Tag Archives: San Diego Chargers

Kramer, Erik ‘Brass’

Cards: ProSet 1991, GameDay 1993, Action Packed 1992
Acquired: TTM 2017, C/o Home
Sent: 3/20      Received: 4/17     (28 days)
Failure: TTM 2011, C/o Home

I’m not sure where to start with Erik Kramer. I tried him back in 2011- shy a few months before his son tragically died of a drug overdose. Things spiraled out of control so much that Kramer in 2015 attempted to take his own life with a gun. Somehow he managed to survive and over the past two years has been rising from the ashes of his own personal pain.

Kramer went to college at NC State. He was the team’s starting quarterback in 1985 and 1986.  Posting solid numbers as starter, over his time with the Wolfpack, he threw for 4,602 yards, 30 TDs/ 28 INT, on 334 completions and 616 attempts. Kramer also posted an 11-11-1 record as a starter and earned ACC Player of the Year honors as a Senior.  He went undrafted in 1987 and initially signed with the New Orleans Saints, but was subsequently released. Quickly he was signed by the Atlanta Falcons as a replacement player during the 1987 strike.

Erik joined the Calgary Stampeders in 1988.  Playing in 5 contests he threw for 5 TDs and 964 yards. The next season he’d blow out his knee and not see a snap under center. Afterwards he was released by the Stampeders. Erik’s story could’ve very easily ended there, but he chose to give it another shot in the NFL, signing with the Detroit Lions after getting spotted during a tryout by offensive coordinator Mouse Davis.  Kramer’s string of bad luck continued, as he suffered a season ending shoulder injury during the 1990 preseason.

The Lions had a classic quarterback rivalry going on between Andre Ware and Rodney Peete going into 1991. Erik Kramer was an afterthought on the squad.  This worked to his advantage as he was a consummate professional in preparation for each and every game. He supplanted Ware and then bode his time until Peete was injured. Kramer picked up and after a rough start or two, he led the Lions on a 6 game winning streak to conclude the season. The Lions made the playoffs, and Erik set team playoff records with 29-of-38 passes for 341 yards and 3 touchdowns as the Lions ambushed the Dallas Cowboys. It’d be the Lions first playoff victory since 1957.

It would be safe to assume that after the season Kramer would’ve been chosen to be the hands down starter for the Lions, right? Well this is the Lions and that didn’t happen. Instead 1992 opened again with another open quarterback competition- this time lasting into the regular season. While it finally took Kramer being named starter and then rallying Detroit to a 3-1 record down the stretch to win the division title, the Lions lost a home wild card game to Brett Favre and the Pack 28-24. Detroit had another bumpy season in 1993 and while Kramer went 3-1 as a starter, the Lions ran out and signed Scott Mitchell, effectively ending their quarterback carousel in 1994.   Erik in the meantime took a flyer with the division rival Chicago Bears.  While his first season there was met with mixed results due to a separated shoulder, there is no question that he had an impact season in 1995 setting personal highs and franchise records going 315 of 522 for 3,838 yards with 29 TDs to only 10 interceptions. Kramer hung around with the Bears another 3 injury plagued seasons before abruptly retiring midway through the 1999 season with the Chargers due to a persistent neck injury.

Kramer was the definition of the ‘walking wounded’ during his playing career in the league. He gave up his body to injury leading Detroit and Chicago back to periods of respectability. Concussions may have also contributed to his severe depression as well.

It is said that the bullet traveled through Erik’s chin, tongue, nose, and out the top of his head. Amazingly, the damage was so clean, and the medical attention paid to him was so quick, he survived.  Much like his playing career- Kramer quickly has moved to rise from controversy and loss, making an impressive recovery- and coming to an understanding that life is worth living for.

Pro Set struck gold in Erik’s initial release in their 91 update set with a nice straight on shot of him. This was Proset at their best: minimal design, dynamic action photography, and an unobtrusive logo. I was a big fan of Action Packed- but their 92 set annoyed me by flipping profile information on the back. The player name type was also just a tad too small. Gameday barely tweaked an overall successful design over the entire lifetime of the brand. I liked this 1993 issue of Kramer in the elements.

G/Gs 83/67        Att 2299      Cpd 1317       Yds  15337       Pct 57.3
TD 92    Int 79      Lg 85t
Rush  153       Yds 217      Avg 1.4      Td 5     lg 31

Watkins, Pat

Card: Sage 2006
Acquired: 2016, Kenny’s Grab Bag

Pat Watkins was a rangy defensive back at Florida State measuring at an impressive 6’5″. For the Seminoles, Watkins played in 49 consecutive contests from 2002-2005.  He ranked third on the Seminoles with 77 tackles in his final season at Florida State in 2005, while laying down the wood at safety.  The Cowboys selected Watkins in the 5th round of the 2006 draft. He primarily made his living over his career in Dallas as a special teamer, although he managed to pull in 38 tackles, 3 interceptions, 7 passes defensed during his rookie campaign.  In 2007 he blocked a field goal by the Minnesota Vikings and returned it 68 yards for a TD, but unable to make the transition to free safety, and suffering some injuries, the Cowboys cut Watkins in 2010. He spent the remainder of the season with the San Diego Chargers, but was not retained after the year.

Watkins traveled to the CFL, where the Argonauts signed him as an import player and transitioned Watkins to corner in 2012. After a brief period of adjustment, Pat earned All-Star Honors from the league in his rookie season. He’d finish the season with 67 tackles and 5 interceptions- which tied Watkins for first in the CFL. He’d continue his stellar play in 2013 earning another All-Star Honor while posting 43 tackles and 5 interceptions. In 2014, he took his show to the Edmonton Eskimos. There Pat helped the Esks win the Grey Cup in 2015, with a key critical interception to keep Edmonton in the game.   As of 2017, Watkins still plays for the Eskimos.

Welker, Wes ‘The Natural’

Card: Score 2009
Acquired: TTM 2016, C/o Home
Sent:  5/23    Received:   6/4     (12 days)

Wes Welker was a prolific slot man that played in the NFL from 2004-2015. Going undrafted out of Texas Tech in 2004, Welker had developed quite a reputation as a stellar return man and do-it-all offensive weapon for the Red Raiders, tying an NCAA record with 8 punt returns for touchdowns.

Welker signed with the San Diego Chargers, but was cut after the first game of the season to make room for another player. He’d catch on with the Dolphins who used him on kick and punt return duties. It’s there he’d burn the New England Patriots who took note of his unique skillset. As the anemic Dolphin offense continued to struggle, Welker went from being on the chopping block, to becoming the life blood of the offense. Opting not to resign Wes initially after the 2006 season, Welker became a restricted free agent.  That’s when the Patriots pounced.

Offering the required 2nd round tender, New England stripped their bitter rival of their best offensive weapon. Wes went on to become quarterback Tom Brady’s most reliable target. Over the next 6 seasons, Wes racked up 672 receptions for 7459 yards and 37 touchdowns- including a 99 yarder. In 5 of those seasons he had 110+ receptions, leading the league three times in 2007 (112), 2009 (123), and 2011 (122).  From 2008-2012 Welker earned ProBowl honors, with his 2009 and 2011 seasons earning him All Pro.

Facing a quandary after the 2013 season, the Patriots were unable to come to terms with Welker to keep him in New England. To top things off, he signed with the newly retooled Denver Broncos to be Peyton Manning‘s go to guy, but Wes got the concussion bug.

You see the NFL had decided to finally take a more aggressive stance on the issue, and Welker’s size and fearlessness in the slot lent him to take shots regularly to the head. He’d play the 2013 and 2014 seasons for the Broncos and a final swan song for the St. Louis Rams in 2015. Although he didn’t want to retire, most teams saw his injury proneness as a liability, so in a sense Wes was forced to retire.

In 2017, Welker returned to the NFL scene. He was quickly courted by the Houston Texans during the Senior Bowl in Mobile and named as an offensive assistant where he is reunited with his former coach Bill O’Brien and a host of other former Patriots. It is thought that at this time he will provide assistance coaching the Texans’ wide receiver corps and break down film.

When I saw that Wes Welker was signing via a few websites I follow that track autograph returns from players, I didn’t hesitate at quickly sending him out two of my favorite cards- Score 2009, and Donruss Rookies & Stars 2009 Gold. Now,  I did only get the Score 2009 back and Wes personalized it, but I always point out that personalization doesn’t bother me, and that I am happy getting one rather than none. Maybe he really liked that Donruss Rookies & Stars 2009 as much as I did!

G/GS 175/102    REC 903     YDS 9925    AVG 11.0    TD 50    LG 99T
KR  183     YDS 4138      AVG 22.6   TD 1   LG 95T
PR 264      YDS 2584      AVG 9.8       TD 0   LG 71