Card: Panini Contenders 2013
Acquired: 2017, EBay
Ray Graham played football at Pitt from 2009 to 2012. He put together increasing numbers in each year, culminating in his Senior year when he ran 222 times for 1042 yards and 11 TDs. Over 4 years he had 595 carries for 3271 yards and 32 TDs. Ray also displayed a really nice touch out of the backfield, catching 98 passes, including 36 in his Senior year. Considered more of a slasher at the pro level, scouts tore apart his game and did not feel that Ray had the size to play at the pro level. He went unselected in the 2013 NFL Draft but signed a free agent contract with the Houston Texans.
The Texans were looking for runningback help. As nagging injuries were catching up with Arian Foster and Ben Tate, the Texans were looking for new blood to help out in the backfield. They signed a trio of free agents- all promising backs: Ray, Cierre Wood, and Dennis Johnson. Ray had a decent preseason scoring a really nice TD against the Vikings, and as a natural zone runner, I really liked his style, but unfortunately in a game of numbers, he’d be cut- as the team opted to keep Wood. Graham was picked up by the Steelers and added to their practice squad.
As things would have it, Arian Foster went down due to injury. Wood blew his chance with the team violating an ‘unspecified team rule’ and was released. Graham found himself back on the squad and rushed 4 times for 8 yards. He’d also make one catch for 12 yards.
Ray had enough talent to probably take his game to another team in 2014 after he was cut, but currently is considered a free agent or retired from the sport.
Card: Panini Contenders 2016
Acquired: 2016, Box Breaker
Ryan Malleck played for Virginia Tech from 2012-2015. He saw action in 33 games, recording 62 receptions for 658 yards and 4 touchdowns. Scouts felt he had the size to work the field as a tight end at the pro level but felt his blocking needed some polish. He went unselected in the 2016 NFL Draft. Since that time Malleck has stayed busy, logging time on the Giants, Steelers, Ravens, and later in 2017- the Houston Texans. He made his first professional catch while with Houston for 3 yards. Ryan resigned with the Steelers in 2018, but was waived and placed on IR for the 2018 season after an undisclosed injury.
Card: Leaf Draft 2014
Acquired: 2014, Box Breaker
Jordan Zumwalt played linebacker at UCLA from 2010 to 2014. He finished his time at the college with 216 total tackles (141 solo, 75 assisted), 20 tackles for loss, 5 sacks, 3 interceptions for 56 yards- taking one to the house for a TD, and one forced fumble. Considered an over achiever, teams thought he needed to polish his game at the pro level, but could easily find himself a home as a special teams player or backup linebacker.
The Steelers selected Jordan in the 6th round of the 2014 NFL Draft. He spent both 2014 and 2015 on injured reserve. In 2016, Zumwalt hit the field in the preseason and coaches were impressed by his play- however he was waived during final cuts.
I don’t know why but I got thoroughly turned off by Leaf after 2014, however for me it may have had something to do with risk versus reward, them floating ‘wood’, or a bit of me just being plain greedy. Point being is when I go spend my shrinking budget dollar, it goes typically to either Sage or Leaf. In the end Sage won that battle. So other than design what became the main driving factor between my choices? Well quality of name would be next- but when the quality is the same- it simply came down to quantity and Sage trumped Leaf in spades. Sage offers 3-4 autographs per box as opposed to Leaf which offered just 1-2 for the same price point.