Tag Archives: topps xfl 2020

Gardner, Ja’Quan

Cards: Topps AAF 2019, Topps AAF NOW 2.17.19, Topps AAF NOW 2.24.19, Topps AAF 2019 Certified
Acquired: TTM 2019 & 2020, C/o Home.
Sent: 8/8/19 Received: 8/26/19 (18 days)
Sent: 6/29/20 Received: 8/24/20 (56 days)

Ja’Quan Gardner played runningback for Humboldt State University from 2014 to 2017. While playing for the Lumberjacks he compiled some truly impressive numbers. During his Sophomore run, Gardner had 2266 rushing yards on 337 carries and 25 TDs. He finished his career for the Jacks with 880 carries, 5,495 yards, and 72 TDs, Ja’Quan was also a talented receiver out of the backfield managing 81 career receptions for 767 yards and 4 TDs.

Gardner, despite his numbers did not receive a call to attend the NFL combine or get drafted in 2018. A sparkplug- at 5’6″- teams probably shied from his size and small school stature. He received a tryout call for the San Fransisco 49ers- but after working out, didn’t hear back from them. Still Ja’Quan stayed in playing shape and waited for his chance.

Three months later he received the call from the 49ers, but he thought that his agent was joking with him. The 49ers though were aching at runningback with Matt Brieda, Jerick McKinnon, and Joe Williams all being bit by the injury bug entering the team’s final preseason contest. More of an insurance policy for the team than anything else, Gardner spent all of 3 days on the roster before being waived.

Ja’Quan was allocated to the San Diego Fleet of the AAF in 2019. Gardner came recommended by a Chargers scout to head coach Mike Martz, so despite not really knowing who he was, the coaching staff decided to take a stab at him. Runningbacks in Mike Martz’s systems tend to be do-it-all backs- and Gardner took the lead role.

During his debut against the San Antonio Commanders, Gardner rushed 8 times for 55 yards, but the Fleet were thankfully more interested in passing the ball- than rushing the ball. Ja’Quan was fast once he hit the hole. His size and gameplay speed were quite deceptive.

“He can change direction and he has good hands. He’s very patient and if the hole’s there — boom, he’s gone.”

– DAVE BOLLIER
SAN DIEGO FLEET

Ja’Quan came back the next weekend and ran all over the Atlanta Legends. He’d carry the load for the Fleet rushing for 104 yards and on 15 carries. His 2 rushing TDs were both scored in the 4th quarter and were the first of the season on the ground for the franchise. Gardner was also the second player in the history of the league to record a 100 yard effort- only behind Zac Stacy who had beaten him to the punch only by a few hours.

In Week 3, Gardner powered the Fleet to a dominating victory over their rival San Antonio Commanders in San Diego, 31-11. During the 3rd quarter, Ja’Quan took a hand-off up the middle and dashed a record 83 yards to pay dirt. He also finished with 122 yards on 12 carries, which also stood as a league record- and he became the first player in league history to rush for 100 yards in back to back games.

“His run reads are impeccable. He sees things so well.”
– MIKE MARTZ
HEAD COACH

Teams began to gameplan against Gardner, and with injuries slowly taking their toll, he didn’t see the same measure of success the rest of the season. Still Ja’Quan finished 8th in the league in rushing with 311 yards in 7 games. Gardner wanted to get a shot with another NFL team, so he needed to rehab a shoulder injury. Shortly before Week 8, he’d be placed on IR. -Soon thereafter the league folded.

I love me some runningbacks and Gardner, despite gashing my team for 122 yards, was one of my favorites. I have been collaborating with Mark from Mark’s Signing Bonus. I had seen the address for Gardner after internet snooping only a day or two before he messaged me to tell me that he had luck with Ja’Quan. I excitedly put together the Topps Now cards and his base and sent them out. He not only responded- Gardner wrote a touching note thanking me for being a fan and supporting him.

I thought Gardner would make a nice fit for the XFL- perhaps the Houston Roughnecks where they went full Run N Shoot, but alas the Seattle Dragons nabbed him, Kenneth Farrow, AND Trey Williams. Ja’Quan in 5 games finished with 35 carries for 127 yards and a 13 yard long before the league shut down due to COVID concerns after the 5th game.

Ja’Quan wrote me another nice note thanking me for being a fan and writing him again. I hope he returns to the XFL again and keeps chasing his football dreams.

Gilbride, Kevin

Card: Topps XFL 2020
Acquired: TTM 2020, C/o Home. Box Break 2020
Sent: 5/24 Received: 5/30 (6 days)

Kevin has been a career coach, since earning his Master’s in physical education from Idaho State. He joined the staff there at the school in 1974 and then embarked on a whirlwind of collegiate stops at Tufts (1976-77), and American International (1978-79). In 1980, Kevin returned to his Alma Mater Southern Connecticut State where he earned his first head coaching gig. There he posted a 35-14-2 record coaching the Owls through 1984. In 1985, Kevin joined the CFL Ottawa Rough Riders as an assistant coach.

Gilbride returned to the college ranks in 1987 as he continued to hone his skills as an offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. He then joined the Houston Oilers in 1989 as the quarterbacks coach working with Warren Moon, as the Oilers converted over to Run ‘N Shoot full time. In 1990 he became the team’s offensive coordinator- a position he held through 1994.

It’d be in 1993, that Buddy Ryan joined the Oilers staff. A divisive defensive coordinator, Buddy and Kevin did not see eye to eye philosophically, and head coach Jack Pardee was laissez faire managing their relationship. Things came to a boil finally on a Sunday Night contest against the New York Jets during the season finale- and after the defense was forced to come back onto the field late in the first half, Buddy went up and slugged Kevin. A host of players had to separate the two to keep them from going at it on the sidelines.

Kevin Gilbride will be selling insurance in two years.

– Buddy Ryan

Still despite this Kevin has always been a magnanimous professional about the situation. It’s unfortunate that most fans remember Gilbride for this incident, instead of his prolific offenses and quarterback whispering.

After the collapse of the Oilers in 1994, Kevin was not retained. He joined the expansion Jacksonville Jaguars as their offensive coordinator the following year, and was with the team through the 96 season. After the Jaguars had a prolific season that year, Kevin was scooped up by the San Diego Chargers to be their head coach. He was with the team for less than 2 seasons, and after a poor showing to kick off 1998, he was let go. He finished 6-16 during his brief time as head coach. Kevin spent the next two years as the offensive coordinator of the Steelers, and then in 2001 as an analyst for ESPN. 2002 and 2003 saw him step into the OC chair for the Bills, before Kevin went on to coach for the New York Giants in 2004.

Reunited with Tom Coughlin from Jacksonville, Kevin worked with Eli Manning as the quarterbacks coach through 2005, before returning to the offensive coordinator mantle. During this period, the Giants won two Super Bowl titles under his guidance (- the same amount that Buddy Ryan won). In 2014 Kevin retired.

It’d be after a nearly 5 year hiatus, Kevin was hired by the XFL, that was rebooting for 2020. Kevin was named as head coach of the New York Guardians. He’d draft Matt McGloin to be his quarterback, and trade for Luis Perez. Despite suffering through a quarterback meltdown, and the team losing 2 straight contests, the Guardians rebounded to a 3-2 record. It was a shame that the league ended at the time it did as the franchise was on the upswing and was in a dead heat for first place.

Killer response from Kevin, who not only signed his card, but also graciously included a copy of a Run ‘N Shoot play from back in the days of the Houston Oilers! (I’ve asked coaches on occasion for a play, but have never gotten a response up until this point.) I just wish he had identified the play I was looking at. Later an offensive quality control specialist identified it as being called ‘Choice’- but whether or not Kevin calls it this or not is unknown.

When I was a kid, I remembered going to Oilers training camp while Kevin was there. He came over to sign autographs and he overheard me talking about Eric Metcalf and told me he’d be excited to have Eric play for him.

Kevin’s head coaching career has been brief, and by the time he was, the chief maker of coach cards- ProSet was out of business, so nobody up to this point, had ever made a card of him. I was very excited when I saw that he was in the XFL 2020 set, and decided it was a priority to try to get his autograph on this card.

Smith, Derron

Card: Topps AAF Now 2019, Panini Prism 2015, Crown Royale 2015, Sage 2015, Score 2015, Topps XFL 2019,
Acquired: IP 2019, SA Commanders Team Signing Dick’s Sporting Goods at The Rim.
Ebay, 2020
TTM 2020, C/o Home
Sent: 7/13 Received: 7/24 (11 days)
Failure: TTM 2019, C/o The Minnesota Vikings

An all-star at Fresno State, Derron was named first team All WAC three times while playing for the Bulldogs. He pulled down 7 interceptions and 4 sacks in 2013, and 7 pass breakups and 80 tackles in 2014. Derron’s 15 career interceptions tied him for 5th on the school charts. A perfect storm emerged however with a hernia injury, (that caused Derron to miss the Senior Bowl and the combine,) and a bad pro day, which caused his draft day stock to drop. Scouts however, loved his ability to keep his eyes focused on the ball and the action in front of him, as well as his man cover skills.

Derron was selected in the 6th round in the 2015 NFL Draft by the Cincinnati Bengals. He’d spend the next two seasons there, eventually landing on their practice squad in 2017, where he was signed off the Bengals by the Cleveland Browns. Over that period he got some game time experience posting 16 total tackles, a fumble recovery, and a pass deflection. Cut by the Browns in 2018, Derron kept in football shape, prepping for his next shot.

In late 2018, Derron got his next shot- An invitation to play for the new Alliance of American Football. He’d be traded by the Fleet to the San Antonio Commanders in December for Damontre Moore. The Commanders were already steeped in defensive secondary talent, and looking to add depth at safety alongside guys like Orion Stewart and Kurtis Drummond. Derron would also be coached in the secondary by longtime NFL veteran and ballhawk Bill Bradley.

“He’s quiet in the DB room, but he’s the one guy that the guys look to. He’s kind of the calming factor in a very raucous bunch of defensive backs on our team.”

– Commanders GM Daryl Johnston

Derron made a lot of noise near the end of camp, and actually didn’t even start until Week 3 of the 2019 AAF season against the Iron. From there on however, he was lights out.

Derron in Week 4 earned AAF Defensive Player of the Week Honors, when he single-handedly demolished the Arizona Hotshots. He’d pick off a John Wolford pass and race 66 yards the other direction for a TD to open up the scoring. Then later in the game, he’d pick off Wolford again as the Hotshots tried to claw their way back into the contest. The following week against the Legends, he stepped in front of an errant Aaron Murray pass late in the game, and took that pass 87 yards to paydirt.

On the season Derron finished with 22 solo stops, 11 combined tackles, 8 pass deflections, and 3 interceptions for 153 yards and 2 TDs. Although the league ceased operations after 8 contests, Smith was posthumously named the AAF Defensive Player of the Year by Pro Football Focus for his outstanding play.

“On 309 snaps in coverage, Smith led the league at any position on defense with his 93.2 coverage grade as he intercepted three passes and broke up another five. He stuck his head in on 37 total tackles and missed just three while his eight defensive stops were a top-10 figure among safeties. His prowess in the secondary for the Commanders make him a legitimate candidate to potentially land a spot in the NFL this next season.”

-Pro Football Focus (on naming Smith the AAF Defender of the Year)

Derron was snatched up by the XFL later that year, after spending training camp with the Minnesota Vikings. He’d be the first defender taken off the board by his former GM Daryl Johnston, who was now working with the Dallas Renegades.

In 5 games with Dallas, Derron had 15 tackles, and an interception before the XFL 2020 folded due to COVID concerns.

I had a giant stack of cards of Derron I wanted to get signed and with his amazing game against the Hotshots and Legends, he zoomed near the top of my favorite Commanders defensive players. I got most of these autographs in person at an event at The Rim, before Week 7. Annoyingly the Topps AAF Now card arrived the next week in the mail so I had the stress of firing out this $10.00 card out into the wind and hoping it came back.

So you’re probably wondering, “How’d you track down Derron?” Easy. I cross referenced his bio to Twitter and found where he was at attached to his profile. From there I used Advanced Background Checks- and he popped right up.

Derron replied in about 10 days, signing both his XFL and AAF Now cards and wrote me a nice note, thanking me for being a fan. I was pumped.