Tag Archives: panini contenders 2016

Cook, Connor

Cards: Panini Contenders 2016 GameDay, Panini Contenders 2016 Passing Grades, Leaf Draft 2016, Leaf Draft 2016 All-American, Score 2016 ScoreCard, Panini Elite 2016, Topps XFL 2020, Panini Prism 2015, Panini Draft 2015
Acquired: IP 2019, Houston Roughnecks Fan Meet & Greet.
TTM 2020, C/o Home
Sent: 7/3 Received: 7/24 (21 days)

Connor Cook was a 3 year starter for the Michigan State Spartans. He played college ball there from from 2011 to 2015, and saw action in 43 games, passing for 9,184 yards and 71 TDs to 22 interceptions. Cook was selected by the Oakland Raiders in the 4th round of the 2016 NFL Draft. The Raiders saw value selecting him and decided to groom Cook behind incumbent quarterback Derek Carr.

He was pressed into his first starting duty- a grinder of a game against the Houston Texans in the first round of the 2016 Playoffs. The Raiders fell 27-14, as Cook threw for 161 yards and a TD to 3 interceptions. Connor saw no action in 2017 and was cut in 2018 after the Raiders traded for AJ McCarron.

Connor spent the next year on and off the rosters of the Panthers, Bengals and Lions. He was selected in the first round of the XFL 2020 Draft by the Houston Roughnecks. I sort of questioned the move considering the Roughnecks already had Philip Walker allocated to the team, but coach June Jones insisted that he was picking the best player available with NFL experience.

I pulled every card I had of Connor and added 2 or 3 more hoping to get Connor’s autograph during the season. Luck was on my side as the Roughnecks frequently put together fan events.

The Roughnecks put together an event in the Woodlands where they had Connor Cook and Sammie Coates at. It was a no brainer. I was going to call it a success if I could get 2 or 3 cards signed- but in the end I was able to get all 5 knocked out along with a stack of cards of Sammie as well.

The event itself went well. The players were friendly and approachable. Connor talked to me one on one for a few minutes. We talked about briefly about the AAF and how it failed before he had to go up on stage. There Connor really shined, with a quick wit and clever smile. Afterwards both he and Sammie signed more autographs for fans. I was able to get them both on posters before I headed back out.

Of this group, the Panini Contenders cards really stood out. I love the Gameday cards. I wasn’t really fond of either of the Leaf entries, but the Score Scorecard makes up for the Leaf cards trite design.

Well the quarterback competition between Cook and Walker apparently went down to the wire. In the end PJ was named starting quarterback of the Roughnecks. I really had hoped to see more of Connor, but PJ played lights out the entire way. Still I think Connor has the prospects of being one of the brighter stars in a spring league if he decides to try that route again.

I got a few more cards of his after being caught flat footed at the Roughnecks season ticket holder event, but the cards, ordered 2 weeks before the league shut down- didn’t arrive until after 2 months after the league shut down. Still that gave me a chance to add his Topps XFL 2020 card to the batch, which really pushed him up on my list of players I wanted to get an autograph from thru. I really liked how the Elite cards were designed in 2016 as well. The abstract design is actually really smart as the lines all cross artistic points of emphasis. It’s a beautiful card, but like many the distribution kills my interest in making this one a set to collect. I’m not very hot on the gaudy Prism set, but I liked the die cut helmet one enough as it is eye catching.

Bercovici, Mike (2)

Cards: Topps AAF 2019, Panini 2016, Topps AAF Certified 2019
Acquired: TTM 2019, C/o Home, EBay
Sent: 5/10 Received: 6/29 (50 days)
See Also: Mike Bercovici

Mike’s career continued after his release from the Cardinals. In 2018, he signed with the fledgling Alliance of American Football. (I recognized the name immediately when he was assigned to the Arizona Hotshots thanks in part to the league’s territorial allocation.) Later in the year- perhaps out of the fact that some teams were unfairly blessed with an abundance at quarterback, the AAF decided to hold a Pick or Protect draft, to balance out the rosters a bit.

Mike was taken at the top of Round 2 by the San Diego Fleet, where it was planned he’d grow under the tutelage of offensive mastermind Mike Martz, and behind overall #1 pick Josh Johnson. This didn’t happen because almost immediately after the draft, Josh signed with the NFL Washington Redskins. Moving ahead with Berco at starting quarterback allowed the Fleet to plan around him however and prepare him for the rigors of the AAF season.

I didn’t get Mike’s autograph before the first game in league history, even though they were practicing only a few feet from me. I didn’t realize how he’d be a poster boy for the league in the league’s brief highlight film.

 “Hey, whatever this league needs to get people excited, if that’s what it takes, then I’ll take the bullet.”

-Mike Bercovici (on ‘the hit’)

The Commanders ended up beating the Fleet on opening night in San Antonio, punctuated by 6 sacks and 2 interceptions. One of those sacks, LB Shaan Washington came across the line and almost decapitated Mike Bercovici from his blindside. The crowd was dead silent fora brief second as we looked around, and then erupted into a gladiator-like rousing applause at the fact that there was no flag. I thought that perhaps he suffered a concussion, but at some point during that game, Berco was sat for Philip Nelson.

Mike regained the starting position a few games later after Nelson went down with an injury. He’d complete 22 or 43 passes (304 yards) with a TD, leading the Fleet to the game winning drive over the Stallions 27-25. In fact he’d throw for 300 yards in the next two games as well, against the Iron (311 yards) and the Hotshots (310 yards).

Despite Mike’s struggles, he was quite lovable as a quarterback. He finished with 5 TDs to 9 picks, on 51% completions with 1,311 yards. His numbers are actually all the more impressive because he only started 4 games. The league folded after Week 8, and Mike decided to hang up his cleats and go into coaching.

He currently works as a graduate assistant at Arizona State.

I really wanted Mike’s autograph on these cards of his, and after a bit of digging, missing on an address, and a little help from Mark’s Signing Bonus, I was able to track him down on these great cards of his. I liked Berco and I had high hopes that he’d make a great ambassador of the league as the AAF moved forward.

G/GSATTCPDYDSPCTTDINTRAT
5/5192981,31151.05962.2

Thomas III, Earl

Cards: Panini UT 2016, Panini Contenders 2016, Topps Valor 2016
Acquired: IP 2019, Kickin It
Failure: 2017, C/o The Seattle Seahawks

Earl Thomas is from a long line of outstanding defensive backs that have come out of the University of Texas. After Michael Huff and Aaron Ross won the Jim Thorpe Awards back to back- it seemed like the best had already passed, but Earl Thomas had a year for the ages at UT in 2009, posting 65 total tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, and 8 interceptions for 149 and 2 TDs. He’d declare for the NFL draft and be selected by the Seattle Seahawks in the first round (14th overall) of 2010.

Immediately settling into the secondary at free safety, Earl formed a key component of the Seahawks legendary secondary, “The Legion of Boom”. His rookie season, Thomas posted 5 interceptions, 7 pass breakups, 1 forced fumble, and 76 combined tackles. He’d earn his first of 7 Pro Bowl appearances the following year in 2011, and his first of 3 straight AP nominations in 2012, notching a career high 122 tackles in 2014. That year the Seahawks won the Super Bowl. The love affair seemed as though it would never end, but in 2017 rumblings began to emerge that Earl was wanting a new contract. This manifested into a full blown brouhaha in 2018 as he held out of camp, expressing the desire to have the contract renegotiated or traded to another team that’d pay him. A few teams stepped forward and tried to kick off negotiations- namely the Cowboys and Chiefs. Neither were able to get a deal done with Seattle brass due to the Seahawks’ high asking price. He’d report to camp for the first game and play well through week 4- when his season ended abruptly with a broken leg. As he was carted off the field he gave the Seahawks brass the single finger salute. In 2019, Earl signed a free agent contract with the Baltimore Ravens where he quickly returned to his intercepting ways.

Earl has a shoe store in Austin called Kickin’ It in The Domain area. A bourgeois section of town, the shoe store wants to stand out from the competition as being a place for avid shoe fans to hang out. From time to time to promote the store and keep with the vibe, they will bring guests in for signings. Earl originally was supposed to be there with the store opening, but with his broken leg and all, he couldn’t fly (see Scott Erney). Eventually Earl was able to make it and boy did it turn into a circus quickly.

I planned to get there about 3 to 4 hours before the event began, thinking that I’d be at the front of the line, but I was beaten there by 4-6 people. I stood out in the freezing cold then until the event began, as the line began to swell while waiting for my new cohort, Jeff, to arrive. Once he arrived, we chatted and waited. The line by that point was easily 200 deep. When Earl arrived, he emerged from his car with his family, with his young baby was clad in Cowboys paraphernalia.

Earl to be honest wasn’t happy. I think he had already figured out there were some resellers in the crowd and people weren’t spending money, and while I tried to be friendly with him, his disposition was notably sour. He signed 2 cards for me. A woman in front of me, loved how I was chit chatting with her family and gave them a card, so she got two more cards signed for me. As you can see there are just 3 cards up here. That is because I gave Jeff the 4th so we both ended up with 3 autographs.

We got back in line, but it was a madhouse, and new rules were coming down from above. Anybody who wanted anymore than 1 autograph from Earl would have to spend 45 bucks in the store. This then changed to 30 bucks- but with fans still murmuring about the change of policy so suddenly, this then finally changed to a custom Earl Kickin It t-shirt. At that point Jeff and I decided we had enough and called it a day.

A few nitpicks of how the event was run by Kickin It. First, they should’ve issued wristbands. This would’ve fixed quite a few things. It would’ve allowed fans to not have to stay in line for hours, perhaps encouraging us to look around the store. It also would’ve discouraged SHILs. Look I was doing it to some degree waiting for Jeff, but the guy at the front of the line- who is a reseller, held the line for his entire family that showed up 15-20 minutes before the event- much to the chagrin of everybody behind him.

Secondly, Kickin It actually discouraged fans from walking around the store by telling them they’d lose their place in line if they decided to come in and browse around or try to warm up. I mean that just made no sense. Again, probably the wristbands would’ve nipped this in the bud.

Third and finally, there was no rules in place before the event posted. Autographs- yes. Great. Now tell people exactly what the rules are. Don’t tell people after its started you have to spend xx amount of money. That should’ve been decided on beforehand.

I really like the Panini Contenders 2016 card he signed. That was the top top of my list. The Panini UT card wasn’t bad either. It’s a fine shot of him with great shadows. I am not a super fan of the Valor card, it was a distant 4th, but I decided to keep it anyway as a vanity piece. A lot of people really like Valor and year I am OK with it in general, but it is not the default I go to get signed. Anyway, overall, I somehow managed to get Earl on a few items, which I am happy about- despite the circus.

I failed on Earl back in 2017 when he signed a spate of TTM requests. I may have cast too much shade unknowingly because I joked about how he always had his best games against the Cowboys- which I later found out has been his favorite team since he was growing up.