Cards: Upper Deck 2009, Score 2010 Acquired: In Person 2018, AAF San Antonio Commanders Season Ticket Holders Party
Never in my wildest dreams did I ever expect to even come close to picking up one of the greatest modern day NFL safeties and Pittsburgh Steeler legends Troy Polamalu- but here we are. I mean again, like in the past, one of the greatest pieces of advice that I can give a fellow collector, is: When you go to in person events, plan ahead by bringing cards of who you know will be there- and who you think might be there.
The second piece of advice I can give you is do your research and participate in the discourse of knowledge about the subject you are interested in. In this case, I participated heavily on the AAF boards and was made aware of the fact that a bold tapestry of many former players line the league’s offices with experience and knowledge. I thought maybe, just maybe since this was a big event, that the league would send down one of the player personnel to the celebration. I packed a box of cards for the players, and the executives and made my way to the event.
When the event began, Troy was seated on stage with the players and executives. I immediately recognized him based on his flowing mane. – Sure who wouldn’t right? I slipped out some cards and calmly bode my time. After the event concluded I waited in the picture line and kindly asked him for an autograph or two. I think Troy was both surprised and impressed that somebody had some cards of him at the event. His eyes lit up briefly and he smiled as he signed. I exchanged pleasantries with him about the new league and how excited I was, and then wished him luck. I’m not much for photos or selfies. The autograph was enough for me to regale in memory about.
Over a 12 year career, Troy Polamalu established himself as one of the greatest strong safeties to ever play the game. Drafted in the first round of 2003 by the Pittsburgh Steelers out of USC, Troy was a headhunter in the secondary, who had a nose for the ball with 46 career takeaways (32 interceptions, 14 forced fumbles), and 770 combined tackles. Polamalu was named to the Pro Bowl 8 times, All-Pro in 4 seasons, NFL Defensive Player of the year (2010), and won two Super Bowl Championships. He’d also earn honors as a member of the Steelers All-Time Team, and the NFL 2000s All-Decade Team.
Troy retired after the 2014 season and decided to focus on his family. In 2018, he was named the head of player relations for the fledgling Alliance of American Football, however that folded during 2019.
Late in the AAF season, the league brought out Topps cards of Troy, but with these two signed, I’m happy to close the books right where they are without the executive card signed.
Card: Donruss Rookies & Stars 2013 Acquired: In Person 2018, AAF San Antonio Commanders Season Ticket Holders Party
I really had to scramble to find a Daryl Richardson card before I left for the season ticket holders party. Worried that the cards I ordered wouldn’t arrive in time, I went and dug through my card boxes twice before I left. I thought that I had at least one card of Daryl somewhere that had possibly been given to me by Spoodog. The night before I left I came across Daryl’s Rookies & Stars entry from 2013. It was a gem to start with.
Overall it was a good event. Players were easy to talk to- almost shy being approached, but Daryl handled the spotlight magnificently with his trademark dreads and wife and kid in tow. When I showed him this card he got really animated, and we talked about being new fathers for a bit. He then welcomed me to follow him on Twitter, where I quickly found out that another fellow collector was a big fan.
His Rookies & Stars entry is really nice. This set is a good departure from the terrible look of the 2012 set. If I had been a collector back then or this set was cheap enough, I’d probably try to plunk down enough change to pick it up. The foreground image of Richardson is strong. He looks heroic bursting from the canvas in front of the design. The background is smartly blurred, and although Daryl’s feet look cut off because they do not continue below the logos, it could still be considered a design decision.
My silver sharpie dried out and the backup I had with me also dried up. Final lessons learned on sharpies: Stick to blue if you have to use a basic sharpie. Silver, black and just about any other color react badly to humidity and after a while will dry out… And- always pack a second sharpie in case the first one is dead. I tested the sharpies before I went inside the covered stadium, but I guess the humidity sapped them up immediately. I ran off to the entry table where the girls running the event let me borrow the- brown one. It worked in a cinch, but I couldn’t get them to let me use blue or black.
Daryl was the second to last pick of the 2012 NFL Draft out of Abilene Christian. He’d beat out Isiah Pead in camp to become Steven Jackson‘s primary backup. A low to the ground, compact, elusive runner, Daryl ran for 475 yards his rookie year. He also displayed soft hands out of the backfield, catching 24 passes. Injuries slowed him his final two seasons in St Louis.
He’d be released in 2014 and sign with the Jets where he was on and off the practice squad of the franchise through 2015. The Texans signed Daryl next, and then later in 2015 the Browns signed and waived him as well. The next year he spent nearly the entire year with the Steelers on their practice squad. Claimed off of waivers by the Jaguars in 2016, Daryl was released by both the Jags and Colts in 2017.
With the advent of Spring football nearly upon the masses again in not only the XFL but the AAF, I decided to throw my hat in the ring with the San Antonio team when it was announced with the AAF. Richardson was one of my ‘big heart’ selections by the Commanders. He’s a ‘do it all’ kinda guy who fits what the team needs, especially in a 3rd down back. Unfortunately facing unusually stiff competition from Aaron Green, Trey Williams, Kenneth Farrow II, and David Cobb- left my fan favorite on the way out. Daryl was cut but hopefully his football dreams will continue with another shot elsewhere.
Card: Upper Deck 2009, Score 2009 Acquired: In Person 2019, San Antonio Commanders v San Diego Fleet Failure: TTM 2016, C/o Home
Hines Ward played 14 seasons in the NFL from 1998-2011. After posting decent numbers for the Georgia Bulldogs (144 receptions for 1965 yards and 11 TDs) over his college career, Ward was selected in the 3rd round of the NFL Draft by the Pittsburgh Steelers. Although he didn’t find immediate success, by 2001 Hines was really starting to round out as a marquee receiver, posting his first (of 4) 1,000 yard campaigns, and first (of 4) Pro Bowl appearances. In 2002, he’d have a career high 112 receptions for 1329 yards and 12 TDs. Hines won Super Bowl XL MVP honors after catching 5 passes for 123 yards and a TD. Despite legendary names in the Steelers wide receiver corps, Hines finished at the top of most of the team’s charts before retiring.
He’s dabbled here and there in sports commentary and as a celebrity judge, but it was when he was given the opportunity to be involved with the AAF that he has really seemed to jump out there.
After getting lucky with Troy Polamalu at the San Antonio Commanders team reveal, I stocked up on other executives for the inaugural game. The ticketing office hit a snafu with me on my tickets and offered me a floor pregame pass during the season. I asked to get on the field for the opening game- but I was told that the league was expecting a lot of executives for the event. I took this as a good omen. Sure I could’ve kicked myself for not packing a card of Kurt Warner who was broadcasting the game, but I was happy as it was just to get Hines.
Standing in the front row of the endzone, nobody noticed Hines. I waited until he got a good, close distance to me and called him over. He hesitated for a moment and then told his guest he was going to sign some autographs. I think he signed for two reasons. One, he had made it so long without somebody recognizing him wandering around the stadium, so I had to be a fan. Two, Hines is all on board with the league and its mantra. He is genuinely excited to share the vision of the league with fans.
Later when I posted the autograph to one of the message boards on Facebook, I found out that I was lucky to not only get two autographs out of him- but that I also got his full signature.
If I hadn’t gotten another autograph for the rest of the evening I would’ve still been tickled pink about it, as I learned firsthand that he can be a erratic signer back in 2016. This Upper Deck 2009 was amazing, and the photo is a rare treat. Hines put the autograph to the canvas perfectly! It compliments the image well and makes it feel even more exciting. The 2009 Score was a set need. I wanted the 2010 Score, but I thought just getting two autographs from Hines was greedy enough.
Celebrating the game, the players, the cards, and the autographs for over 25 years.