May 23, 2015

Highlighted Year: Jermaine Lewis, 1997

Wide Receiver, Baltimore Ravens



Age: 23 (Oct. 16)
2nd season in pro football & with Ravens
College: Maryland
Height: 5’7”   Weight: 172

Prelude:
Lewis starred in track as well as football in college, where he caught 193 passes, returned 24 punts for a 12.0-yard average and two touchdowns and averaged 24.0 yards on 22 kickoff returns. He was chosen by the Ravens in the fifth round of the 1996 NFL draft and was used almost exclusively as a kick returner during his rookie year. Small but very fast, he averaged 21.5 yards on 41 kickoff returns and 9.4 yards on 36 punt returns.

1997 Season Summary
Appeared in 14 of 16 games
[Bracketed numbers indicate league rank in Top 20]

Pass Receiving
Receptions – 42      
Most receptions, game – 8 (for 124 yds.) at Tennessee 9/21
Yards – 648
Most yards, game – 124 (on 8 catches) at Tennessee 9/21
Average gain – 15.4 [17]
TDs – 6 [20, tied with twelve others]
100-yard receiving games – 2

Rushing
Attempts – 3
Yards – 35
Average gain – 11.7
TDs – 0

Kickoff Returns
Returns – 41 [16]
Yards – 905 [17]
Most yards, game – 140 (on 6 ret.) vs. Pittsburgh 10/5
Average per return – 22.1
TDs – 0
Longest return – 51 yards

Punt Returns
Returns – 28 [20]
Yards – 437 [12]
Most yards, game – 184 (on 5 ret., 2 TDs) vs. Seattle 12/7
Average per return – 15.6 [1]
TDs – 2 [3]
Longest return – 89 yards

All-Purpose yards – 2025 [5]

Scoring
TDs – 8
Points – 48

Ravens went 6-9-1 to finish fifth in the AFC Central.  

Aftermath:
Lewis followed up in 1998 by receiving consensus first-team All-NFL and Pro Bowl honors. Used less on kickoffs, he returned 32 punts for a 12.7-yard average and two TDs and also caught 41 passes for 784 yards (19.1 avg.) and six touchdowns. His numbers dropped in ’99, with 25 pass receptions and a 7.9-yard punt return average, but he bounced back in 2000 to average 16.1 yards and score two TDs on 36 punt returns and added an 84-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in the Super Bowl win over the Giants. Lewis topped the NFL in punt returns (42) and punt return yards (519) while averaging 12.4 yards in 2001 and was chosen for the Pro Bowl. Left unprotected in the expansion draft, he was taken by the Houston Texans in ’02 and had a lesser performance, dropping to 7.8 yards on punt returns and 20.9 yards on kickoffs. Lewis moved on to the Jacksonville Jaguars and went down with a major knee injury two games into the 2003 season. He came back in ’04 to average 9.9 yards on 23 punt returns and 18.4 yards on 21 kickoffs in what was his final season. Overall, Lewis ran back 295 punts for an 11.1-yard average and six touchdowns, 212 kickoffs for a 21.8-yard average, and caught 143 passes for 2129 yards (14.9 avg.) and 17 TDs. He received first-team All-NFL honors following two seasons and was selected to as many Pro Bowls.

--

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 Percentage, 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

May 21, 2015

Highlighted Year: William Andrews, 1981

Fullback, Atlanta Falcons


Age: 26 (Dec. 25)
3rd season in pro football & with Falcons
College: Auburn
Height: 6’0”   Weight: 200

Prelude:
Part of a group of running backs at Auburn that included future pro stars James Brooks and Joe Cribbs, Andrews was chosen by the Falcons in the third round of the 1979 NFL draft. He had an outstanding rookie year, rushing for 1023 yards and catching 39 passes for another 309. Andrews improved to 1308 rushing yards and 456 yards on 51 pass receptions in 1980 to earn selection to the Pro Bowl as well as second-team All-NFC honors from UPI.

1981 Season Summary
Appeared and started in all 16 games
[Bracketed numbers indicate league rank in Top 20]

Rushing
Attempts – 289 [7]
Most attempts, game – 25 (for 101 yds.) at Houston 11/29
Yards – 1301 [7]
Most yards, game – 119 yards (on 21 carries) vs. LA Rams 10/11
Average gain – 4.5 [12]
TDs – 10 [7, tied with Earl Campbell, Ron Springs & Billy Jackson]
100-yard rushing games – 3

Pass Receiving
Receptions – 81 [4]
Most receptions, game – 15 (for 124 yds.) vs. Pittsburgh 11/15
Yards – 735
Most yards, game – 132 (on 8 catches) vs. St. Louis 10/18
Average gain – 9.1
TDs – 2
100-yard receiving games – 2

All-Purpose yards – 2036 [2, 1st in NFC]

Scoring
TDs – 12 [9, tied with Ron Springs]
Points – 72

Awards & Honors:
2nd team All-NFL: AP
2nd team All-NFC: UPI
Pro Bowl

Falcons went 7-9 to finish second in the NFC West while leading the conference in touchdowns (52) and scoring (426 points).

Aftermath:
Andrews continued to be one of the league’s most productive all-purpose backs, leading the team in rushing (503 yards) and pass receptions (42) during the strike-shortened 1982 season and achieving career highs in rushing (1567 yards) and total yards (2176) in ’83. He was chosen to the Pro Bowl after each season and was a first-team All-NFC choice of UPI in ’82 and a first-team All-NFL selection by NEA and The Sporting News in 1983. However, a devastating knee injury suffered during training camp in ‘84 cost him that year and the next. He made a modest comeback in 1986, rushing for 214 yards and catching five passes in his last season. Overall, Andrews rushed for 5986 yards on 1315 carries (4.6 avg.) and caught 277 passes for 2647 yards (9.6 avg.). He twice went over two thousand total yards on his way to gaining 8633 yards from scrimmage and scored a total of 41 touchdowns. He was named to four consecutive Pro Bowls and received at least some first or second-team All-NFL honors after three seasons in a fine career cut short by injury. 

--

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 Percentage, 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

May 19, 2015

1985: Outlaws Control the Ball to Defeat Breakers, End Losing Streak


The Arizona Outlaws had lost six straight games as they traveled to Portland to take on the Breakers, losers of their last five contests, in a United States Football League game on May 19, 1985. A combination of 1984’s Oklahoma Outlaws and Arizona Wranglers, the team was coached by Frank Kush, formerly of Arizona State, and had an established veteran in QB Doug Williams (pictured above) to direct the offense. But after getting off to a 4-2 start, which included a win over Portland in the opener, the losing streak had them struggling at 4-8.

The Breakers were also at 4-8 after having lost their last two games by a combined score of 59-7. Coached by Dick Coury, the club was not as proficient on offense as it had been in Boston and New Orleans, its previous locations. The Breakers missed the retired John Walton at quarterback and the situation was not helped by the loss of promising RB Marcus Dupree with a knee injury in the opening week.

There were 15,275 fans in attendance at Civic Stadium. The Breakers had the game’s first possession and drove down the field, but an apparent nine-yard touchdown run by RB Buford Jordan was nullified by a holding penalty and the Breakers came up empty when Tim Mazzetti was unsuccessful on a 49-yard field goal attempt.

On Portland’s next series, Jordan fumbled the ball away at his 22 yard line. Arizona took advantage as RB Reggie Brown ran for a 13-yard TD with four minutes remaining in the first quarter and Luis Zendejas added the extra point.

As the contest entered the second quarter, the Outlaws added to the lead on their next series that culminated in Doug Williams tossing a pass to WR Greg Anderson for a 12-yard TD. Zendejas again successfully converted to increase the margin to 14-0. Before the first half was over, Zendejas added two field goals, from 22 and 26 yards, which boosted the visitors to a 20-0 lead at the intermission.

Portland QB Matt Robinson suffered an elbow injury during the first half and didn’t come back for the second half. Meanwhile, Arizona started the third quarter with a 68-yard drive and Williams threw to TE Ron Wheeler for a four-yard touchdown.

Ahead by 27-0, Arizona had to endure a strong comeback by the Breakers with backup QB Kevin Starkey directing the offense. Starkey, who had been signed as a free agent a few weeks earlier, was seeing his first action of the season.

The Outlaws reached paydirt on a Starkey pass to WR Ron Johnson that covered 35 yards for a TD late in the third quarter. The try for extra point failed. Now in the final period, Starkey struck again, throwing over the middle to Jordan on a touchdown play that covered 80 yards. This time Mazzetti added the point after and, with 12:36 remaining, the Arizona lead was cut to 27-13.

Needing to keep the ball away from Starkey and the suddenly hot Breakers, the Outlaws helped themselves with a long, ten-minute drive that ended with a 33-yard Zendejas field goal, which in essence clinched the win. Starkey came back to complete a TD pass covering 13 yards to RB Dwight Beverly, but there were only 53 seconds left on the clock. Arizona came away the winner by a final score of 30-21.

The Outlaws dominated in time of possession (41:44 to 18:16) and that translated into a lead in total yards of 348 to 256 plus a 21 to 14 edge in first downs. Arizona recorded five sacks, to one by the Breakers, and Portland suffered the game’s only turnover. However, the Outlaws also were penalized seven times while just two flags were thrown on the Breakers.

Doug Williams completed 17 of 28 passes for 203 yards and two touchdowns while giving up no interceptions. RB Mack Boatner led Arizona’s effective ground game with 86 yards on 17 carries and Reggie Brown contributed 63 yards on 15 attempts. Greg Anderson had five pass receptions for 83 yards.

For the Breakers, Kevin Starkey was successful on 7 of 12 throws for 187 yards and three TDs with no pickoffs after relieving Matt Robinson, who was six-of-10 for 67 yards. Ron Johnson topped the club with three catches for 76 yards and a score while WR Marion Brown and RB Louis Jackson also had three receptions apiece, for 41 and 22 yards, respectively. Buford Jordan rushed for 35 yards on 9 attempts.

“Our main philosophy is to keep control of the ball, and that’s just what we did,” explained Coach Kush of Arizona.

The Outlaws lost badly to the Houston Gamblers the next week but then reeled off three straight wins on the way to an 8-10 record and fourth place finish in the Western Conference. Portland won its next game and ended up at 6-12 and fifth in the conference.

The 1985 season was the last for Kevin Starkey, who spent most of his brief pro career in the Canadian Football League. His performance against the Outlaws was the highlight of the year as he completed 16 of 33 passes for 287 yards overall. The three TD passes were his entire output and he gave up two interceptions.

May 18, 2015

Highlighted Year: Bertrand Berry, 2004

Defensive End, Arizona Cardinals


Age: 29
8th season in pro football, 7th in NFL & 1st with Cardinals
College: Notre Dame
Height: 6’3”   Weight: 250

Prelude:
Primarily known for his pass rushing ability in college, Berry was chosen by the Indianapolis Colts in the third round of the 1997 NFL draft. He had an undistinguished first three seasons with the Colts, starting 13 games at defensive end and also playing linebacker while recording five sacks. Berry moved on to the Rams in 2000 but was cut during training camp and saw action in the CFL with the Edmonton Eskimos. He joined the Denver Broncos in 2001 and was a reserve for two seasons before breaking into the starting lineup in ’03 and recording 11.5 sacks. A fine pass rusher who was less adept against the run, Berry signed with the Cardinals as a free agent for the 2004 season.

2004 Season Summary
Appeared in all 16 games
[Bracketed numbers indicate league rank in Top 20]

Sacks – 14.5 [2, 1st in NFC]
Most sacks, game – 4 vs. NY Giants 11/14
Multi-sack games – 3
Interceptions – 0
Fumble recoveries – 2
Fumble recovery TDs – 0
Forced fumbles – 4
Tackles – 39
Assists – 10

Awards & Honors:
2nd team All-NFL: AP
1st team All-NFC: Pro Football Weekly
Pro Bowl

Cardinals went 6-10 to finish third in the NFC West.

Aftermath:
A torn pectoral muscle limited Berry to eight games in 2005 and injuries remained an issue in ’06 and ’07 as he appeared in a combined 19 games. Still effective as a rusher from the edge who lined up more often as an outside linebacker, Berry played with the Cards until 2009, staying healthier in his last two years in which the team made it to the playoffs, after which he retired. Overall, Berry accumulated 65 sacks in the NFL, with 40 of them coming during his six years with Arizona. He had four more during the postseason.

--

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 Percentage, 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

May 16, 2015

Highlighted Year: Luther Bradley, 1983

Safety, Chicago Blitz


Age: 28 (May 7)
5th season in pro football, 1st in USFL & with Blitz
College: Notre Dame
Height: 6’2”   Weight: 196

Prelude:
Bradley intercepted 17 passes in college, one of which he returned for a 99-yard touchdown, and was a consensus All-American selection in 1977. He was chosen by the Detroit Lions in the first round of the 1978 NFL draft (11th overall) and moved directly into the starting lineup at cornerback. Bradley started every game in his first two seasons and intercepted a total of seven passes for 96 yards and a TD. A knee injury limited Bradley to eight games in 1980 and he was a backup in ’81. He was traded to the Houston Oilers, who released him just prior to the 1982 season, and he signed with the Blitz of the new USFL. Head Coach George Allen shifted Bradley to free safety.

1983 Season Summary
Appeared in 17 of 18 games
[Bracketed numbers indicate league rank in Top 20]

Interceptions – 12 [1]
Most interceptions, game – 6 at Tampa Bay 4/2
Int. return yards – 167 [2]
Most int. return yards, game – 127 (on 6 int.) at Tampa Bay 4/2
Int. TDs – 1 [1, tied with eight others]
Fumble recoveries – 1

Postseason: 1 G (USFL Semifinal playoff at Philadelphia)
Interceptions – 1
Int. return yards – 10
TDs – 0

Awards & Honors:
1st team All-USFL: League, College & Pro Football Newsweekly, Pro Football Weekly

Blitz went 12-6 to finish second in the USFL Central Division and qualify for the postseason as a Wild Card entry while leading the league in interceptions (37). Lost USFL Semifinal playoff to Philadelphia Stars (44-38).

Aftermath:
Due to an exchange of franchises, Bradley became part of the Arizona Wranglers in 1984 and intercepted four passes. He was left unprotected in the merger of the Wranglers and Oklahoma Outlaws in ‘85 and joined the Houston Gamblers, where he once again intercepted 12 passes and received first-team all-league honors from College & Pro Football Newsweekly. The end of the USFL marked the end of Bradley’s pro career. In three USFL seasons, he intercepted 28 passes, the most in the league’s brief history, with the six-interception game against the Bandits the highlight.

--

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 Percentage, 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

May 14, 2015

1965: Cowboys Deal Tommy McDonald to Rams for Danny Villanueva


On May 14, 1965 the Dallas Cowboys and Los Angeles Rams swung a trade in which Dallas sent flanker Tommy McDonald to the Rams for kicker Danny Villanueva.

The 30-year-old McDonald (he turned 31 prior to the ’65 season) ranked fourth among active NFL receivers with 333 catches and first in touchdown receptions with 68. A halfback at Oklahoma on Head Coach Bud Wilkinson’s national championship teams in 1955 and ‘56, he was chosen by the Philadelphia Eagles in the third round of the 1957 NFL draft and spent his first seven seasons with them. Converted to flanker, he was selected to five straight Pro Bowls and led the league with 1144 pass receiving yards in 1961. He reached double figures in receiving TDs four straight times, set a franchise record with 237 yards in a game against the Giants in ’61, and was a key performer on the 1960 NFL Championship club. Generally considered to be the smallest player in the league at 5’9” and 172 pounds, McDonald, who typically disdained wearing a facemask, played with great enthusiasm as well as skill and was a fan favorite with his acrobatic catches. It thus came as a shock when he was dealt to Dallas for the 1964 season as part of new Head Coach/GM Joe Kuharich’s housecleaning in Philadelphia.

McDonald was moved to split end and had a lesser year with the Cowboys, catching 46 passes for 612 yards, for an uncharacteristically low 13.3-yard average, and scored only two touchdowns. He had wanted a trade and there were concerns as to his commitment to playing.

The Cowboys had sorely missed Sam Baker, the combination placekicker/punter who was traded to Philadelphia in the McDonald deal. Dick Van Raaphorst was successful on just 14 of 29 field goal attempts and punter Billy Lothridge injured his knee in training camp and was inconsistent.

Danny Villanueva was 27 and had come to the Rams as an undrafted free agent out of New Mexico State. He kicked the longest field goal in team history up to that time (51 yards) and also held the club record with a 45.5 punting average in 1962. In five years in LA, Villanueva kicked 44 field goals in 83 attempts (53.0 percent) and was successful on 111 of 113 tries for extra point while averaging 44.3 yards on 296 punts. The development of Bruce Gossett as a placekicker caused him to be used exclusively as a punter in ‘64.

Los Angeles was in need of help at wide receiver, having traded split end Jim Phillips to the Vikings and flanker Carroll Dale to Green Bay, and McDonald resolved any concerns about decline or desire to play by moving into the lineup at flanker and catching a career-high 67 passes for 1036 yards (15.5 avg.) and nine touchdowns. In tandem with rookie split end Jack Snow, he worked well with young quarterbacks Roman Gabriel and Bill Munson and had four hundred-yard receiving games, including one of 200 yards on six catches that included three TDs in a late-season contest against Cleveland. McDonald received Pro Bowl honors, although the team finished in last place in the Western Conference with a 4-10 record.

McDonald played one more season for the Rams, adding 55 catches for 714 yards to his career totals, before being dealt to Atlanta just prior to the 1967 season, his next-to-last. He proved to be a productive addition to the Los Angeles offense in his two years with the team, pulling in 122 passes for 1750 yards (14.3 avg.) and 11 touchdowns, on the way to a career total of 495 receptions for 8410 yards (17.0 avg.) and 84 TDs, all totals that ranked high on the NFL’s career lists at the time. McDonald was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1998.



Villanueva (pictured at left) was effective for the 7-7 Cowboys in 1965, connecting on 16 of 27 field goal attempts, 37 of 38 tries for extra point, and averaging 41.8 yards on 60 punts. He lasted another two seasons in his dual kicking role, leading the NFL by hitting on all 56 of his extra point attempts in 1966, on his way to a club-record 100 straight. His field goal percentage dropped off, and he was good on only 8 of 19 attempts in ’67, but he remained an overall well-regarded kicker while Dallas reached the NFL Championship game in each of his last two years. Villanueva retired following the 1967 season and became a broadcaster, and later was part-owner of the Spanish language television network now known as Univision. For his NFL career, he kicked 85 field goals out of 160 attempts (41 of 77 with Dallas), was successful on 236 of 241 extra points, and had a 42.8-yard average on 488 punts.

May 12, 2015

Highlighted Year: Anthony Davis, 1975

Halfback, Southern California Sun


Age: 23 (Sept. 8)
1st season in pro football
College: Southern California
Height: 5’9”   Weight: 187

Prelude:
Davis, who also excelled at baseball, starred at tailback in college, rushing for 3724 yards and 44 touchdowns for USC. He averaged 42.5 yards on kickoff returns as a senior in 1974, to go along with 1517 yards from scrimmage and finished second in voting for the Heisman Trophy. Davis was chosen by the New York Jets in the second round of the 1975 NFL draft but signed with the Sun of the WFL instead and was the highest-profile rookie of the league’s second season.

1975 Season Summary
Appeared in all 12 games
[Bracketed numbers indicate league rank in Top 20]

Rushing
Attempts – 239 [1]
Most attempts, game – 25 (for 139 yds.) vs. Shreveport 10/12
Yards – 1200 [1]
Most yards, game – 141 yards (on 17 carries) vs. Charlotte 9/14
Average gain – 5.0 [4]
TDs – 16 [1]
100-yard rushing games – 8

Pass Receiving
Receptions – 40 [4] 
Most receptions, game – 9 (for 75 yds.) at Memphis 10/5
Yards – 381 [19]
Most yards, game – 109 (on 7 catches) at Charlotte 9/27
Average gain – 9.5
TDs – 1
100-yard receiving games – 1

Passing
Attempts – 11
Completions – 4
Completion percentage – 36.4
Yards – 120
TDs – 1
Interceptions – 0

Kickoff Returns
Returns – 9 [17]
Yards – 235 [15]
Average per return – 26.1
TDs – 1
Longest return – 84 yards

Scoring
TDs – 18 [1]
Action Points – 7 [1]
Points – 133 [1]

Sun went 7-5 and were first in the WFL Western Division when the league folded. They led the league in touchdowns (45, tied with San Antonio) and were second in rushing yards (2047), passing yards (2431), and scoring (354 points).

Aftermath:
Davis’ abbreviated rookie season turned out to easily be his best as a pro. With the demise of the WFL, he signed a large contract with the Toronto Argonauts of the CFL in 1976 and had a disappointing season, clashing with his coaches and rushing for just 417 yards, catching 37 passes for 408 yards, and averaging 26.0 yards on 27 kickoff returns. Davis was released and joined the Tampa Bay Buccaneers of the NFL in ’77, reuniting with his college coach, John McKay, but he had even less success, gaining 297 yards on the ground and catching eight passes. He was traded to Houston and, due to injuries, saw action in two games for the Oilers before departing for the Los Angeles Rams, where he was a little-used backup. His career ended at that point, but he did briefly return to pro football in 1983 with the Los Angeles Express of the USFL and gained 32 yards on 12 carries. Overall after departing the WFL, Davis ran for a total of 753 yards, caught 45 passes for 499 yards (11.1 avg.), returned 49 kickoffs for a 22.9-yard average, and scored five touchdowns.

--

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