Bill Polian has a long and storied career as a football executive that spans across 4 leagues: The NFL, CFL, USFL, and the AAF.
After graduating from NYU in 1964, Polian began his careeer as a scout for the Chiefs in 1978. He also spent time with the Blue Bombers and Alouettes in the CFL as well working his way up to Personnel Director. A one year stint in the USFL Chicago Blitz in 1984, led Polian back to the NFL. He’d then begin a long and storied career with the Buffalo Bills later that year as the Pro Personnel Director. He’d help transform the Bills into an NFL powerhouse laying the foundation for the franchise to appear in 3 consecutive Super Bowls. He was released by the team after they lost their 3rd Super Bowl in 92.
A 3 year hiatus saw Polian return to the NFL with a vengeance as GM of the expansion Carolina Panthers. He was able to assemble enough talent that the franchise posted a expansion record 7 wins in 1995, and an even more impressive 12 wins in 1996. After a down year in 97, Bill joined the Indianapolis Colts as General Manager.
His first move was a no brainer: Selecting Peyton Manning with the first overall pick of the 1998 NFL Draft. Later he’d hire Tony Dungy to coach the franchise, and the rest is history. After the reorganization of the divisions in 2002, the Colts would dominate the South- winning 7 divisional titles under his watch. Indianapolis appeared in two Superbowls winning XLI. He’d not be retained after the 2011 season.
In the meantime he began to roll in the accolades, being inducted into the Buffalo Wall of Fame in 2012, the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2015, and the Colts Ring of Honor in 2017.
Bill felt the siren’s lure and resurfaced again in 2018, where he signed up to be Head of Football of the upstart Alliance of American Football, co founding it alongside Charlie Ebersol. The league was able to pull off 8 weeks of football before it collapsed due to financial strain. Bill Polian was greatly disappointed in the failure of the AAF and in chief financial cow Tom Dundon who pulled the plug.
I wrote to Bill after creating a dead on custom of the Topps AAF certified card. Thanks to COVID I had to find a new custom printer. The card quality was outstanding, but I didn’t prep the high gloss card, so the autograph didn’t stick properly to the card. He also signed this Panini HOF card for me as well.
Philip Nelson split his time in college with Minnesota (2012-2013) and East Carolina (2015-2016). His best year was in his Senior year with the Pirates during 2016. Philip threw for 2621 yards and 16 TDs (8 interceptions) completing 237 of 349 throws, for an impressive 67.9 completion percentage. Philip wasn’t selected in the 2017 NFL Draft, but later attended camp with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in the CFL.
Philip was selected in the 3rd round of the Pick or Protect AAF Draft in 2019 by the San Diego Fleet. He’d quickly move up the depth chart behind Mike Bercovici after #1 overall pick Josh Johnson signed with the NFL. Philip was pressed into duty late in the Fleet’s inaugural game against the San Antonio Commanders. He’d then be named starter for Week 2, and lead San Diego to wins in Week 2 (Atlanta) and Week 3 (San Antonio) but during week 4 against the Memphis Express, Philip suffered a season ending shoulder injury. It was a shame as the Fleet had found their groove under Nelson and the offense was really clicking. He’d finish the season completing 45 of 77 passes for 513 yards and 3 TDs to 3 interceptions, while rushing for 82 yards on 16 carries.
The following year Nelson was selected by the Dallas Renegades of the XFL 2020. He’d see action right out of the gate with starter Landry Jones sidelined for the opener. Then after Jones was injured during Week 4 contest against the Roughnecks, Philip came in again- almost rallying the Renegades to victory over the Houston. He’d start the following week against the New York Guardians before COVID ended the XFL season after 5 games. Nelson completed 62 passes for 439 yards and 3 picks, while rushing for 25 yards on 6 carries on the year.
Philip sent me a nice note with his response thanking me for being a fan. He was pumped that The Rock had bought the league, and dropped in two copies of his Topps certified autographs for me to keep!
Shawn Collins was actually a tight end at Northern Arizona where he set the school’s all-time career records for TDs (24) and catches (201). In 1986, he posted 70 catches for 1,016 yards- a school, single season record, and then followed up with 61 receptions in 1987, and 54 in 1988. Scouts decided that Shawn was best suited to play wide receiver before the 1989 draft. He’d be selected near the back end of round one by the Atlanta Falcons.
Shawn had an outstanding rookie season for the Falcons. He led all rookie receivers with 58 catches, and set rookie franchise records, leading the Falcons with 58 catches for 862 yards. An acrobatic receiver who is fearless in traffic, Collins’ 58 receptions were the most by any rookie during the 80s and 16 of his 58 grabs went for 20 yards or more. He’d be an unanimous 1989 NFL All-Rookie selection.
With a sea change at head coach in Jerry Glanville, the Falcons were expected to be very aggressive at WR, but after landing in Jerry’s doghouse, Shawn’s numbers suffered and he finished with 34 catches for 503 yards and 2 TDs in 90, and just 3 catches for 37 yards in 91. He joined Browns in 1992 and caught 3 more passes for Cleveland. Shawn joined the Bucs in 1993, but did not make the roster. He’d later sign with the Packers and was on their roster for 4 additional games.
Shawn then made a comeback with the Frankfurt Galaxy of the newly retooled World League, catching 18 passes for 215 yards and a TD. Returning stateside, he immediately joined the CFL where he played for the Memphis Mad Dogs and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in 1995, posting 29 passes for 536 yards and 2TDs. Shawn played one final year in the Arena Football League for the Iowa Barnstormers catching 5 passes for 52 yards.
Shawn does not sign through the mail at all. I had spied out a signing through Sportscollectors.net at a really fair price, and waited for the event to pop. I was not disappointed and jumped at the chance to have him sign these 5 cards.
Celebrating the game, the players, the cards, and the autographs for over 25 years.