Lonnie Turner took a very unique route to the WLAF after playing for Cal Poly Pomona under Roman Gabriel: He played in the USFL from 1983 to 1985. During that period he played one season each for LA (3 catches for 41 yards), Oklahoma (27 receptions for 399 yards and 2 TDs), and Denver (29 receptions for 388 yards). After brief stops with the Cardinals and later the Atlanta Falcons, he’d join the Arena football league, and play for Pittsburgh in 1988. Boasting experience in the Run N Shoot offense, Lonnie signed with the Lions in 1990, but was unable to make the squad. This however got him back onto the radar of the WLAF, and the New York- New Jersey Knights who were coached by former Lions offensive coordinator Mouse Davis.
Lonnie was selected in the WLAF supplemental draft by the Knights. A long in the tooth veteran at 30 years old, Lonnie was one of the oldest players on the team. He paid dividends in 1991, leading NY-NJ with 41 receptions (5th in league) for 629 yards (7th) and caught his only touchdown of the season versus the Montreal Machine. In 1992, Lonnie caught 36 passes for 437 yards and 2 TDs- including a 50 yarder.
With the WLAF reorganizing after the 1992 season, Turner packed his bags for a quick stop with the British Columbia Lions of the CFL in 1993. He posted 27 receptions for 420 yards and 2 TDs, 11 kick returns for 196 yards, and 38 punts for 270 yards. – As a pro, this represented his most productive season- but this was his first and last foray into the CFL.
A few years passed, and Lonnie appears again in the Arena Football League. This time he picks up in 1996 with the Tampa Bay Storm, and along with that 43 receptions for 576 yards and 9 TDs. He’d join the Nashville Kats in 1997 and play there through 1998. With the Kats in 1997 he’d have another solid season (35 receptions, 485 yards, 9 TDs, 28 kick returns, 460 yards, and 1 TD), and then close out his career playing football with one final season in Nashville with 20 receptions for 193 yards and 3 TDs, and 16 kick returns for 251 yards.
I have been tracking Lonnie for some time. With his unique and interesting playing history, I figured that he’d at least be on Wikipedia, but his trail is mysteriously cold. Even USFL fans couldn’t tell me where he was at. It didn’t help that there are actually other Lonnie Turners out there in the world who played and coached football, but after a lot of perseverance, I was able to find him coaching in Los Angeles. He’s apparently spent a lot of time at the high school level and has now climbed into the college ranks.
Cards: Pro Set WLAF 1991, Ultimate WLAF 1992
Acquired: TTM 2017, C/o Work
Sent: 11/15 Received: 12/7 (22 days)
Failure: 2017, C/o Home
James Henry went to college at Southern Mississippi. A dangerous punt returner and defensive back, he had 23 punt returns for 399 yards and 2 TDs his senior year. Over his college career James had 8 punt returns for touchdowns. Selected in the 4th round of the talent laden 1989 draft by the Seattle Seahawks, James failed to make the squad both in ’89 and ’90. He also briefly played for the Saskatchewan Roughriders.
Henry was selected in the 8th round of the WLAF positional draft in 1991. He played both defensive back and punt returner for the Birmingham Fire. His 10.7 punt return yard average was second in the league, and a 50 yard punt return for a touchdown in a 28-7 win over the Skyhawks. Despite the Fire’s deep secondary, James contributed with 2 interceptions- including a 77 yarder he returned for a TD against the Thunder.
James returned to the Fire for 1992. but was unable to duplicate his success from the previous year as teams were aware of how dangerous he was in the open field. He finished with 14 punt returns for 47 yards.
During one of those games in 1992, I’d corral most of the defensive secondary and have them pen their autographs on their cards. James eluded me essentially for 25 years. With James Henry’s autograph, I am now just down to one player from the Birmingham Fire’s ProSet WLAF set- Kenny Bell. I thought I had found Henry earlier this year via Spokeo and cross referencing his information with his trading cards, but the address in Mississippi never responded. Mark (Mark’s Signing Bonus) and I have collaborated on addresses of players from the WLAF. He got a hit from Henry and passed the information along to me. I was very happy that this worked out.
WLAF INT 2 YDS 83 AVG 41.5 TD 1 LG 77t
PR 37 YDS 294 AVG 7.9 TD 1 LG 50t
Cards: ProSet WLAF 1991, ProSet WLAF 1991 League Leader
Acquired: TTM 2017, C/o Home
Sent: 11/4 Received: 11/13 (9 days)
Failure: 2011, 2017, C/o Home
The Orlando Thunder had a stacked offense. At runningback they featured a variety of styles of runners including former Detroit Lion track man Carl Painter. Carl earned his keep primarily on kick off return duties, averaging a league leading 24.9 yards on 24 returns. He set a league single game record when he had 6 kickoff returns for 178 yards against the Knights. Carl sprained his shoulder in a week 8 contest against Sacramento, and finished the season with 15 carries for 47 yards to go along with 13 receptions for 157 yards.
Painter played two seasons for the Detroit Lions, after being selected by them during the 6th round of the 1988 draft. Over two seasons, he had 106 yards on 32 carries and 4 catches for 42 yards. He also chipped in 18 kick returns for 361 yards and a 20.1 yard average.
A sensational runningback at Hampton, Carl rushed for 3,223 yards from 1983 to 1987, and led the team in scoring in both 1985 and 1987, netting him all-conference honors with the Pirates. In 2009, he was inducted into Hampton University’s inaugural Athletic Hall of Fame.
Being that Carl had 2 cards in the vaunted ProSet WLAF 1991 set, I had tried multiple times to get Carl but had lucked out. I have been collaborating with Mark of Mark’s Signing Bonus for some time on tracking down players from the league. Luckily he got a nice hit on Carl, so I sent out to him immediately the next day. Carl wrote me a really nice note, thanking me for remembering him along with the two autographs. As of 2017 he works in management for a city Parks and Recreation department in Virginia.