Card: Topps Finest 2004
Acquired: Purchase, Beckett.com 2010
A tweener, (6’3″, 260lb,) Jason Babin was drafted in the first round of the 2004 draft by the Houston Texans from Western Michigan to play defensive end and linebacker in the Texans 3-4 front. (The pick came at some fanfare and a major cost. The Texans had to trade back into the first round and paid a king’s ransom to divisional rival Tennessee to get him.) He’d start all 16 games his rookie season, with 63 tackles, 4 pass defensed and 4 sacks, but in 2005 the team decided to make him a situational rusher, so he’d start less, and also play less with 12 games and 4 starts. Babin would pull in another 4 sacks and 2 forced fumbles. In 2006 he’d have 5 sacks, but with a new head coach and general manager who had no ties to him- Jason would see himself traded to the Seattle Seahawks for Michael Boulware in 2007. He’d then become a journeyman from there, playing for the Seahawks, Chiefs and Eagles over the next 3 seasons almost seeing himself out of the league.
In 2010 he signed with the Titans and has rejuvenated his career scoring a career high 12.5 sacks (6th in the NFL). After the Titans beat the Texans in a fairly meaningless game in week 15- the team let him come onto the field to kneel the ball to end the game. Of note, Babin is recognizable for an assortment of tatoos that cover his arms. I bought his card on the cheap off of Beckett when I was attempting to get the autographs of all the Texans’ first round draft choices.
G 82/42 Tac 230 Sac 30 Fum 4 Int 0 Yds -.- Avg -.- Td 0 Lg -.-
Cards: Action Packed 1992, Action Packed Rookies 1991
Acquired: TTM 1993, C/o The San Diego Chargers
John Freisz was drafted by the San Diego Chargers in the 6th round of the 1990 draft. Considered to be the ‘future’ of the franchise- based on his amazing performance at Idaho leading them to an 8-0 record and throwing for over 4,000 yards- the future came sooner than anybody expected when Billy Joe Tolliver left after the season concluded. In 1991 Friesz took over as starting quarterback of the Chargers, starting all 16 games. Allowed to flourish- he threw for 2896 yards and 12 touchdowns as a traditional drop back passer. Friesz would suffer a season ending injury in the 1992 preaseason and would not return until 1993 throwing 6 touchdowns and only 4 interceptions. A new head coach would lead him in a new direction- as John would become a journeyman quarterback, playing in Washington for a season, before a four season stint with Seattle starting in 1995. In 1996, his best year, he’d win 4 starts and lose only 2 putting up a respectable 86.2 quarterback rating. In 1995 he came off the bench for the Seahawks leading the team back from a 20-0 deficit against the Denver Broncos- engineering 3 4th quarter touchdown drives. After his stint in Seattle, Friesz would play two non-discript seasons for the New England Patriots and retire. Friesz was the epitome of the walking wounded. Over his career he broke his thumb, leg, suffered injuries to his knees and separated his non-throwing shoulder. He also spent 15 games of his rookie season on IR, and the whole 1992 season there as well. John was well liked by his teammates. With a workman like attitude and a team player, Friesz rarely if ever complained when salary cap problems, politics and injuries caused him to lose his starting job.
An avid outdoorsman, John especially enjoys fishing and is a certified Scuba diver. John’s last name is pronounced “Freez” and was nicknamed “Deep” by his teammates in college. In 2006, John’s number was retired by Idaho and he became the school’s first inductee into the College Football HoF that year as well. In 2009 he’d also be inducted into the Inland Northwest HoF. He remains active to this day in his community participating in golf tournaments, hosting numerous charities for the Special Olympics and participating in Big Brothers & Big Sisters of America.
G/Gs 69/38 Att 1364 Comp 745 Yds 8699 Pct 54.6% Td 45 Int 42 Rat 72.3
Cards: Topps 1993, Fleer 1995, Topps Finest 1995
Acquired: In Person 1993, Houston Oilers Training Camp, TTM 2010, C/o The Tennesee Titans
Sent: 3/26 Received: 4/6 (11 days)
Another one of these players from Pasadena, Ca, Marcus Robertson played collegiately for Iowa State and was drafted in 1991 by the Houston Oilers in the 4th round. After a quiet rookie season, Robertson would step into the starting role for the Oilers in 1992, playing solidly in the secondary.
On my birthday in 1993 my brother invited me down to Houston where he lived, gave me a Houston Oiler flag, and took me to the Astrodome to watch the Oilers play the Browns. The Oilers that year were having the best season of the team’s history and much of it was due to their ball hawking secondary and Marcus Robertson’s play. After 13 games he lead the NFL with 7 interceptions, but a knee injury would end his season prematurely- ironically during the game I was at. He’d also garner All-Pro honors that season. The Oilers would continue to play well into the playoffs, where they lost in the first round of the playoffs to the Kansas City Chiefs. It would be the last time the team would make the playoffs. I bought the Topps Finest card but was not able to get Marcus’ autograph before the team moved to Tennessee. After another injury plagued 1995, Marcus would again return to form and play for the Oilers and Titans through 2000. He’d play an additional 2 seasons for the Seattle Seahawks and then retire after the 2002 season. Since then Marcus has worked as a coach and in 2010 is with the Titans organization as a defensive backs coach.
These sets of cards really reflect the evolution of quality and style in the 1990s of football cards. The 1993 Topps card is honestly like any other regular Topps branded football card up to this point during the football card war- boring. Realizing that Topps was probably getting killed in the market by other companies the brand by 1995 made a move to foil stamping, high quality photos, the removal of that gum that you could kill a man with, and a variety of other upgrades. The Topps Finest card here is truly among my favorites. Another one of my other pet favorites, after I had left the market completely was the Fleer 1995 cards. Fearlessly branding type across the card and around players that you normally didn’t see, you really got a feel for these cards on an epic scale complimented and framed by excellent photography. I was extremely happy to add these signatures to my collection.
G/Gs 162/144 Tac 638 Sac 1.5 Fum 9 Int 24 Yds 458 Avg 19.1 Td 0 Lg 69