The Raleigh-Durham Skyhawks were one of the ten founding members of the WLAF in 1991. Owned by Carolina sports enthusiast George Shinn, the team boasted former LA Rams quarterback Roman Gabriel initially as GM, -who would later go on to become head coach of the franchise. Johnny Walton who was best known as a quarterback in the WFL of the 1970s, and HC of the Boston Breakers of the USFL during the 1980s, would be the offensive coordinator. Doug Kay was named the defensive coordinator of the Skyhawks and future CFL GM Jim Popp served on the staff as well. The Skyhawks name was decided upon in a fan poll through the local newspaper over the Cobras. Things seemed optimistic enough for the young franchise. Carter-Finley Stadium was to serve as the backdrop to the team’s future and it boasted a reasonable seating capacity of some 50,000 at the time.
Their marquee players were to be NC product Mark Maye at quarterback, linebacker Shawn Woodson, and defensive end Jon Carter. Paul Wulff- future Washington State head coach, played center for the franchise. The team opened its first game on USA Network at Sacramento where Raleigh-Durham would go on to lose its first contest 9-3. Unfortunately almost right out of the gate, the team lost promising QB Mark Maye to injury for the season. Joe Pizzo stepped in at quarterback for the team and guided them until Bobby McAllister supplanted him in the lineup due to ineffectiveness. Woefully none of the quarterbacks would finish with over a 55 quarterback rating, highlighting the team’s issue at the position. The team got walloped by the Orlando Thunder 58-20 in week 2. (The 58 points stood as a league record.) By the time the team played their first home game- in week 3, fans were clearly discouraged, but nonetheless a season high 17,000 showed up for the Skyhawks. They’d play a close game to the Frankfurt Galaxy 30-28, but that is as close as the franchise ever got to winning. One could point to the running game as well. With the Skyhawks playing from behind or getting little penetration on the line, the team’s leading rusher was Darryl McGill with 187 yards. The team finished with a woeful 748 yards and 7 touchdowns on the ground. Receiving was the bright spot for the franchise. Marvin Hargrove finished as the team’s leading receiver with 38 catches and former Duke star Clarkston Hines had 614 yards.
The defense had its share of issues, but boasted Quentin Riggs as the team’s leading sacker with 4. Jon Carter, Shawn Woodson, and Ezekial Gadson would all tie with 3 a piece. In the secondary, Peda Samuel chipped in 3 picks, but the true black hole back in the secondary was Pat McGuirk. McGuirk finished with 6 interceptions- good for 3rd in the league, but as an ultimate slap to the franchise, he wouldn’t be nominated for the All World Team at season’s end. Near the end of the 1991 season only a paltry 4,200 showed up to see rematch between R-D and Orlando. The writing was on the wall for the 0-10 franchise, and the Skyhawks would be disbanded.
Players were reallocated to the draft pool for the next upcoming season, and the Ohio Glory would replace them in the WLAF for 1992. Although Carolina proved to be a disastrous venture for the league attendance wise, surprisingly the market grabbed the expansion Carolina Panthers in 1995 where it has enjoyed NFL football ever since. Since the Skyhawks were only in existence for one season, only ProSet made cards for the franchise.
At this time I am still missing autographs on these cards from:
ProSet WLAF 1991: Darryl McGill & Marvin Hargrove.
Promotional Commerical for the RD Skyhawks tickets: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7sd9AcPr2JU&list=UUwErpZzjTR1EgdyLR3GDkMA&index=8&feature=plcp