I have had some fantastic returns this past week!!
The first return was from Cade McNown. I loved watching him play for the UCLA Bruins and rooted for him during his NFL career. His junior and senior years were awesome. He led the Bruins to identical 10-2 record and Top 10 finishes. Over two seasons the Bruins won 20 straight games. They were undefeated his senior year before the great game against Miami where they were ROBBED! LOL The wide receiver's knee was down before he fumbled. Where was instant replay when you needed it. I would have loved to see them win the National Championship. I rooted for Mr. McNown throughout his NFL and was sorry that it didn't work out better for him. I asked him what his favorite memory was and it was the pursuit of perfection along with his teammates. I asked if he could rewatch one game he played in, what would it be and he said the Miami game that I mentioned earlier. I asked what was he most proud of outside of football and he said his family...including his football family. I had him sign a football photo and the cover of a Playstation video game manual that I had saved purposely to try and have him sign it.
The second return comes from one of the best offensive lineman in Patriots history-- Bruce Armstrong. He had an incredible career with multiple awards and an awesome stretch of games started in a row, especially for a lineman. He ranks right with John Hannah as the best Pats linemen. Even after he was hurt and missed a chunk of time, he came back and was as good as ever. He signed a Patriots helmet photo for me.
Jacob Tamme is an excellent tight end for Peyton Manning-both with the Colts and now with the Broncos. I became a fan of his while he was at the University of Kentucky. That offense was so fun to watch with him, Keenan Burton, Stevie Johnson, and Dicky Lyons Jr. They seemed to be on the cusp of being an excellent team but they couldn't quite get over that hump that separates a very good team and a great team. Mr. Tamme is an excellent blocker and has great hands. He signed a football photo for me.
Tim Biakabutuka was a star at Michigan and had some great seasons with the Carolina Panthers. I remember watching him with Tyrone Wheatley at the University of Michigan. Talk about a talented backfield. He had an unbelievable career at Michigan. It was highlighted by his 300 yard performance against Ohio State (could that have happened in a bigger game) and setting the single season rushing mark. If he could have stayed healthy in the NFL I think he would have been stellar. He scored two 60 yard touchdown runs in the same game. He signed a Carolina Panthers helmet photo for me.
The next two returns were so awesome and the fact that they came the same night makes it even better. The first return was from former San Jose State player Neil Parry. Mr. Parry was hurt in a game and ended up having to have his foot amputated. He never gave up and would return to the San Jose State football team two years later. He played special teams with a prosthetic leg. What an unbelievable example of the human spirit. He is back at SJSU as a graduate assistant and when I saw that I knew I had to send a request to him. He signed a football photo for me. He answered my questions and said that he didn't think he was back until he made a tackle in the East West Shrine game. I asked if he had any advice for my second graders and I loved his response so much I typed it out and made a poster of it to go above my whiteboard. He said:
Never Give Up! Don't ever let anyone else tell you what can or can not be done. If you want something, work for it and don't let anything stop you from accomplishing your goal. There will always be setbacks and obstacles; it's how you deal with them and move on that makes you who you are or who you want to be.
The final return was probably the most fantastic and one of my best ever. I have been working on a Notre Dame project since earlier this year and I wrote to Nick Rassas. He was a player for the Irish in the 1960s. He was an excellent defensive back and punt returner who would play for the Atlanta Falcons in the NFL. He was an All American in his final season after starting his career as a walk-on. He was drafted by both the Falcons in the NFL and the Chargers in the AFL. I asked what his favorite memory and he said tons of them including asking Ara Parseghian for a scholarship. I asked why he chose the Falcons (inaugral season) over the Chargers and he said money and the AFL was just starting and that he wanted to play for Green Bay (didn't happen). I asked what he was most proud of outside of football and he said his 4 college degrees and his last job was as Senior VP of U.B.S. (swiss bank that is the 2nd largest in the world). He signed a Notre Dame helmet photo for me. This return would have been great by itself but what else was in the envelope made it unbelievable! He sent along a copy of the book Resurrection written by Jim Dent and signed it to me. He said: Thank you for including me in your collection. Thought you might enjoy a good Notre Dame football story. Best wishes, Nick Rassas #27 The Fighting Irish of Notre Dame and the Atlanta Falcons. The book is about the 1964 season- Ara Parseghian's first with Notre Dame. The previous season the Irish went 2-7. It is a GREAT book and I loved it. It was awesome to read the back story of some of the players and what they had to go through before getting to have this great season. I started reading it Sunday (read 20 chapters) and finished it on Monday! This return will always be one of my favorites.
It was such an enjoyable read that I have already sent to a couple of the players from it this week to hopefully be able to add them to my collection.