Card: Sage 2017 Acquired: 2017, Box Breaker. 2019, San Antonio Commanders v San Diego Fleet
A classic road mauler, Damien Mama played guard at USC and clocked in at a whopping 6’3″, 342. A second team PAC 12 selection in 2016, he’d declare early for the 2017 NFL draft, but go unselected. He’d sign as a free agent with the Chiefs and eventually land on their practice squad. Later in 2017, the Giants signed him to their roster- but Damien was released in mid-2018. He’d join the Cowboys in training camp, but again be waived in final cuts.
I found out that Damien was playing in The Alliance of American Football for the San Diego Fleet, so I packed a card of him for the first game of the season. He was practicing with Marc Bercovici before the game and decided to come over and sign some autographs in the visitor’s end zone. A super nice guy, Damien’s sleeve tattoos are even more amazing up close.
Mama was shifted from guard to center for the Fleet for the opening day game against the Commanders. Despite his best efforts the Fleet were overwhelmed by San Antonio and surrendered 6 sacks.
Throughout the season Mama’s play improved and the team finished in 4th place giving up just 19 sacks in 8 games. The Fleet themselves as an offensive unit finished 3rd in the league in total yardage and second in passing yardage.
Currently with the dissolution of the league, Damien is a free agent but could find a home in the XFL 2020.
Dontez Ford started his college football career at Syracuse where he was initially classified as a free safety. After a year there, he transferred to Pitt in 2014. Injuries limited his experience at wide receiver, but in 2015 he had a solid year playing in all 12 games posting 26 receptions for 505 yards and 2 TDs. Over his college career he recorded 46 receptions for 843 yards and 5 TDs.
Dontez did not get drafted in 2016, but later signed a futures contract on January 1st, 2018 with the Detroit Lions. After being cut in September he joined the AAFSan Diego Fleet. He immediately asserted himself in the offense during the Fleet’s preseason contest against Orlando when Dontez caught 11 of 11 targets for 114 yards and a TD.
Dontez provided to be the big play weapon that the offense needed to stretch defenses at the X position. Paired alongside Nelson Spruce, Dontez and Nelson both ranked inside the top 10 in receiving. – The only pair in the league to do so. Ford set league marks in his final game (WK 6- BIR) – catching 3 passes for 182 yards, and being immortalized in his own Topps NOW AAF card. His destruction of the Iron would have only been more complete if he hadn’t injured his ankle during the 3rd quarter of the game.
“Dontez is that guy, like Torry Holt, that guy at the X position that we could choreograph plays just for him. That normal play can turn into a huge play and he demonstrated that. He made so many really big plays for us tonight. It was just unfortunate that he couldn’t stay in. But that’s who he is. He’s going to have a heck of a career in the NFL. He’s top notch, no question.”
– Mike Martz San Diego Fleet Head Coach
Unfortunately the ankle injury sidelined Dontez the remainder of the AAF season- and without him in the lineup, the Fleet lost to Birmingham and sunk their last 2 games. Dontez caught 15 of 28 targets for 435 yards and a TD in 6 games.
Ford’s numbers are very interesting to study. In his week 5 contest against Salt Lake City– he did all his damage catching long bomb passes. In his complete evisceration of the Birmingham defense, Dontez zigged and zagged 122 of 182 yards after the catch- on 3 catches.
His rehab stretched into the ‘off season’, and he was not present for the XFL combines, however I would think based off of his production he will make a welcome addition to any of the new teams or back to the NFL.
I had bought Dontez’s Topps Certified card off of Ebay for 4 bucks and then a few days later Mark (Mark’s Signing Bonus) contacted me and told me that Dontez signed a card for him and threw in an extra! I went onto EBay immediately and got Ford’s Topps Now AAF card for super cheap and then sent his base card, Future Stars, and the Topps Now card out. Ford responded lightening fast to my request and threw in at first what I thought was another Certified autograph card.
However, if you look closely at the left card (Player issue) versus the right card (Topps Certified), there are some subtle differences. First, the left one on the front does not have the gradient fade that the right card has above the team logo. Second, the left card just above the marquee, has the words ‘PLAYER ISSUE’ on it. The right one says ‘TOPPS CERTIFIED AUTOGRAPH’. Finally on the back of the cards the word Autograph and the autograph witnessing blurb on the back is not present on the Player issue card.
It should be assumed then that the players were handed these cards after signing their own for whatever purposes that they wanted- and that they are initially unsigned. I’m glad that I recognized the differences between the two, as I suspect once the market bottoms out and then the certified stock disappears over the years, that more of the Player Issue cards will slip into the secondary market. At this time I am unsure as to which cards- if either- will hold any value.
Kameron Kelly showed versatility playing at San Diego State over his college career, working in the defensive backfield at both safety and corner over his time there from 2014-2017. He had 164 total tackles, 8 tfl, 2 sacks, 15 pass deflections, and 9 interceptions for 122 yards.
He signed with the Cowboys in 2018, but was released before the season began. In October, Kameron was snatched up by the San Diego Fleet of the AAF. He was converted to WR by the Fleet, but then got transferred back to defensive back thanks to injuries. During Week 5 of the season, Kameron set an AAF record with 3 interceptions of Stallions QB Josh Woodrum. For his efforts Kelly earned Defensive Player of the Week Honors from the AAF. He finished the AAF 8 game season with 19 total tackles, and 4 interceptions for 22 yards and a TD.
After the AAF suspended operations, Kelly signed with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Kameron Kelly represents the first trifecta I’ve been able to achieve of an AAF player as I got his certified, base card, and Future Stars cards all signed. Now, I am completely baffled as to the difference in the autographs from the TTM versus the certified issues, but since he personalized it, I’m still pretty sure it’s him and Kelly has just changed his autograph. Maybe he signed it with his nickname? Who knows.
Kameron also probably got a good laugh out of the fact that he was born in Round Rock, Tx and I told him the traffic on I-35 is still terrible. Anyway I dashed this one out the door as soon as I heard he signed during the great AAF deluge after the Alliance collapsed in April of 2019.
Celebrating the game, the players, the cards, and the autographs for over 25 years.