April 26, 2015

1972: Vikings Obtain Gilliam & Draft Picks from Cards for Cuozzo


On April 26, 1972 the Minnesota Vikings traded discontented QB Gary Cuozzo to the St. Louis Cardinals for WR John Gilliam and two draft choices, which were second and fourth picks for 1973.

The 31-year-old Cuozzo had played out his option and was due to become a free agent on May 1 and had demanded a trade. After being the primary starter in 1970, he had split time with Norm Snead, who was obtained from Philadelphia with the hope that he might supplant Cuozzo, and Bob Lee in ’71. While Snead was traded to the Giants three months earlier, it was as part of the deal that brought QB Fran Tarkenton back to Minnesota – a clear indication that Cuozzo was not part of the team’s plans.

Undrafted out of Virginia in 1963, Cuozzo had originally been a backup to Johnny Unitas for four seasons with the Colts. While he didn’t see much action, he had a five-touchdown passing performance against the Vikings in 1965 that drew a great deal of favorable attention and the New Orleans Saints traded a first-round draft pick for him in ’67. Cuozzo was unable to hold onto the starting job with the first-year team and was dealt to Minnesota the following year, this time for two first-round picks. He couldn’t unseat starting QB Joe Kapp, finally taking over when the fiery Kapp left the club after the 1969 season. Smart (he was Phi Beta Kappa in college) and an accurate passer, he lacked arm strength and was not nearly the leader that his predecessor in Minnesota was.  Overall with the Vikings, Cuozzo completed 49.6 percent of his passes for 3552 yards and 18 touchdowns, giving up 23 interceptions. And while the club was 16-5 during his regular season starts, it had not been able to win in the postseason.

Head Coach Bob Hollway of the Cardinals indicated that Cuozzo would be the starting quarterback, ahead of Jim Hart and Pete Beathard, who both had trouble with consistency. St. Louis was coming off of a 4-9-1 record in 1971, which marked a big drop from the previous year, and quarterback was an area of concern.

John Gilliam (pictured at top) was 26 and was a teammate of Cuozzo’s with the Saints in 1967, who had drafted him in the second round. He scored the first regular season touchdown in franchise history on the opening kickoff of the ’67 season, but the remainder of his tenure with the club was unremarkable and he was obtained by the Cards in 1969. With his great speed in a better offense, he broke out in St. Louis, catching 52 passes for 997 yards (19.2 avg.) and nine TDs in his first year with the club. Gilliam followed up with 45 receptions for 952 yards (21.1 avg.) and five touchdowns in ’70 and was coming off of a 1971 season with 42 catches for 837 yards (19.9 avg.). He led the team in receiving yards in each of his three seasons and in receptions in the last two. With WR Bob Grim having been traded to the Giants along with Snead, a spot was open in the Minnesota lineup for Gilliam.



Cuozzo (pictured above) proved to not be the answer in St. Louis. He started six games, only one of which resulted in a win for the Cards, while splitting time with Hart and unheralded Tim Van Galder (Pete Beathard was traded to the Rams during the preseason). He completed just 43.7 percent of his passes for 897 yards and five touchdowns while giving up 11 interceptions. It marked the end of the line for his pro career as he retired to practice dentistry.

Gilliam had much more success in Minnesota. He caught 47 passes for 1035 yards (22.0 avg.) and seven touchdowns and earned the first of four straight Pro Bowl selections, matching his number of seasons with the Vikings (he jumped to the Chicago Winds of the WFL in 1975, but when the team folded at the end of August after five games he returned to Minnesota in time for the regular season). He had a total of 165 catches for 3297 yards (20.0 avg.) and 27 TDs for the Vikings and added another 14 receptions for 261 yards (18.6 avg.) and five scores in the postseason. Gilliam moved on to the Atlanta Falcons in ’76, where his production dropped off significantly in his next-to-last year.

The 1973 second round draft choice that Minnesota also obtained was used to take Jackie Wallace, a defensive back from Arizona, while the fourth round pick was passed on to Kansas City (who used it to take Emporia State DE John Lohmeyer). Wallace started at cornerback in place of the injured Bobby Bryant and also returned kicks before moving on to the Colts, who shifted him to safety for two years, and eventually the Rams, where he led the league with 52 punt returns for 618 yards in 1978.

April 25, 2015

Highlighted Year: Ken Easley, 1983

Safety, Seattle Seahawks



Age: 24
3rd season in pro football & with Seahawks
College: UCLA
Height: 6’3”   Weight: 205

Prelude:
Highly regarded after an outstanding college career, Easley was taken by the Seahawks in the first round (fourth overall) of the 1981 NFL draft. He immediately moved into the starting lineup at strong safety and was selected to the Pro Bowl in 1982. In his first two years, he intercepted seven passes as he demonstrated excellent ball-hawking skills to go along with his solid tackling.

1983 Season Summary
Appeared in all 16 games
[Bracketed numbers indicate league rank in Top 20]

Interceptions – 7 [6, tied with eight others]
Most interceptions, game – 1 on seven occasions
Int. return yards – 106 [13]
Most int. return yards, game – 48 (on 1 int.) vs. Dallas 12/4
Int. TDs – 0
Sacks – 3
Most sacks, game – 1 at Cleveland 10/2, at LA Raiders 10/30, at Denver 11/20
Fumble recoveries – 3

Punt Returns
Returns – 1
Yards – 6
TDs – 0

Postseason: 3 G
Sacks – 1
Interceptions – 0
TDs – 0

Awards & Honors:
1st team All-NFL: AP, PFWA, NEA, Pro Football Weekly
1st team All-AFC: UPI, Pro Football Weekly
Pro Bowl

Seahawks went 9-7 to finish second in the AFC West and qualify for the postseason as a Wild Card entry. Won AFC Wild Card playoff over Denver Broncos (31-7) and AFC Divisional playoff over Miami Dolphins (27-20). Lost AFC Championship to Los Angeles Raiders (30-14).

Aftermath:
Easley followed up with a 1984 season in which he led the league with 10 interceptions, two of which were returned for touchdowns, and he was named NFL Defensive Player of the Year by the Associated Press as well as receiving consensus first-team All-NFL and Pro Bowl honors. An injury suffered while returning a kick cost Easley three games in 1985, but he was still an outstanding and disruptive performer when healthy and was a consensus first-team All-NFL selection for the third straight year as well as a Pro Bowl honoree for the fourth straight. Continued ankle trouble hindered him further in ’86 and he had surgery. Easley came back to gain a fifth Pro Bowl selection in the strike-interrupted 1987 season but, due largely to acrimony related to his role in the players’ strike, he was traded to the Cardinals in the offseason. He never played for the Cards, however, when a physical revealed a kidney condition that forced his retirement. In seven seasons, Easley intercepted 32 passes and set the standard at his position, but his outstanding career came to a too-early end.

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Highlighted Years features players who were consensus first-team All-League* selections or league* or conference** leaders in the following statistical categories:

Rushing: Yards, TDs (min. 10)
Passing: Yards, Completion Pct., Yards per Attempt, TDs, Rating
Receiving: Catches, Yards, TDs (min. 10)
Scoring: TDs, Points, Field Goals (min. 5)
All-Purpose: Total Yards
Defense: Interceptions, Sacks
Kickoff Returns: Average
Punt Returns: Average
Punting: Average

*Leagues include NFL (1920 to date), AFL (1926), AFL (1936-37), AAFC (1946-49), AFL (1960-69), WFL (1974-75), USFL (1983-85)

**NFC/AFC since 1970

April 23, 2015

Highlighted Year: Dave Baker, 1960

Safety, San Francisco 49ers


Age: 23
2nd season in pro football & with 49ers
College: Oklahoma
Height: 6’0”   Weight: 193

Prelude:
Baker was a quarterback and defensive back in college on teams coached by Bud Wilkinson that went a combined 30-2 from 1956 to ’58. He led the Sooners in passing in 1957 and had a 94-yard interception return in the Orange Bowl following that season. Baker was chosen by the 49ers in the first round of the 1959 NFL draft (fifth overall) and he moved directly into the defensive backfield, combining with another rookie, Eddie Dove, to provide an effective safety tandem. He intercepted five passes and was named to the Pro Bowl.

1960 Season Summary
Appeared in all 12 games
[Bracketed numbers indicate league rank in Top 20]

Interceptions – 10 [1, tied with Jerry Norton]
Most interceptions, game – 4 at LA Rams 12/4
Int. return yards – 96 [9, tied with Jerry Norton]
Most int. return yards, game – 49 (on 4 int.) at LA Rams 12/4
Int. TDs – 0
Fumble recoveries – 0

Punting
Punts – 3 [19, tied with Eddie LeBaron]
Yards – 143 [19]
Average – 47.7
Punts blocked – 0
Longest punt – 55 yards

Awards & Honors:
2nd team All-NFL: AP, UPI, NEA, NY Daily News

49ers went 7-5 to finish second in the NFL Western Conference (tied with the Detroit Lions) while leading the league in fewest points allowed (205).

Aftermath:
Baker intercepted another six passes and was a first-team All-NFL selection by The Sporting News in 1961. He then served two years in the military but, rather than return to the NFL, accepted an offer to become athletic director and men’s basketball coach at Bethany Nazarene College (now Southern Nazarene University). Overall, in a short but outstanding career, Baker intercepted 21 passes in just three seasons with the 49ers, gaining first- or second-team All-NFL honors after two of them and one Pro Bowl selection. To date, he shares the NFL record with his four-interception game against the Rams and the 10 interceptions in 1960 are still the franchise record for the 49ers (tied by Ronnie Lott in 1986).

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Highlighted Years features players who were consensus first-team All-League* selections or league* or conference** leaders in the following statistical categories:

Rushing: Yards, TDs (min. 10)
Passing: Yards, Completion Pct., Yards per Attempt, TDs, Rating
Receiving: Catches, Yards, TDs (min. 10)
Scoring: TDs, Points, Field Goals (min. 5)
All-Purpose: Total Yards
Defense: Interceptions, Sacks
Kickoff Returns: Average
Punt Returns: Average
Punting: Average

*Leagues include NFL (1920 to date), AFL (1926), AFL (1936-37), AAFC (1946-49), AFL (1960-69), WFL (1974-75), USFL (1983-85)

**NFC/AFC since 1970

April 21, 2015

1984: Gamblers Lose Lead, Score Twice in 4th Quarter to Beat Wranglers


The United States Football League’s most prolific offense faced the top-ranked defense in a Saturday night game on April 21, 1984. The Houston Gamblers, one of six expansion teams for the USFL’s second season, utilized the “run-and-shoot” offense to good effect, rolling up yardage and averaging 32 points per contest. Rookie QB Jim Kelly (pictured above) proved highly effective operating in the quick-striking offense and WR Richard Johnson was the most productive of a good pass receiving corps and came into the game leading the USFL in pass receptions. The team could run the ball well, too, although RB Sam Harrell, the league’s top scorer and second-ranked rusher, was out with a broken foot. The Gamblers had a 5-3 record, which put them one behind the co-leaders in the Central Division.

The Arizona Wranglers were coached by George Allen and, as was typical of his teams in the NFL, the roster was filled with veteran talent, especially on defense. The club that had been the Chicago Blitz in 1983, before an offseason exchange of franchises moved them to the Phoenix area, had a conservative offense that was directed by capable 16-year veteran QB Greg Landry. The defense averaged just 14.25 points given up per game, but the team still struggled with consistency and had difficulty winning games. The Wranglers were 4-4 and three games behind the Denver Gold in the Pacific Division. As a side note, Head Coach Jack Pardee of the Gamblers had played under Allen with the NFL Rams, thus adding a pupil-vs.-teacher element to the matchup with Arizona.

There were 23,117 fans in attendance for the Easter weekend game at the Astrodome. The Gamblers had the first possession and drove into Arizona territory with the help of big completions to Richard Johnson and WR Greg Moser, who made a spectacular leaping catch. Toni Fritsch kicked a 39-yard field goal for the early lead.

Houston CB Mike Mitchell intercepted a pass by Greg Landry on the next series, but on the next play DE John Lee grabbed a Kelly screen pass out of the air. A completion to RB Tim Spencer got the ball into scoring territory and, while the Houston defense held, Frank Corral booted a field goal from 23 yards.

The score remained 3-3 after one period of play, but the Gamblers were at the Arizona 20 as the second quarter started. Kelly passed to RB Todd Fowler, the fill-in for the injured Sam Harrell, to get the ball to the five and, two plays later, Kelly ran into the end zone for a two-yard touchdown. Fritsch added the extra point and the home team held a 10-3 lead.

Houston got the ball back when the Wranglers punted from deep in their own territory and the Gamblers struck quickly with a Kelly completion to a wide-open Johnson for a 53-yard TD. Fritsch converted. Down by two touchdowns, Arizona drove into Houston territory but came up short on a fourth down play at the 18. The Gamblers capitalized with another long pass play, this time with Kelly throwing to WR Ricky Sanders for a 77-yard touchdown. With Fritsch’s PAT, the home team led by a commanding 24-3 margin. The Wranglers fought back on a possession that concluded with a 25-yard TD carry by Spencer. Corral’s extra point made it 24-10, and that remained the score at halftime.

Arizona drove methodically to start the third quarter, going 70 yards in 11 plays and ending up with a Landry pass to WR Trumaine Johnson, who caught the ball between two defenders for a 13-yard touchdown. Corral again added the point after and it was a seven-point game.

The offensive show slowed with the teams exchanging punts after short possessions before the Gamblers advanced into Arizona territory, but after reaching the 16 they fumbled the ball away on a third down play. The Wranglers took full advantage on a series highlighted by completions to WR Lenny Willis and Tim Spencer that concluded with Spencer running for a two-yard TD. Corral’s kick tied the game at 24-24 with thirty seconds remaining in the period.

With the once-large lead gone and the game now in the fourth quarter, the Gamblers drove 80 yards in six plays to score a touchdown on a 17-yard Kelly throw to Johnson, who was left uncovered in the end zone. Fritsch kicked the extra point and the home team was back in the lead by seven points.

Arizona reached the Houston 20 in response, but after being backed up by a penalty and a sack, a 50-yard field goal attempt by Corral was blocked and returned 58 yards for a TD by DE Pete Catan. Fritsch hooked the try for the extra point, but it didn’t matter. With ten minutes remaining, the Gamblers were back in control.

The Wranglers had a chance to get back into the game when Kelly fumbled in his own territory, giving the visitors the ball. But after getting one first down, a fourth-and-five pass play came up short and the Gamblers regained possession. It was the last gasp for Arizona and Houston won by a final score of 37-24.

The total yards were nearly even, with the Gamblers holding a one-yard edge (401 to 400) while the Wranglers accumulated more first downs (26 to 17) and held onto the ball longer (34:37 to 25:23). Arizona had the better offensive balance, with 266 passing and 134 rushing yards, to 61 yards on the ground and 340 through the air for Houston. The Gamblers also turned the ball over three times, to one turnover by the Wranglers, and Houston was hurt by 14 penalties, to eight flags thrown on Arizona. But big, quick-striking plays put points on the board for the Gamblers, as well as the decisive blocked field goal return.



Jim Kelly completed 17 of 23 passes for 363 yards and three touchdowns, with one interception. Richard Johnson had 6 catches for 143 yards and two of the TDs and Ricky Sanders gained 86 yards on just two receptions thanks to the one long touchdown. Todd Fowler, in place of the injured Sam Harrell, was an effective receiver out of the backfield with 6 catches for 70 yards, and he rushed for 51 yards on 11 attempts.

For the Wranglers, Greg Landry was successful on 27 of 41 throws for 278 yards and a TD while being picked off once. Tim Spencer ran for 110 yards on 16 carries and also gained 52 yards on five catches. RB Doug Dennison led the club with 6 pass receptions, for 35 yards, while Lenny Willis contributed 69 yards on five catches.

Houston went on to top the Central Division with a 13-5 record. The Wranglers, seemingly in danger of falling out of contention after the loss in Houston, won six of their remaining nine games, including the last four straight, to place second in the Pacific Division at 10-8, good enough to grab a Wild Card playoff spot. Arizona got revenge on the Gamblers with a 17-16 First Round playoff upset and made it to the USFL Championship game, falling to the Philadelphia Stars.

Jim Kelly went on to accumulate 5219 passing yards while throwing for 44 touchdowns and averaging 8.9 yards per attempt. Richard Johnson remained first among USFL pass receivers with 115 catches, for 1455 yards and 15 TDs, while Ricky Sanders placed second with 101, gaining 1378 yards and scoring 11 touchdowns.

April 19, 2015

Highlighted Year: Gary Anderson, 1986

Running Back, San Diego Chargers


Age: 25
5th season in pro football, 2nd in NFL & with Chargers
College: Arkansas
Height: 6’0”   Weight: 190

Prelude:
An outstanding all-purpose back in college, Anderson received All-Southwestern Conference honors in 1982 and was chosen in the first round (20th overall) of the 1983 NFL draft by the San Diego Chargers and in the USFL draft by the New Jersey Generals (fifth overall). The Chargers intended to convert him into a wide receiver, but Anderson expressed an interest in playing for Tampa Bay of the new spring league, and his draft rights were accordingly dealt to the Bandits. He didn’t join the team until halfway through the ’83 season but had an impact when he did, rushing for 516 yards on 97 carries (5.3 avg.) and catching 29 passes for 347 yards in eight games. In 1984, Anderson led the league in rushing touchdowns (19) and touchdowns overall (21, tied with Herschel Walker) while gaining 1008 yards on 268 carries and catching 66 passes for 682 more yards. He had another outstanding season in ‘85, rushing for 1207 yards, catching 72 passes for 678 yards, and scoring a total of 20 touchdowns. He was named to the official USFL All-League team and was also an All-USFL selection by The Sporting News. With the demise of the USFL, Anderson joined the Chargers during the ’85 NFL season and accumulated 1153 all-purpose yards in 12 games.

1986 Season Summary
Appeared in all 16 games
[Bracketed numbers indicate league rank in Top 20]

Rushing
Attempts – 127
Most attempts, game – 25 (for 100 yds.) vs. Kansas City 11/2
Yards – 442
Most yards, game – 100 yards (on 25 carries) vs. Kansas City 11/2
Average gain – 3.5
TDs – 1
100-yard rushing games – 1

Pass Receiving
Receptions – 80 [6, tied with J.T. Smith] 
Most receptions, game – 11 (for 92 yds.) at Kansas City 10/19
Yards – 871
Most yards, game – 113 (on 7 catches) vs. LA Raiders 11/20
Average gain – 10.9
TDs – 8 [10, tied with four others]
100-yard receiving games – 1

Passing
Attempts – 1
Completions – 1
Yards – 4
TDs – 1
Interceptions – 0

Kickoff Returns
Returns – 24
Yards – 482
Most yards, game – 89 (on 4 ret.) vs. Kansas City 11/2
Average per return – 20.1
TDs – 0
Longest return – 35 yards

Punt Returns
Returns – 25 [20]
Yards – 227 [18, tied with Eric Martin]
Most yards, game – 54 (on 4 ret.) vs. Kansas City 11/2
Average per return – 9.1 [12]
TDs – 0
Longest return – 30 yards

All-Purpose yards – 2022 [2, 1st in AFC]

Scoring
TDs – 9 [17, tied with seven others]
Points – 54

Awards & Honors:
Pro Bowl

Chargers went 4-12 to finish fifth in the AFC West.

Aftermath:
Anderson had a lesser year in the strike-interrupted 1987 season while splitting time with Curtis Adams at halfback, but rushed for 1119 yards in ’88. A contract dispute led to his sitting out in 1989 and he was traded to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in ’90. While Anderson gained 1110 yards from scrimmage that year despite dealing with nagging injuries, his production dropped off significantly thereafter as he was used more as a specialty receiver out of the backfield. He finished up with Detroit, who obtained him during the ’93 season. Anderson came out of retirement in 1995 to play for the Memphis Mad Dogs of the CFL, rushing for 250 yards and catching 28 passes in his final pro season. Overall in the USFL, Anderson rushed for 2731 yards on 641 attempts (4.3 avg.), had another 1707 yards on 167 catches, and scored 45 touchdowns. In the NFL, he gained 3409 yards on the ground, 2999 on 302 pass receptions, and adding in kick returns accumulated 9572 all-purpose yards while scoring 32 TDs.

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Highlighted Years features players who were consensus first-team All-League* selections or league* or conference** leaders (NFC/AFC since 1970) in the following statistical categories:

Rushing: Yards, TDs (min. 10)
Passing: Yards, Completion Pct., Yards per Attempt, TDs, Rating
Receiving: Catches, Yards, TDs (min. 10)
Scoring: TDs, Points, Field Goals (min. 5)
All-Purpose: Total Yards
Defense: Interceptions, Sacks
Kickoff Returns: Average
Punt Returns: Average
Punting: Average

*Leagues include NFL (1920 to date), AFL (1926), AFL (1936-37), AAFC (1946-49), AFL (1960-69), WFL (1974-75), USFL (1983-85)

**NFC/AFC since 1970

April 17, 2015

1983: Walker & Generals Hold Off Late Rally to Defeat Gilliam & Federals


The New Jersey Generals had made the biggest player signing heading into the inaugural United States Football League season, but were struggling at 1-6 as they hosted the Washington Federals on April 17, 1983. RB Herschel Walker (pictured above), who left Georgia after a Heisman-winning junior year in ’82 to sign with the new Spring league, overcame a slow start to rank among the top rushers, but Head Coach Chuck Fairbanks’ team as a whole was lacking. QB Bobby Scott, longtime NFL backup to Archie Manning in New Orleans, was mediocre and the defense was no better.

The Federals also came into the game with a 1-6 record. Coached by Ray Jauch, the club had some talent but suffered many injuries and was prone to losing close contests. Two rookies on offense, QB Mike Hohensee and RB Craig James, showed promise when healthy. The defense was woeful and the effort to find a reliable placekicker was not going well.

There were 35,381 fans in attendance at Giants Stadium in the New Jersey Meadowlands. The only score of the first quarter came as a result of a safety on New Jersey’s opening possession when punter Dave Jacobs ran out of his end zone. Washington was ahead by a 2-0 margin.

The Generals took control in the second quarter. A 40-yard pass play from Bobby Scott to TE Victor Hicks was good for a touchdown although an attempted two-point conversion was unsuccessful. Midway through the period, a 46-yard New Jersey possession was capped by a two-yard Herschel Walker touchdown carry. This time Scott threw to FB Maurice Carthon to add two points and make the score 14-2.

With the Federals down by twelve points, Joe Gilliam entered the game at quarterback. The 32-year-old Gilliam had experience as a starting quarterback with the NFL Steelers, but had fallen on hard times in the intervening years due to off-field problems. He had started in place of Hohensee the previous week and now guided the visitors to their first offensive score, tossing an 18-yard TD pass to WR Mike Holmes. The the extra point attempt was missed, however, and New Jersey later added a 32-yard Jacobs field goal to take a 17-8 lead into halftime.

The third quarter was scoreless, but on the first play of the fourth quarter, Walker breezed into the end zone from eight yards out for a touchdown. The try for extra point failed, but the home team’s 23-8 lead appeared to be secure.

At this point, Washington began to mount a comeback. On a drive highlighted by two pass interference calls on Generals SS Dana Noel, Gilliam connected with WR Joey Walters for a nine-yard touchdown. Gilliam again threw to Walters for two points and New Jersey’s lead was narrowed to 23-16.

The Federals scored once more on a spectacular play when Gilliam passed to Craig James, who caught it at the New Jersey 35, was spun around at the 28, regained his balance, and sped the rest of the way for a 52-yard touchdown. However, down by a point and trying to take the lead, Washington attempted a two-point conversion that failed when Gilliam’s pass was knocked down by FS Keith Moody.

Still, there were eight minutes remaining. In the final minute, Gilliam drove the Federals down the field, starting at their own 13 and reaching the New Jersey 16 with a 26-yard completion to WR Vince Kinney highlighting the series. The Federals lined up for a field goal attempt with eight seconds left, but Ken Olson missed from 33 yards and New Jersey came away with a 23-22 win.

The Generals had the edge in total yards (389 to 312) and first downs (24 to 18). However, New Jersey also turned the ball over three times, to one by the Federals, and Washington accumulated three sacks, to two by the Generals. The Federals punted seven times, to two by New Jersey, while also drawing eight penalties to six flags thrown on the Generals.

Herschel Walker rushed for 143 yards on 28 carries that included two touchdowns, and his longest gain was for 38 yards. Maurice Carthon contributed 57 yards on 18 rushing attempts. Bobby Scott completed 13 of 25 passes for 206 yards with one TD but also three interceptions. Victor Hicks had four catches for 72 yards and a score.

For the Federals, Joe Gilliam was successful on 10 of 22 throws for 199 yards and three touchdowns, giving up one interception, in relief of Mike Hohensee, who was three-of-seven for 21 yards. RB Billy Taylor gained 85 yards on 17 carries and added four pass receptions for 26 yards while Craig James rushed for 28 yards on 10 attempts and gained 77 yards on his three catches that included a TD.

New Jersey lost a close game in overtime the next week on the way to a 6-12 finish, which placed a distant third in the Atlantic Division. Washington ended up in the cellar at 4-14.

Herschel Walker was in a virtual dead heat with another rookie, RB Kelvin Bryant of the Philadelphia Stars, in the USFL rushing standings following the win over the Federals and ultimately came out on top with 1812 yards. He also topped the new league with 17 rushing touchdowns and 18 overall. He received consensus All-League recognition.

Joe Gilliam continued to split time with Mike Hohensee and ended up completing 40 of 102 passes (39.2 %) for 673 yards and five TDs while giving up 12 interceptions.  

The missed field goal try at the end was Ken Olson’s first official attempt for the Federals. He had not had any attempts in his debut the previous week and an earlier miss from 37 yards against the Generals was nullified by a roughing-the-kicker penalty. Olson was gone by the next week.

April 16, 2015

Highlighted Year: Danny Amendola, 2009

Wide Receiver, St. Louis Rams


Age: 24 (Nov. 2)
2nd season in pro football, 1st active & with Rams
College: Texas Tech
Height: 5’11” Weight: 186

Prelude:
Amendola caught 204 passes in college, including 109 for 1245 yards and six touchdowns as a senior (and adding in 6 for 68 yards and a TD in the Gator Bowl). Undrafted in 2008, he signed with the Dallas Cowboys and spent the entire regular season on the practice squad after being waived. The Eagles signed him to their practice squad for the postseason. He went to training camp with Philadelphia and started the ’09 season on the practice squad until the Rams signed him from there in September.

2009 Season Summary
Appeared in 14 of 16 games
[Bracketed numbers indicate league rank in Top 20]

Pass Receiving
Receptions – 43      
Most receptions, game – 7 (for 55 yds.) vs. Seattle 11/29
Yards – 326
Most yards, game – 61 (on 4 catches) vs. Arizona 11/22
Average gain – 7.6
TDs – 1

Rushing
Attempts – 3
Yards – -2
Average gain – -0.7
TDs – 0

Kickoff Returns
Returns – 66 [1]
Yards – 1618 [1]
Most yards, game – 217 (on 9 ret.) at Tennessee 12/13
Average per return – 24.5 [17]
TDs – 0
Longest return – 58 yards

Punt Returns
Returns – 31 [8, tied with Captain Munnerlyn]
Yards – 360 [6]
Most yards, game – 79 (on 3 ret.) at Arizona 12/27
Average per return – 11.6 [7]
TDs – 0
Longest return – 56 yards

All-purpose yards – 2302 [6, 1st in NFC]

Scoring
TDs – 1
Points – 6

Rams went 1-15 to finish fourth in the NFC West.

Aftermath:
Amendola had a bigger year in 2010, seeing more action on offense as an effective slot receiver with 85 catches for 689 yards, still returning kicks, and leading the league in all-purpose yards with 2364. However, an elbow injury suffered in the 2011 season-opening game had him spending the rest of the year on injured reserve and he missed another five games due to injury in 2012. Amendola departed for New England as a free agent in 2013, where it was anticipated that he would help fill in for departed WR Wes Welker, and he had 54 catches for 633 yards while appearing in 12 games. His production declined in 2014 but he became a significant factor in the postseason, which was capped by a touchdown reception in the Super Bowl victory over Seattle. Through 2014, he has caught 277 passes for 2559 yards (9.2 avg.) and 10 touchdowns, averaged 23.6 yards on 138 kickoff returns and 10.2 yards on 106 punt returns. Of those totals, 196 receptions for 1726 yards (8.8 avg.) and seven TDs came with the Rams, where he also averaged 23.5 yards on 118 of the kickoff returns and 10.5 yards on 89 punt returns.

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Highlighted Years features players who were consensus first-team All-League* selections or league* or conference** leaders in the following statistical categories:

Rushing: Yards, TDs (min. 10)
Passing: Yards, Completion Pct., Yards per Attempt, TDs, Rating
Receiving: Catches, Yards, TDs (min. 10)
Scoring: TDs, Points, Field Goals (min. 5)
All-Purpose: Total Yards
Defense: Interceptions, Sacks
Kickoff Returns: Average
Punt Returns: Average
Punting: Average

*Leagues include NFL (1920 to date), AFL (1926), AFL (1936-37), AAFC (1946-49), AFL (1960-69), WFL (1974-75), USFL (1983-85)

**NFC/AFC since 1970