If you are a fan of the NFL, then it was probably hard to watch the last month of the season and not root for the Washington Redskins. They rebounded from a mid-season slump to finish the season strong and make it to the NFL playoffs.
Their comeback and playoff push was fun to watch after the tragedy that happened in November when star safety Sean Taylor was murdered.
Washington was the final football team to come through Minnesota, and the entire team was quite the treat for autograph seekers. It had been a few years since the Redskins last traveled through town, and they left with us hoping they would come back soon.
It all starts with the person in charge who set the tone for the rest of the team as to how to interact with fans. Now former head coach and current NFL Hall of Famer Joe Gibbs provides the best example, as he always goes out of his way to help out fans. Gibbs gladly stopped and signed before the game against the Vikings at the team hotel and also handed everyone a signed postcard to promote his racing group. It’s too bad that Gibbs has since retired from the game considering he has been a true gentleman with collectors.
Washington’s playoff run was aided in a big way by star running back Clinton Portis. The 26-year-old continues to cement his name as one of the game’s top backs with more than 7,700 rushing yards in his six-year career.
Portis was a bit of a struggle in terms of signing, but he did end up signing before the game as he left the hotel. He kept shaking his head to say he was not signing as he walked toward a group of us, but after a little begging, we were able to land a signature from him. He laughed at our never-give-up attitude and was trying to make jokes with us as he signed.
Backup quarterback Mark Brunell might not be the star anymore, but he did have some pretty impressive seasons throughout his long career. Back when he was a star with the Jacksonville Jaguars, Brunell was one of the more difficult signatures to obtain in the league. He seems to have mellowed some in his older age, as he stopped and signed for everyone waiting. He did mention while signing that he would be checking out eBay that night to see the items he was signing up for sale.
An emerging star with the Redskins is tight end Chris Cooley who was named a Pro-Bowler this year. Cooley was as nice as could be, as he signed multiples for everyone waiting.
If only the former players were as nice as the current ones. Two former Redskins greats have proven to be extremely difficult to obtain. Hall of Famers Sam Huff and Sonny Jerguson travel with the team as part of the Redskins radio broadcasts. Both were very grumpy and not inviting to collectors. Huff turned everyone down at the team hotel, but then did reverse his actions and signed for one collector who was wearing his old No. 70 jersey. Sonny, on the other hand, denied any requests for his autograph.
The other good signers with the Redskins included Andre Carter, Todd Collins, London Fletcher, Randall Godfrey, LaRon Landry, Keenan McCardell and Shawn Springs.
Shining Stars when it comes to signing
Speaking of friendly teams, not many are better in the NHL then the Dallas Stars. The Stars have had many of the same faces within their organization for years, which has made Dallas one of the best hockey teams to chase for quite some time.
Leading the way in generosity is the face of the franchise, Mike Modano. The 37-year-old has been with the organization since the late 1980s, when the team was still in Minnesota as the North Stars, and he has put together a 17-year Hall of Fame career.
Modano is one of the greatest American-born players to ever play the game, and he continues to be one of the best signing superstars in all of hockey. It is very rare to see a time when Modano will actually turn someone down.
Before getting on the team bus prior to the game, Modano came over to a large crowd of collectors and signed for every single person waiting. This is the norm for him, as he always goes out of his way to keep fans happy.
Goalie Marty Turco has been the main goalie in Dallas for the past seven seasons, and he is a big part of the Stars consistent success in the decade. Not only is he a star on the ice, but Turco is a stud off it, as well. He gladly signed multiples for everyone before he left.
The big score for collectors waiting for the Stars was with assistant general manager Brett Hull, who traveled with the team and was nice enough to sign at the team hotel. The future Hall of Famer was a bit of a challenge to get to sign at times during his career, but he was far from that in this visit to Minnesota.
The other good signers with the Stars included Stu Barnes, Jeff Halpern, Matt Niskanen, Steve Ott, Mike Ribeiro, Mike Smith, Brad Winchester and Sergei Zubov.
A Pearl of wisdom
Like I mentioned earlier, the head coach of the team can set the tone for his players as to how they should deal with fans and collectors. While not always the case, many times if a head coach goes out of his or her way to help fans, that can filter down to the players.
This was true with the Redskins and with the Tennessee Volunteers men’s basketball team. One of the nation’s top teams, the Tennessee program was great about signing before a recent game. Head coach Bruce Pearl signed and posed for pictures with anyone who asked, and then he made sure to ask us autograph seekers if we needed a signature from any players or if anyone did not sign.
We told him that everyone was very friendly, and he said,” Good, that is what I would expect.” Too bad not every coach looks over his or her players this way.
Leading the way with the players was All-American candidate Chris Lofton, who should be a sought-after prospect this June in the NBA draft. Lofton, like everyone else on the team, gladly stopped to sign for everyone.
If you have a chance to catch the Volunteers basketball team, it will be well worth your time, thanks in part to the enforcer of the crew, Coach Pearl.