After a pretty solid combine showing by Budda Baker, scouts pegged him to be a second round pick in the 2017 NFL draft. A burgeoning draft of impressive secondary playmakers, the 2017 draft boasted such names as Marshon Lattimore, Jamal Adams, Malik Hooker, and Adoree’ Jackson. Budda was selected near the top of round two by the Arizona Cardinals. He’d shine enough in camp that he’d scale the depth chart to become Tyrann Mathieu’s backup at strong safety.
Budda had a well-rounded rookie season. He’d have 58 total tackles, a sack, 7 pass deflections, and 2 forced fumbles in 7 starts. Baker also had 16 special teams tackles- to rank him 3rd in the league. He’d be named first-team All-Pro and voted to the Pro Bowl for his efforts.
The Cardinals felt comfortable enough to let Mathieu go in free agency for 2018. Baker had a good 2018, starting 13 games and posting 102 total tackles, 8 tackles for loss, 2 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, and a pass deflection, and in 2019 posted another 100+ tackle season.
Cards: Sage 2017, Topps AAF NOW 2019 Acquired: BB 2018, IP 2019, San Antonio Commanders v Salt Lake City Stallions
Greg Ward Jr is an intriguing multi-faceted athlete. He played in college for the Houston Cougars from 2013-2016 at quarterback. Ward blossomed in 2016 throwing for 2827 yards (67.0% completions), 17 touchdowns to 6 interceptions. A force to be reckoned with on the ground, Ward rushed for 1114 yards on 197 carries and 21 touchdowns. In 2016 Ward increased his passing productivity going 319 of 469, while throwing for 3557 yards, and 22 TDs to 12 interceptions. He also rushed for 518 yards and 10 TDs on 197 carries. Greg was not selected in the 2017 NFL draft. Afterwards he’d sign with the Philadelphia Eagles and earned a spot on the practice squad as they converted him to wide receiver.
Greg was signed by the San Antonio Commanders shortly before camp began. I was very excited- as I knew he would be an impact play maker for the team. When the season rolled around I needed a new offensive player to follow, since my original one didn’t make the squad, so Greg became my new fan favorite.
Over the course of 8 games with SA, Ward played primarily out of the slot, but also saw time as a guy they just wanted to get the ball in the hands of- since he is so electric. He caught 22 passes for 214 yards and a 2 point conversion. Although a distant second in return yardage (135), Greg had the highest average (15.0) and the longest punt return for a TD in league history (79 yards) against Atlanta.
“I was really pleased when we got Greg and as I learned more about him, I was even more pleased. He’s a terrific athlete who can do a lot of things. He’s a versatile player and we’re really glad to have him.”
-Commanders Head Coach Mike Riley
I got this great Topps AAF Now card celebrating his punt return, and knew I had to get it autographed. I started figuring out the lay of the land autograph-wise after the SLC game. I was the last person on the wall who he autographed on the home side of the field before he went back. I had hoped to get some other really nice card signed by him, but the gatekeeper blocked me from getting anymore than one. I may at a future date attempt to get him again TTM. I also hope to get a custom Commanders jersey done of him at some point, but who knows if that pipe dream will ever come to pass.
After the league imploded Greg was signed by the Eagles again who appeared to be taking a second look at the now seasoned former QB speedster. He didn’t make final cuts in 2019, but the team elected to bring him back to the practice squad shortly afterwards.
Jake Elliot is sort of a Philadelphia Eagles legend- just after one season. He finished his college career at Memphis 202/202 on extra points, and 81 of 104 on field goals, while dominating the school’s total points and field goals record books. Drafted by the Bengals in the 5th round, Elliot competed with Randy Bullock for the kicker job in camp, but ultimately lost out.
After a short stint on the franchise’s practice squad, Jake was signed by the Eagles who needed a kicker in a pinch for the regular season. Along the way, he’d help the Eagles along on their magical Super Bowl journey in 2017 with a 61 yard field goal to beat the Giants- which is the longest field goal in NFL history for a rookie. Jake also set numerous team records as well finishing 26 of 31 on field goals and 39 of 42 on extra points.
In 2018 Jake finished going 26 of 31 on field goals and 33 of 35 on extra points. He notably improved on his field goal conversion percentage inside the 35, and finished with 111 points on the year.
Celebrating the game, the players, the cards, and the autographs for over 25 years.