A breathtaking track man coming out of tiny Heidelberg college, Donteea Dye was reputed to run a 4.39 40 during the NFL Scouting Combine. In 2015, he posted 28 receptions for 701 yards (25 yards per catch) and 8 TDs for the Knights. He’d be signed as a free agent by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after the draft.
Donteea saw action in 10 games (starting 6) for the Bucs his rookie year. He caught 11 passes for 132 yards- which included his first catch that went for a TD. He’d spend the remainder of his career on and off the franchise’s practice squad. Unfortunately he is best remembered for catching a 44 yard bomb that he began to celebrate over, before realizing that the play was still live- resulting in him fumbling the ball.
After being released in 2018, Donteea signed with the Orlando Apollos for their upcoming 2019 season. He’d post 7 receptions for 133 yards and 2 TDs. His best game came in the final contest when he caught a 65 yard TD against the Memphis Express. Perhaps the final missing piece or secret weapon to the Apollos offense, Donteea’s role had been slowly increasing over the past few contests before the AAF shut down.
In October of 2019, Donteea was selected by the Los Angeles Wildcats of the XFL.
Card: Topps AAF 2019 Acquired: TTM 2019, C/o The Philadelphia Eagles Sent: 4/10 Received: 7/26 (107 days)
Charles Johnson was the big bodied playmaker in Steve Spurrier’s Sun N Gun offense at Wide Receiver. Over 8 games, he caught 45 passes (70 targets) primarily from Garrett Gilbert, for 687 yards, 5 TDs and a 2 point conversion. His 687 yards and 70 targets were a league mark. Charles best game came against the San Antonio Commanders in Week 2, as he set AAF records with 10 catches for 192 yards and a TD.
“He’s done a fantastic job since he’s been here. He got himself acclimated to the system, and he and I have great rapport.”
– Apollos QB Garrett Gilbert
Charles Johnson’s football story starts at Antelope Valley Community College back in 2008. He caught 24 passes for 231 yards and 3 TDs, and then at Eastern Kentucky catching 3 passes for 63 yards. He transferred to Grand Valley and reshirted for a year. Returning to the gridiron in 2011 he blew the doors off of the college recording 56 receptions for 1030 yards and 15 TDs. Johnson followed that season up with an equally impressive Senior campaign with 72 receptions for 1,199 yards and 16 TDs.
Although he was not invited to the NFL combine in 2013, and hailing from a small school, Charles turned heads with his 4.39 40 on his school’s Pro Day. He parlayed his efforts to sneak onto draft boards as a 7th round pick of the Green Bay Packers. Earning a spot on the team’s practice squad, Charles was signed away by the WR needy Browns, where he spent 2013 and 2014.
He then spent the next 3 seasons with the Vikings from 2014-2016. It was with the Vikes Johnson saw the most success, cobbling together 31 catches for 475 yards and 2 TDs during 2014. Hampered by injuries and inconsistency, Johnson struggled through 2015 and 2016.
Charles signed with the Panthers in 2017, but did not make the squad. The following year in 2018 he joined the Jets, but was cut mid-year and elected to join the AAF.
After the disappointing end to the league, Charles signed within the first few days of the AAF free agent frenzy. When I saw his name popped up on the transaction boards for the Eagles, I didn’t hesitate for a second and sent out to him the following week.
As one of the older players in the AAF, Charles was of interest to many scouts in the NFL and there was a lot of chatter always surrounding what a great story he was for the league, and how just getting back to basics had really helped him fall back in love with the game. I got his autograph on his lone AAF card, and although they did come out with a Topps NOW card of him- I thought that Topps really missed out on the certified autograph boat with him.
Cards: Topps AAF 2019, Topps Now 2.17.19, Topps Now 2.25.19, Topps Now 3.23.19 Acquired: IP 2019, Fozzy Whittaker and Garrett Gilbert Football Camp
This event completely exceeded my expectations. Since it was raining, the event was held indoors at the Del Valle Sports Complex right next to the stadium. Instead of running through too many drills, Garrett and Fozzy ended up playing something with the kids that I hadn’t seen before but was total genius: Ultimate Football. It was fun and entertaining to watch. If this is what the XFL has in mind for their overtime periods, it looks like an exciting way to end a game.
Afterwards, Garrett and Fozzy set up autograph tables and signed everything for everyone- and I mean everything. If I had only won that last Topps AAF Now card of Garrett’s I would have run the table- but as it is I am happy that he signed these 4 cards. In fact he signed the 4 plus all the additional copies I had of the Topps AAF 2019 base cards that I ended up giving away to all my hobby friends/ contacts- with the stipulation that they send Garrett a thank-you note.
I also got to finally meet one of my new proteges in person- Mark, and we talked for a few minutes about the hobby before disembarking for the afternoon. It was a very successful time, and I did get to talk to Garrett briefly about the AAF.
Garrett is the son of former NFL quarterback Gale Gilbert. He was highly recruited coming out of high school and reminded many teams of the Oliver Luck- Andrew Luck connection. Texas was ecstatic to get him and groomed him to be Colt McCoy’s heir when he left UT. Things don’t necessarily go as planned, and as UT was still in its prime fans were expecting another title run. UT worked its way through the schedule in 2009, and fought its way into national title contention. It was a big game against Alabama, and Colt McCoy was singlehandedly giving Alabama a run for its money- but then he got injured. Garrett who was a Freshman came in, and while he did give Alabama a fight for its money initially- he turned the ball over 5 times and Texas lost the game. It was not the best situation for Garrett to get his first meaningful game time.
Things were optimistic going into 2010, and Gilbert was named starting QB at Texas, but the team slipped to 5-7- Texas’ first losing record in over 10 years. Fans were calling already for Mack Brown’s head, so the head coach put every job up for grabs including quarterback. Garrett lost out in camp in 2011 to David Ash and Case McCoy. Nursing a shoulder injury he decided to transfer out of Texas.
Fans treated Gilbert badly although he spent a lot of his time in the Austin area. He transferred to SMU which most people scoffed at- but in reality, this was a great move for him, playing under offensive guru and quarterback whisperer June Jones.
After a rough start in 2012, Garrett really turned the corner in 2013, posting career college highs in nearly all categories (335 completions, 66.5% completion percentage, 3,528 yards, 21 TDs to just 7 interceptions, and a 136.2 QB rating. He also set numerous SMU and a few UT records while at each school.
Garrett was selected in the 6th round of the 2014 NFL Draft by the then St Louis Rams. He then spent time on practice squads and emergency quarterback roles around the league from 2014 to 2016 (Rams, Patriots, Lions, Raiders, Panthers), never really getting his chance to show what he could do.
Gilbert decided to give the AAF a shot to jumpstart his career. He’d be selected by the Orlando Apollos during the QB draft and hone his skills under Steve Spurrier. It was a great combination as Gilbert ended up being the defacto league MVP. Clear and away the best QB in the league, Gilbert led the league in most passing categories. He’d earn league offensive player of the week honors after blasting the San Antonio Commanders- throwing for a league record 393 yards. He even got some notoriety for catching a pass for a touchdown on a trick play. Things were looking really good for Gilbert and the Apollos as they zoomed out to a 7-1 record and claimed the division title outright.
It was then the league collapsed. The Apollos were caught by surprise by the announcement. There would be no playoffs. No championship. No crowning of a winner. No MVP. It. Was. Over. Just like that.
Despite the collapse of the AAF, Garrett has been able to parlay his achievements with the league into a contract with the Cleveland Browns.
Celebrating the game, the players, the cards, and the autographs for over 25 years.