Tag Archives: TNT Greats 2013

Berry, Raymond

tnt14ss berryCards: TNT Signature Select 2013, Upper Deck Legends 1997, ProSet 1989, Photo Memorabilia, Testimonial Card.
Acquired: TTM 2014, C/o home
Sent: 1/2/2014   Received: 2/3/2015  (390 days)

Raymond Berry was the first person I sent out for in 2014. I had hoped he would be the first success, because of his impecable return rate. Well, 390 days and 67 returns later, I finally got the Hall of Famer on these cards- and I must say it was completely worth the wait. I’m sure that I was on the bottom of the mail bag that he was going through, as others were cashing in those successes earlier than I was. It was extremely touching because not only did he throw in a testimonial card and a signed photo, he also wrote me an incredibly kind one page letter, thanking me for the additional custom card I gave him, and telling me how much he appreciates fans like myself. His response is probably one of my favorite ever from an NFLer, little less a Hall of Famer!

hof berryRaymond Berry was a long shot to make the Colts.  Back in 1954 when Ray was drafted, the NFL draft itself went 30 rounds deep. When he was taken in the 20th round out of SMU, teams probably recognized his heart for the game more than his uncanny route running skills and soft hands.  His rookie season was typical of many of that era with 13 receptions for 205 yards in 1955, as he began to build a rapport with future HoF Colts quarterback Johnny Unitas.  Berry quickly established himself as a starter that next year, and in 1957 led the league with 800 yards receiving.  He’d lead the NFL the next 3 seasons in catches with 56, 66, and 74 receptions- respectively.  In 1959, Berry had a career high 14 TD receptions, and followed that up with career marks in receiving yards 1,298  in 1960, averaging an astounding 108.2 yards per game.  In 1961, Ray had a career high 75 receptions en route to his 4th of 6th career Pro Bowl honors.

udldg97 berryAlthough Ray never quite saw the same titanic numbers that he enjoyed the remainder of his career,  he continued to post healthy numbers up through his final year in 1967. Over a span of 13 years in the league, Berry averaged below 50 yards a game in only 3 seasons.  Whether it was the skill of the quarterback or a combination of Ray’s precise route running and soft hands- Berry only dropped 2 passes, and fumbled once, in 631 targets over his career.  At the time of Ray’s retirement, he was the NFL’s greatest receiver as his receptions and yardage ranked first in NFL history. He also holds the record for the most receptions in an NFL championship game with 12 in 1958.

pset89 berryRay stayed in football and went into coaching, eventually joining the New England Patriots staff as a positional coach during the late ’70s.  He’d leave after the firing of then head coach Chuck Fairbanks, but return in 1984 replacing Ron Meyer as head coach, immediately reversing the fortunes of the team. It was said that just Berry’s presence changed the attitude of the team, and they responded with an improbable Super Bowl run in 1985, marking only the second team to make it to the Super Bowl from a Wild Card slot.  The only problem was that the Patriots ran into the historic Chicago Bears defense. The Patriots got buzzsawed 46-10.  They’d get to the playoffs again in 1986, but not return to the post season after that. An in-house squabble over personnel matters resulted in Berry resigning after the 1989 season.

Berry didn’t return to coaching after that. He retired to Tennesee where he still lives today and for a while was a spokesman for a national insurance corporation.  What Berry is not known for is being a visionary. Berry recognized a need to teach a generation about how to play wide receiver. He was able to get the archives of many of his game films at the time when he retired, and cobbled them together into an instructional video -An incredible rarity from that era.  A few lucky fans over the years have been able to get a copy of it that has now gone as far as DVD from what I’ve been told.

Raymond earned many accolades post retirement. He is the 40th Greatest Player in NFL history and was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame in 1973.  A member of both the 50th and 75th Anniversiary NFL teams, Berry had his number retired at the time, by the then Baltimore Colts.

G  154       Rec 631    Yds  9,275      Avg  14.7    Td  68        Lg  70
W  48    L  39     Pct  .552

mem berry

Williams, Ricky “Little Earl” (3)

adr11 rwilliamspoff01 rwilliamssco09 R williamsSP99 R Williams
Cards: Score 2009, Upper Deck 2006, SP 1999, Adrenalyn 2009, Playoff Contenders 2001, Power Deck 2006.
Acquired: 2/6/13, IP Legends Luncheon, 11/17/13 – GMC Texas Tour.
See Also: Ricky WilliamsRicky Williams (2)

Just when I thought I was going to write a post about how I’m running out of things to say about Ricky, he has a luncheon where he agrees to do an honest question and answer session with all the fans in the lunchroom audience. He discussed his foundation work (Ricky Williams Foundation), and a wide range of topics covering his life growing up as a latchkey kid. Ricky was very forthcoming about his travels, and that he had actually contemplated retirement as early as his second year in the NFL. Ultimately Williams made the decision in his last season in Baltimore to retire, after a brief conversation with Bill Parcells.

Ricky enjoyed playing the game because it was a game to him. It was fun. He talked about the growing problem of players confusing sportsmanship with competitiveness.  Williams also talked about how he was even keel when the team won or when the team lost. He really just didn’t let it get to him, and this made him sometimes
appear weird to his teammates.

UD09  R williamsWhen I got up to him he signed all three of my cards. At this point, he recognizes me when I come up, and I gave him his Starting Lineup figure as a humorous gift- which I think he got a kick out of. I asked him jokingly if he had ever used the deer antler spray, and he very candidly told me his answer… He clarified that the greater issue is that at some point we are talking about substances that people put in their body, much of it naturally that is already used or ingested in other cultures. He really didn’t tell me firmly if it worked, however Ricky pointed out the greatest problem that the NFL faces in drug testing is the use of HGH (Human Growth Hormone), and that the problem is rampant, since the league’s testing isn’t able to completely sniff it out.

ud98pd rwilliamsRicky lives in Austin and I pretty much stop whatever I am doing to go to his events. I heard about this event on 1300 The Zone (The Longhorn Station), about a week before and decided to take a crack at the event. I had previously met Ricky on two other occasions, and he had signed a total of 4 cards between the events for me. Still there seems to be a never ending supply of cards or items I’d love to get the former Heisman winner to sign for my collection including these gems. I very much enjoy his refreshing, incredibly intelligent, and unique view on the world and always look forward to the events he speaks at. If there was ever a player that I’d refer to as a shaman, I’d pretty much put Ricky in that category.

rickyagainIn November, Ricky once again appeared, this time at the GMC Texas Tour. I stocked up on autograph vouchers and then camped out in line. After asserting my spot as the first person in line over poachers who hovered near the gate or put their gear down and walked off, I waited patiently for Ricky to arrive. Williams had signed to work with Coach Larry Kennan at Incarnate Word out of San Antonio as a runningback coach, and he came in wearing their colors. As the only fan that recognized him, Ricky thought he was going to get away with his stunt, but I caught him when he walked by. When they finally opened up the queue for autographs we were limited to just one per person, so I walked up and got my autograph and just talked to Ricky about his experience at IW.  It was a rough start when I asked him to sign with the bronze colored marker, but because his face frowned, I immediately backpedaled and said that I’d be happy with whatever marker he’d like. His face lit up then when we talked about the WLAF and Kennan’s days with the Monarchs, but before you knew it, a handler came over and shooed me off. I then told Ricky I’d return and when I got to the front of the line, he’d know he had gone through the whole line at least once. I waited patiently and returned to the front. The pretty line keeper  (who comped me a Roy Williams autographed photo) helped me pass the time for a few minutes, and before I knew it, I was back at the table talking to Ricky. He enjoyed talking to me so much, he volunteered and literally grabbed my cards and signed all the extras I had with me before I left the table. He told me about Kennan’s coaching style and we joked about what the “Hook ‘Em” sign would be for Incarnate Word.

tnt13g  rwilliamsAgain, like Priest Holmes, I created a custom card for Ricky based on the ‘Long Tom’ design of the GameDay cards more recently of the 90s. I was really happy with the results, but continue to struggle with the paper thickness as 20lb is not a universal weight. Still the ink absorbed well into the card and it does look legitimate enough that he did take pause to look impressively at it.

At the time of Ricky’s retirement he was the 26th member of the 10,000 yard club. While occasional rumblings talk about inducting him into the Pro Football HoF, his legacy will need to be redefined elsewhere, as old timers will look at Ricky’s rampant disregard of NFL policies as blemishes on his career. Also with guys like Ottis Anderson (slightly more yards and an MVP honor) still waiting in line, Williams getting in would be seen as a major coup. In the meantime Ricky is finding a new life in football coaching runningbacks for Incarnate Word and dabbling in recruiting.