Baseball used to be America’s sport. It looks like the NFL has taken over that accolade. It seems like everything the NFL touches turns to gold. This was the case when they took a gamble and decided to make the NFL draft into a prime time event by showing the first three rounds on three consecutive days. It was a ratings success: 45 million fans tuned in, 16 percent more than the previous year. It beat out several of today’s leading TV shows. This illustrates just how far football has come in America.
Fortunately, I have received several autographs of this year’s draft class through the mail. Now would be a great time to mail out a request to the player’s new team address, though it may even be too late for some of the marquee players.
Considered a possible top-10 pick in this year’s draft, Notre Dame’s Jimmy Clausen didn’t hear his name called until Day 2 when the Carolina Panthers selected his with the 48th overall pick. Both quarterbacks Sam Bradford and Tim Tebow were taken ahead of him in the first round. Clausen was signing in care of Notre Dame early last year and he signed a photo in a few months. Bradford and Tebow have been impossible through the mail for years, and I’m guessing that won’t improve now that they’re in the NFL.
I received the surprise of a lifetime of collecting last month. My boys and I mailed an Oklahoma mini-helmet to former Heisman trophy winner Billy Sims. I had purchased a lot of mini-helmets a while back and an Oklahoma University helmet was part of the deal. We mailed it out with several cards and told Sims to keep whatever cards he wanted.
When I arrived home from work my boys said that we had received the helmet back and there were multiple signatures on it. I took one look at the helmet and realized that it was not only signed by Sims, but he must have taken it to a show and had it signed by the three other living Oklahoma Heisman winners, including this year’s No. 1 draft pick Sam Bradford. To think that he would have went out of his way to send this to us free of charge is just awesome. In addition he sent each of my sons a signed card from his restaurant “Billy Sims Barbecue.” He also signed all five of our cards. So in unlikely fashion, we now have one more autograph of this year’s draft class.
The other two Heisman winners to sign the helmet were Steve Owens (1969) and Jason White (2003). The fifth Heisman winner from Oklahoma is Billy Vessels who passed away in 2001. This ranks up there with the best through-the-mail response ever.
Bradford won the Heisman as a sophomore at Oklahoma. Last year, he separated his shoulder and was out for the season. If mini camp is any indication, his shoulder looks fine. He should be starting for the St. Louis Rams this season and the Rams are hoping he is their franchise quarterback.
Texas Longhorns quarterback Colt McCoy was drafted by the Cleveland Browns and was always a solid signer in college. He would usually add his schools “Hook ’Em” to his signature. He is set to compete for the starting role for the Browns this year.
Drop the Puck
Lord Stanley takes center ice this time of the year, and the NHL hopes that an exciting Stanley Cup Playoffs will follow in the footsteps of the Olympic tournament success. I went to Game 1 of the Sabres/Boston series in Buffalo and it was crazy. There were more than 6,000 fans watching the game outside on a Jumbotron. The fans were having just as much fun as the ticketed fans inside. The Sabres won that night in dramatic fashion but unfortunately were not up to the task in the series and left me almost as disappointed as when Canada won Gold.
One of Boston’s biggest characters is 6-9 captain Zdeno Charra. The tallest player to ever suit it up in the NHL also has the NHL’s hardest slapshot. Clocked at 105.4 mph in the NHL’S All Star Skills Competition, Charra is one of the most intimidating players on the ice. Charra signed earlier this year from the Bruins’ team address.
I also received two autographs from two of the Philadelphia Flyer’s finest, Mike Richards, and former Sabre Daniel Briere. Richards has been living up to his $70-million contract by netting a point or more in five of the first seven postseason games this season. He’s only 25 and looks to be coming into his own. Briere’s $52 million contract is also nothing to sneeze at, and he is producing for the Flyers as well. He has always been a great signer throughout his career.
I also received a signature of one of the legends this month. Two-time Stanley Cup champion and Hall of Famer Phil Esposito returned a picture I sent him, signing his stylish signature in gold paint pen. I was ecstatic to add one of the game’s best all time players to my collection. The Hockey News ranked him 18 in the Top 100 Greatest Hockey Players of all time.