During the summer, a post on FaceBook and Twitter were making the rounds that asked people to list their favorite baseball players they collected. I had so much fun with that list; I figured I would give football a try. Besides, football was probably as big for me as baseball back in the late 80’s. Thanks to Tecmo Super Bowl, I knew every player in the league and most of their stats. There are certain players that I never knew at all outside of TSB but the attributes given to them on the game made me want to collect them. Remember, this was before Sunday Ticket, and even fantasy football so cards, TSB, and Monday Night Football was how I learned about the NFL.
I went into this knowing a little more of what to expect since I completed the baseball list. I wanted this list to be totally dedicated to those players that I started collecting as a kid and still collect today. I have collected these players for over 25 years in most cases. Players come and go but there are certain guys that I still collect even though their playing days are over. I chose to create a list that included the following positions; QB, RB (2), WR (3), TE and DP (4). There is some talent left off of this list just like baseball and I could’ve expanded each position 10 times but I wanted to stay reasonable.
No quarterback epitomizes my youth in collecting like Joe Montana. He’s on the short list of the best ever but there’s also Marino, Elway, Young and Cunningham from those days so it wasn’t a slam dunk. Joe was the first QB I really remember trying to collect and the ’90 Pro Set cards were loaded with him. There was a base, player of the year, passing leader and this subset of Super Bowl cards. This is one of my favorite Montana’s ever from a nostalgic perspective.
Bo Jackson was an easy selection because he’s widely known as one of the greatest athletes ever. Including him on a list of favorites is never groundbreaking or trendsetting. He was the perfect combination of speed and power and was a threat to take it to the house on any carry from any spot on the field. This ’89 Score is one of my favorite football cards of his. That set is legendary because of Aikman, Barry and Deion but Bo was also a stud in the checklist.
For me, the only running back that could ever compare to Bo in his absolute prime was Barry (and Walter Payton). Barry Sanders was the most exciting running back I ever watched play. He made guys spin in circles, lose track of him and fall all over themselves while they were chasing him. Barry is truly one of those players that make you wonder what could have been had he played on a contender and played a full career. My favorite Sanders is this ’89 Topps.
If Montana was my favorite QB then Rice would have to be my favorite WR. His accolades are unreal! Pro HOF, College HOF, 3x SB Champ, SB MVP, 13x Pro Bowl, 6x yards leader, 2x catches leader, 6x touchdown leader, 75th Anniversary All-Time Team, ’80’s All Decade Team and ’90’s All Decade Team. The guy was simply unbelievable on a football field. He still leads all time wide receivers in yards, catches and TD’s. Another ’89 Topps makes an appearance too as this was the first Rice I owned and still one of my favorites.
Here’s a surprise! There’s André Reed, Sterling Sharpe, Cris Carter and others from his era but there’s also all the new guys like Calvin Johnson, AJ Green and Julio Jones. But Tim is in the Pro and College HOF as a 9x Pro Bowler, 90’s All Decade Team Member and Heisman Winner in 1987 at Norte Dame. He was also a great kick and punt returner, a skill I saw first-hand on TSB. I’ve always been a Tim Brown fan and love to add more cards when I can. I have yet another ’89 Topps as a favorite. Any guess as to the first football set I collected?
We finally have our first Falcon and he’s a great one. Rison left the Colts in a deal that would eventually land them Jeff George and there’s no doubt we got the better end of that one. As a Falcon, “Bad Moon” was a Pro-Bowler 4 out of 5 seasons, tied for the TD lead in ’93 and an All Pro selection. He went on to win a Super Bowl in ’96 and a Grey Cup in 2004. Rison had some baggage during his career and was seen by many as high maintenance but I was a fan of the player. His ’90 Pro Set is my favorite card and the Colts version from that same set is a close #2.
Can you say underrated? How many times does this guy pop up on a “One of the Best” lists when Tight Ends are discussed? He’s a Super Bowl Champ, 6x Pro Bowler and a member of the College Hall of Fame. He was one of the massive targets for Randall Cunningham in the late 80’s and was good enough for NFC Rookie of the Year in 1988 as well. He was ranked as the 17th best Tight End of all time by Athlon but I think that’s off a bit. He was such a solid athlete, I moved him from Tight End to Running Back on TSB.
This sackmaster was a soft spoken giant who could get after the quarterback like nobody’s business. He dominated in Philly, Green Bay and in South Georgia on TSB. He also had some great Pro Line cards in the early 90’s. I personally always looked up to Reggie White as a decent and kind man no matter his stats. But his stats were off the charts. I was truly saddened when he passed away at the young age of 43. The ’89 Pro Set was my first Reggie and remains my favorite today.
Thomas is another dominant defensive lineman that seemed soft spoken and kind outside the lines. He was a true legend in the SEC and destroyed sack records at every level. He’s also another player that passed away much too soon, like Reggie. He tallied 126.5 sacks in a shortened career and was inducted into the College and Pro Football Hall of Fame. In 11 seasons, he went to the Pro Bowl 9 times! He was also voted The NFL Man of The Year in 1993. DT was a fun player to collect and I’ve thought more than once about trying to PC him. My favorite is the 1989 Topps Super Rookie pictured above.
Ronnie Lott was the defensive player I emulated in the front yard most often. He was a huge hitter and also racked up 63 career interceptions. He was a warrior, as evidenced by the famous story of him choosing to have his finger amputated to avoid a long recovery and missed time. Lott was a huge part of the 49ers success in the 80’s, winning 4 Super Bowls and going to 10 Pro Bowls. He also led the league in interceptions twice and is on the 80’s and 90’s All Decade Teams. My favorite Lott is this ’90 Pro Set which showcases a photo of Lott after an INT jumping over Cleveland Gary.
No Football Favorites list is complete for me without Deion! He was flashy, showboaty, brash and self absorbed; all the things that are usually turn-off’s for me in an athlete or person in general. But somehow Prime Time remained a favorite of mine. It helped that he was a Falcon and a Brave for a while. I also gave him bonus points for his run in with Tim McCarver in the 1992 Postseason. Deion is also a member of both College and Pro Football Hall of Fames. He scored 2 Super Bowl Rings, 8 Pro Bowls and a defensive player of the year in 1994. He was a tremendous return man and even caught 60 passes over his career. My favorite Deion card is the ’89 Topps above.
2-5/8 x 3-3/4″ 2 mil POLYETHYLENE NO flap.
This is a pretty solid list of the players I loved to pull in my early collecting days. I had to leave some big names out too that would make my second team; Marino, Thurman, Herschel, Okoye, André Reed, Sterling and Shannon Sharpe. There are a lot of defensive players like LT, Mike Singletary, Joey Browner, Jessie Tuggle, Bruce Smith, Howie Long and Darrell Green. But the list had to be true favorites and it’s not always easy choosing those. Who were your favorite football players to collect? Maybe you have a different time frame than I do.
Let me know in the comments!