Tag Archives: nfl 75th anniversary team

Berry, Raymond

tnt14ss berryCards: TNT Signature Select 2013, Upper Deck Legends 1997, ProSet 1989, Photo Memorabilia, Testimonial Card.
Acquired: TTM 2014, C/o home
Sent: 1/2/2014   Received: 2/3/2015  (390 days)

Raymond Berry was the first person I sent out for in 2014. I had hoped he would be the first success, because of his impecable return rate. Well, 390 days and 67 returns later, I finally got the Hall of Famer on these cards- and I must say it was completely worth the wait. I’m sure that I was on the bottom of the mail bag that he was going through, as others were cashing in those successes earlier than I was. It was extremely touching because not only did he throw in a testimonial card and a signed photo, he also wrote me an incredibly kind one page letter, thanking me for the additional custom card I gave him, and telling me how much he appreciates fans like myself. His response is probably one of my favorite ever from an NFLer, little less a Hall of Famer!

hof berryRaymond Berry was a long shot to make the Colts.  Back in 1954 when Ray was drafted, the NFL draft itself went 30 rounds deep. When he was taken in the 20th round out of SMU, teams probably recognized his heart for the game more than his uncanny route running skills and soft hands.  His rookie season was typical of many of that era with 13 receptions for 205 yards in 1955, as he began to build a rapport with future HoF Colts quarterback Johnny Unitas.  Berry quickly established himself as a starter that next year, and in 1957 led the league with 800 yards receiving.  He’d lead the NFL the next 3 seasons in catches with 56, 66, and 74 receptions- respectively.  In 1959, Berry had a career high 14 TD receptions, and followed that up with career marks in receiving yards 1,298  in 1960, averaging an astounding 108.2 yards per game.  In 1961, Ray had a career high 75 receptions en route to his 4th of 6th career Pro Bowl honors.

udldg97 berryAlthough Ray never quite saw the same titanic numbers that he enjoyed the remainder of his career,  he continued to post healthy numbers up through his final year in 1967. Over a span of 13 years in the league, Berry averaged below 50 yards a game in only 3 seasons.  Whether it was the skill of the quarterback or a combination of Ray’s precise route running and soft hands- Berry only dropped 2 passes, and fumbled once, in 631 targets over his career.  At the time of Ray’s retirement, he was the NFL’s greatest receiver as his receptions and yardage ranked first in NFL history. He also holds the record for the most receptions in an NFL championship game with 12 in 1958.

pset89 berryRay stayed in football and went into coaching, eventually joining the New England Patriots staff as a positional coach during the late ’70s.  He’d leave after the firing of then head coach Chuck Fairbanks, but return in 1984 replacing Ron Meyer as head coach, immediately reversing the fortunes of the team. It was said that just Berry’s presence changed the attitude of the team, and they responded with an improbable Super Bowl run in 1985, marking only the second team to make it to the Super Bowl from a Wild Card slot.  The only problem was that the Patriots ran into the historic Chicago Bears defense. The Patriots got buzzsawed 46-10.  They’d get to the playoffs again in 1986, but not return to the post season after that. An in-house squabble over personnel matters resulted in Berry resigning after the 1989 season.

Berry didn’t return to coaching after that. He retired to Tennesee where he still lives today and for a while was a spokesman for a national insurance corporation.  What Berry is not known for is being a visionary. Berry recognized a need to teach a generation about how to play wide receiver. He was able to get the archives of many of his game films at the time when he retired, and cobbled them together into an instructional video -An incredible rarity from that era.  A few lucky fans over the years have been able to get a copy of it that has now gone as far as DVD from what I’ve been told.

Raymond earned many accolades post retirement. He is the 40th Greatest Player in NFL history and was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame in 1973.  A member of both the 50th and 75th Anniversiary NFL teams, Berry had his number retired at the time, by the then Baltimore Colts.

G  154       Rec 631    Yds  9,275      Avg  14.7    Td  68        Lg  70
W  48    L  39     Pct  .552

mem berry

Johnson, Billy “White Shoes”

 

udlg97 ws johnson udlg97 ws johnson BCard: Upper Deck Legends 1997
Acquired: 11/23/2012, Fiterman Autograph Event
Failure: 2010, C/o Home

Billy Johnson, played for tiny Widener college in Pennsylvania. Going unnoticed- despite his white shoes and penchant for big plays, numbers, and great speed, the Oilers said, “Why not?”, and drafted White Shoes in the 15th round of the 1974 draft. There the fan favorite Johnson lit the NFL on fire with his breathtaking speed at returner and his entertaining end zone celebration called ‘The Funky Chicken’. (Johnson’s dance, is still celebrated today as one of the first, and was the Granddaddy to such dances as: Ernest Givins‘ “Electric Slide”, Ickey Woods‘ “Ickey Shuffle”, and Jamaal Anderson’s “Dirty Bird”.)  White Shoes played during the heyday of the Luv’ Ya Blu era in Houston, alongside Dan Pastorini, Ken Burrough, and Earl Campbell. He set an NFL record in 1975 by returning 3 punts for touchdowns in a single season. Not to be outdone that year, he also had a kick return as well, earning him AP honors and the Pro Bowl MVP after the season. White Shoes continued to set the standard for electrifying play throughout the 70s and the crowd always held their breath with excitement when he took the field. He again won AP honors topping his 15.3 YPR average from ’75 with a 15.4 YPR average in 77, with 539 yards and 2 touchdowns. As a kick returner he was also equally amazing, scoring another touchdown there as well.  A catastrophic knee injury wrecked his 1978 and 79 seasons. After a final season in Houston in 1980, White Shoes travelled north to the CFL for a year doing everything for the Montreal Alouettes.

The Falcons gave him a shot in 1983, and Johnson not only made the roster of the team, he had also matured as a receiver. Although he only started one game that season, Billy had 709 yards receiving and 4 touchdowns, (both career highs,) and was named NFL Comeback Player of the Year. In ’83 he scored another touchdown on a punt return, and was named AP and back to the Pro Bowl again for a 3rd time. He posted career highs again in 1984 in receiving with 830 yards and 5 touchdowns. Playing one final season in Atlanta, White Shoes went on to Washington and retired after the 1987 season. He’s been named to the NFL 75th Anniversary team and also the All-Decade Team of the 1980s.

It took me some time to get my autographs back from the Fiterman event but I finally did get my cards back some 3 weeks after the event. The company did apologize and adjusted their time-frame for delivery expectations for TTM on their website. I like to have my cards autographed on the front, but based on the report from Fiterman, White Shoes apparently refused to do so because he was not wearing white shoes on the front of this card. Still I am happy to knock out an elusive signer, after a previous attempt and failure.

G  143       PR 282         Yds 3317            Avg  11.8           Td 6         Lg 87t
Kr 123       Yds 2941          Avg 23.9         Td 2          Lg 81t
Rec  337       Yds 4211     Avg 12.5          Td 25       Lg  71t
Rush 56        Yds 316       Avg 5.6             Td 2         Lg 61

Highlight reel of Johnson and.. the Funky Chicken:

Alworth, Lance “Bambi”

Acquired: Austin Citywide Garage Sale 1996

So I was wandering around a citywide garage sale and saw that a bar was selling all of its close out merchandise at breakneck prices. For 20 bucks I got a nice lot of autographed memorabilia, so I didn’t think it’d be a bad deal to get- even if they were bad considering how much they’d cost in real life. I started a new binder where I kept photo and other types of autographs than cards.

Well, Lance Alworth is a class of 1978 Hall of Fame receiver that played his career for the San Diego Chargers and Dallas Cowboys.  Nicknamed “Bambi” by his teammates because of his almost effortless moves he was originally drafted by the Oakland Raiders,  who almost immediately traded to the Chargers where he played the majority of his career from 1962 to 1970, often playing quietly through injury including fractures to both of his hands in 1966. He was named an AFL All Star 7 times, and lead the AFL in yardage 3 seasons ( 1966, 1968, and 1969). After the 1970 season he was traded to the Cowboys where he scored the first touchdown in Superbowl VI and afterwards subsequently retired with both an AFL championship ring and a Superbowl ring.

Things have been slightly rough for Alworth. Players of that day and age weren’t paid like they are now, and he had a bad patch there. Since the mid seventies Alworth has opened a series of storage units across California. He’s been also inducted into the Chargers Hall of Fame (1977), San Diego Hall of Champions (1972), his number (19) was retired by the Chargers, named to the NFL’s 75th anniversary team, the College Football Hall of Fame (1984), the AFL All-Time Team, the Mississipi Sports Hall of Fame, and finally was named number 31 on the 100 Greatest Football Players of all time list from “The Sporting News”.

 

G 136   Rec 542   Yds 10266    Avg 18.9    Td 85   Lg 85