Tag Archives: houston gamblers

Kelly, Jim (2)

Ultimate World League 1992 Official Spokesperson

CARD: Ultimate World League 1992 Promo
ACQUIRED: Ebay, 2022



I mean huge get for me here. The Ultimate World League 1992 Official Spokesperson Jim Kelly autographed card is one of the 2 Holy Grails in this set. (The other being the Lawrence Taylor autographed card.) These autographed cards were one of the prizes given away for spelling W-O-R-L-D via the in pack game scratch off, and only 500 exist. I had seen this card from time to time on Ebay and kicked myself for not buying one a few years ago because it was priced at a premium to my budget. Since the COVID pandemic, a lot of things changed, and also since I haven’t been buying card boxes for a while, these sorts of splurges are a bit more affordable. Furthermore with Jim Kelly’s TTM signing fee being a stiff $50.00, I bought this one immediately when I saw it comparatively at a strong discount.

The front of the card is beautiful. It’s a very simple design that has grown on me over the years. The back of the card is much like the other Ultimate World League insert promos with the WIN $1,000,000 blurb and the contest information. The only major difference on the card being an NFL shield next to Ultimate Trading Card company’s address. -Again still no clue if anybody actually ever won the million bucks.

Sanders, Ricky

Cards: ProSet 1989, Action Packed 1990
Acquired: TTM 2020, C/o Home
Sent: 3/20 Received: 12/14 (269 days)
Failure: TTM 2012, C/o home

Wow! What a rare grab in former USFL and Skins receiver Ricky Sanders! I had most fondly remembered him of course as a member of the Smurfs or the Fun Bunch as he and the WR corps of the Redskins were called at the time. There was also his heroics in Super Bowl XXIII and also in the Tecmo Bowl series where he was elusive and electric as well. Ricky also had some great cards along the way, and I hoped eventually one day I’d get them signed.

A local sports star hailing from Belton, Tx- a straight shot up I-35 halfway between Austin and Waco, Ricky Sanders played collegially at SW Texas State. The Bobcats were located out of San Marcos, Tx- halfway between Austin and San Antonio on I-35. At 5’11”, 182, hailing from a tiny school, Ricky stood ZERO chance of getting on the NFL’s radar, but lucky for Sanders, the USFL was waiting.

He’d sign with the Houston Gamblers in 1984. With a Run N Shoot offense with Jim Kelly at QB, Ricky had an incredible year in his rookie season, posting 101 catches for 1378 yards and 11 TDs, including a career long 77 yard TD. After the USFL folded in 1986, Ricky found himself a home with the Washington Redskins. With the Redskins, he’d pair up with Art Monk and Gary Clark to form one of the most devastating trios in the NFL. Ricky posted back to back 1,000 yard seasons in 1988 and 1989, and scored a career high 12 TD catches as well in 88. Sanders played with the Redskins through 1993, and concluded his career on in 1995 with the Atlanta Falcons.


Kelly, Jim (QB)

sky92 kelly

Cards: Action Packed Rookies 1992, Skybox 1992
Acquired: TTM 2013, C/o Hunter’s Hope Foundation*
Sent: 3/18    Received: 5/13    (56 days)
* $50 donation requested

Great cards and great find! Okay, I really think that $50.00 is way too much to pay for a player’s autograph, but for two, and the fact that it goes to charity, makes it sting a lot less. (I normally draw a hard line at $10 per card.) That was the strategy I took for the former AP quarterback, and after a long wait, it paid off. I really liked both of these releases, especially his SkyBox 1992 card, which is a sports photo masterpiece. His Action Packed is really more of a grab for a set that I like, but still it is of Jim doing something else other than cocking it back and making a throw. Over the years I’ve realized I like the offensive player photography where they are more or less alone in the frame. On defense, it’s typically the moment of impact, a big play, or looking intimidating that does it for me.

So Jim Kelly finished with (a very pedestrian looking by today’s standards) 376/676  for 5228 yards 33 touchdowns to 28 picks in 44 games for the Miami Hurricanes. Kelly led a revival of the U’s program, and coming off his 1981 season everybody expected bigger and brighter things, but instead he ended up having a disastrous shoulder injury 3 games into his senior season. Still he is remembered fondly by the school and was inducted into the Miami Hall of Fame in 1992. He is considered one of the famed ‘QB class of 1983 ‘ that consisted of: Dan Marino, Todd Blackledge, John Elway, Tony Eason, and even guys like Babe Laufenberg, and Gary Kubiak.

aprks92 kellyAt the draft, in 1983, the Bills made the choice on the signal caller, but he opted instead to sign with the rival USFL.  You see, Kelly’s rights were originally held by the Chicago Blitz, but they felt that Kelly should play where ever he wanted, so the USFL could build a stable of star quarterbacks. He went on a whirlwind tour of the league and eventually chose the climate controlled Astrodome in Houston, with head coach Jack Pardee and their groundbreaking offense.

Under Pardee, the team was noteworthy for bringing the Run N Shoot to Pro Football, and Pardee went out and hired Mouse Davis as offensive coordinator to make it happen. The offensive fireworks that the team brought were nothing short of spectacular. In his first full season under center for the Gamblers Kelly threw for 5219 yards on 370 completions to go along with 44 touchdowns, earning rookie and player of the year honors from the USFL. The next year, the Gamblers became the first pro football team to utilize the No Huddle Offense. He had some great receivers too, in the names of: Gerald McNeil, Clarence Verdin, Ricky Sanders, and Richard Johnson. In Jim Kelly’s hot hands, the Gamblers made the playoffs in both years. Unfortunately a shift to a fall schedule before the second season (to compete directly with the NFL) doomed the fledgling league. After the season, the Gamblers were merged with the New Jersey Generals. What would have been was an incredible offense of Jim Kelly and Herschel Walker– but it never came to pass as the league folded.

The NFL held a special supplemental draft, but as Jim’s rights were already held by the Buffalo Bills, he tried to engineer a trade. Eventually, Jim signed with Buffalo in 1986, pressed on by his father who wanted to live a dream of tailgating to his son’s games in Upper NY- a stone’s throw from where they lived. Although Jim lamented the outdoor cold weather of Buffalo, he proved himself wrong, by really turning the team around and becoming the centerpiece to the Bills attack. Kelly quickly became adept at the Bills No Huddle Offense, – nicknamed the ‘K-Gun’. Few teams’ defenses could keep up with the Bills no huddle attack, and by 1988 (with the final addition of Thurman Thomas,) the Buffalo Bills were the premiere team in the AFC. Jim had some awesome weapons in Andre Reed and later also, James Lofton, but among the ones that was overlooked the most was his center- Kent Hull who played with Jim (technically) since Kelly’s days with the Generals. With Jim at the helm the Bills won 4 AFC titles in a row from 1990- 1993, but never won a Super Bowl title. Still Kelly earned a heaping of accolades and All Pro awards until his retirement after the 1996 season. His number has also been retired by the Bills and he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2002. He also dabbled in broadcasting briefly, handling WLAF color commentary for the USA Network back in 1991 and 1992. Combining Jim’s USFL #s with his NFL numbers gives him well over 45,000 career passing yards and 320 passing touchdowns. His number has also been retired by the Bills.

Jim has spent a great deal of his time giving back to the community, as his son tragically passed away from Krabbe Disease, in 2005. He also spends much time working football camps for children in Upper NY and is dedicated to keeping the Bills in Buffalo. You can write him courtesy of Hunter’s Hope Foundation with a donation for his autograph.

USFL    36/36   Att 1154   Comp 730  Yds 9842   Pct 63.3   Td 83   Int 45
NFL/GP  160/160   Att  4779    Comp  2874    Yds 35467    Pct 60.1     Td  237   Int 175   Rat 84.4   |  Rush 304   Yds 1049  Avg 3.5  Td 7   Lg 3.5