron Emanuel would step up and take his place, finishing with 350 yards rushing. Dunn returned at TE but the team fell in love with wide receiver/ punt returner Pete Mandley, whom was trying to revive his NFL career.
On the defensive side of the ball, Ray Savage was again solid, along with Darrel Davis, and future NFL GM and former Raiders LB Reggie McKenzie anchoring down the 3-4 defense. The team invested heavily in space eating monsters along the line with Emmanuel King and Rollin Putzier. Secondary was led by Darryl Holmes and Kris McCall both with 2 picks a piece.
While Nittmo returned at kicker, special teams weren’t up to the same excellent par at either kicker or punter.
Montreal found itself in a familiar place in 1992, as an injury to the incumbent starter brought in Michael Proctor. Home attendance figures were decent out of the gate in 1992 with 36k showing up for the team’s upset victory over the Orlando Thunder 31-29. The Machine early on were a highly competitive team, losing to the Riders 17-16 and the Surge 14-7. Montreal could have very easily been 4-0 after playing the Glory, but instead sat at 2-2.
Unfortunately Ricky Johnson would be lost for the season- which was the primary reason the team proceeded to drop the next 6 contests. The Machine finished the season at 2-8- good for second worst in the league. In 4 of those losses the defense allowed 30+ points. Mandley had a good season at receiver finishing with 605 yards receiving, and 150 additional yards and a TD on punt returns, however no member of the franchise made the All-World squad in 1992.
Montreal became one of my favorites teams out of the gate based on its maroon and silver uniforms- as it closely resembled the high school I went to.
Montreal played host to the two largest crowds to start the season, 53k+ at Legion Field in Birmingham, and 52k+ at home against Barcelona.
Montreal’s biggest rival was Birmingham whom they opened with and played very close contests. (While the Machine never finished above .500, the Fire made the playoffs both season.) Montreal finished with a 2-1 record against the Fire, but the Fire got the last laugh in a 23-16 OT match in 1992.
At the end of the season, the league hosted World Bowl II in Montreal. Sacramento played against Orlando, winning the game in front of 43,000 fans 21-17. This game would prove to be the swan song of the WLAF before it underwent major reconstruction for a Europe only relaunch in 1995 as the NFLE.
Montreal had to wait until 1996, as the CFLUSA initiative imploded and the Baltimore Stallions moved to Montreal to become the Alouettes. Since that time the Alouettes have been one of the more successful CFL franchises.