Willie Don Wright walked onto the Wyoming football team where he played outside linebacker and defensive end for the Cowboys. He was signed in 1990 as a free agent by the Phoenix Cardinals, who then allocated Wright to the Frankfurt Galaxy of the World League in 1992. During the season Willie recorded 5 sacks for the Galaxy before returning stateside to the Cards.
Willie was placed on the practice squad and then was converted successfully from linebacker to tight end. -He was active for 9 games but didn’t see any playing time. The following year in ’93, Wright was cut after the team decided to go with less tight ends on the roster, and then found himself again on the short end of the stick in 94 and 96. He’d briefly play in the CFL with the Las Vegas Posse in 1995, before he finished his degree at Wyoming in music education.
He wrote me a nice note thanking me for my letter. Wright currently lives in Wyoming where he teaches music at the Junior High level.
During the Jurassic Period of football, there were some absolute beasts of defenders that took the league by storm in the 70s. One of them was Carl Hairston, a little known defensive lineman prospect out of UMES or (University of Maryland Eastern Shore). He played on some terrible teams during college, which allowed him to really hone his game. Hairston was named to the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference team 3 times. In his final year with the team, he posted 147 tackles and 15 sacks, good enough to get noticed by the Philadelphia Eagles, who selected Carl in the 7th round of the 1976 draft.
He’d make the squad and in fact lead the NFL in sacks in 1979 (unofficially) with 15. Then in 1980, he’d help champion the defense that got the Eagles to Super Bowl XV. Injuries began to slow Hairston down in 1983, and soon thereafter he’d be traded to the Cleveland Browns, where he’d be a mainstay on the line until 1989. He’d finish his career in Phoenix the following season.
Carl has an extensive coaching resume at the Pro level, and has seen stops in the NFL (Phoenix, KC, St Louis, and Green Bay), UFL (Florida, Omaha), and CFL (British Columbia). He earned a Super Bowl ring as the defensive line coach for the St. Louis Rams (Super Bowl XXXIV).
Carl is another one of these players who should probably be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. A dominant lineman during his time, unofficially he has 1,141 tackles and 94 sacks to his name in 184 starts.
Both of these are really nice cards of Carl. I almost feel like they are nods to him out of respect- like these card companies knew he was long in the tooth but they still wanted to pay him respects with their brand of card. The ProSet Legends 1991 card is an absolute gem. Merv Corning can make a player standing on the sideline look exciting, and this highly detailed image is no different with its nicks and bumps. It’s a fine card with excellent minimal design- which screams classy. The Score Supplemental 1989 had always been floating around my doubles box, so I had been kicking around the idea of getting it autographed for sometime. It’s unique because it’s obviously a special teams shot, but he’s just sort of popping up in a sea of helmets.
Cards: Topps 1983, Topps 1985
Acquired: 2012, Akron Acquisition
See Also: Neil Lomax
I think I’m just going to refer to it as ‘The Neil Lomax Curse’. Since Lomax led the lowly Cardinals back to some semblance of respectability in the mid-1980s the franchise has been for the most part (outside of a few seasons here and there with Kurt Warner, Carson Palmer, and Jake Plummer) has never really had a consistent franchise QB at the helm. You know, that consistent leader that they could lean on for 5-7 years? – Amazingly it just hasn’t happened. While it is shocking how many QBs Cleveland has gone through, Arizona has done in many QBs in its own right. In fact, statistically speaking, I could make an argument for Neil being the greatest quarterback the Cardinals have ever had.
As far as cards go, Topps 1985 was so different than what Topps had ever done that people still today see it as a pinnacle of card design. I think it really epitomized the 80s with large bold type set on its side fighting with the photo for command of the canvas. Like the 80s it screamed, “Larger than life.” While this Topps 1983 just bored my pants off initially, it was a step in a different direction for Topps than in previous years. The marquee is minimally invasive and the team name placed eloquently on the image- in an era well before Photoshop, this took a fair amount of work.
One of the Akron Acquisition, I got these autographs off of a friend who was exiting the hobby. I paid a few extra bucks as a premium to help him out, and I hope that he has been able to put his life back together.
Celebrating the game, the players, the cards, and the autographs for over 25 years.