I had been wanting to get a few more Jaguars’ players autographs, and with very few of them who signed I thought I’d loop back and get Keenan, since I’d never gotten him TTM. Since I met him way back in 2012 or 2013 at Houston Fan Fest, I had developed a passing interest in Atomic and Playoff Contenders sets. The die cut gimmick with the large logo really got me, and the autographs look great on it so, it’s slowly become my 2001 favorite.
The Unknown Commodity card from Upper Deck was selected because it’s very much a card that emulated the zeitgeist of the era. Over the top large lettering as the background with an image on top of it. I mean, it’s not bad. Certainly catches the eye, but at the same time, feels dated and makes you smirk a bit.
McCardell has been enjoying a surge through the coaching ranks. After a stop at Maryland as the WR coach, as of 2022 he’s with the Minnesota Vikings in the same capacity.
Alabama’s very own homegrown product played LB two years for the Crimson Tide in 88 and 89.
Highly regarded specimen coming out, finished with 156 solo tackles (216 total), 2 interceptions, 6 sacks, and a fumble recovery over college career.
Selected #4 overall in the 1990 NFL Draft by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Converted to DE in 1991, posting 54 tackles and 5 sacks that year.
Almost duplicated those numbers again in ’92, with 58 tackles and 5 sacks.
Converted back again to LB in ’93, but was cut and later signed by the Houston Oilers.
Used as a hybrid tweener DE/LB by Oilers.
After about a season and a half in Houston, signed with the Cardinals as a free agent during the ’94 campaign.
Recorded first career TD, intercepting a Steve Walsh (CHI) pass and returning it 46 yards.
Played one final season in Arizona, in 95, but not before recovering a fumble for a TD for second career defensive TD.
Loved scuba so much, that after playing career ended, broke barriers by becoming the first black marine conservation officer.
After that was extremely rough. Battled drug addictions, starting with painkillers in playing days, and advancing to more hard stuff after career had ended when those weren’t available.
Battled homelessness, financial destitution and attempted to commit suicide in jail.
Still managed to emerge from trauma, and by 2015 had written a book about his playing time and even started working as an afternoon sports radio personality in Tampa.
Perhaps the direst of set needs, when this autograph of his showed up on EBay alongside a host of other Bucs autos from the same vendor, I didn’t hesitate to pick it up.
Over the years, Keith had some amazing cards. He was there for the big boom, and had some great ones from 1989’s Pro Set entry to Game Day 1992.
Of small note, Keith was one of the more recognizable players on the Oilers, who got into the middle of and broke up the fight between Buddy Ryan and Kevin Gilbride.
One that just got away…
I mean, really what can I say about Keith? Don’t do drugs just somehow rings hollow- like both sarcastically and in a sense that it just doesn’t do enough justice to fix the problem…. You know like, “Thoughts and prayers.” -Especially when it comes to things like painkillers and prescription over the counter drugs.
I wrote to Keith and failed in 2018. Afterwards I was told he was on Facebook, so I reached out and started having conversations over the next few months with him supposedly on Facebook. I sent him an updated Facebook header and then he’d send me chain letter links and scriptures, but beyond that we didn’t get anywhere on autographs. Sometimes he’d initiate conversations. I unfortunately wondered even then if it was just a byproduct of a bender or something he was struggling with. Strangely it abruptly stopped right after I announced my father’s passing, however I wonder if that was just coincidental.
I was happy to know later that he was doing better, and had recently, with the help of a good samaritan, gotten his hip successfully replaced.
Unfortunately those demons of drug abuse again came to roost. Maybe he was a functioning addict. Who knows when or where it all started up again or if he was truly clean for the umpteenth time? All of that doesn’t matter.
All those dreams… All those memories…
He died of a drug overdose on September 2nd, 2021. -He was just 53.
Compiled 6.5 tackles, 1 sack, in 6 starts for Atlanta.
Played in 3 games for the Washington Defenders in 2020.
Had 4.5 tackles, and 1.5 sacks.
Signed with the Calgary Stampeders in early 2021, retiring later in the year.
My buddy Seth, a diehard Washington XFL team fan, had me send a stack of cards to him, that he was more than happy to get signed for me. A great card, Tavaris was one of the many players who gathered around and was excited to apparently sign his card for Seth during the fan meet and greet. He even took the time to inscribe ‘GO TIGERS!’, on it in gold.
Celebrating the game, the players, the cards, and the autographs for over 25 years.