Since we rarely have NFL graphing opportunities in Southern California I decided to check out the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl at the Home Depot Center in Carson today. The game was scheduled to start at 3pm with the doors opening up early at 2. I arrived at the Home Depot Center around 12:15 hoping to graph the coaches coming in.
On a normal day i'd go to an event to graph the players in the game. However today was the exception to the rule as I decided to graph the coaching staff instead. The National Team was coached by legendary Coach Dick Vermeil and his assistants included Isaac Bruce and Priest Holmes. The American Team was coached by Herm Edwards and his assistants included HOFers Darrell Green and Art Monk. We also heard that Andre Reed, DeSean Jackson, and Terrell Davis were going to be there as well.
The first coach to walk in was Coach Herm Edwards. Since I didn't have anything for him to sign I took a photo with him. Coach Edwards was nice and personable.
When I arrived at the event there weren't that many graphers. There was a total of five of us including Matt who tagged along with me today. This was a bit of a surprise since it's rare now to go to an event and not see a ton of graphers. However there were other events going on today including the Kings Championship Banner Celebration event which featured a signing by Marcel Dionne and Daryl Evans and the LA Fit Expo featuring a Shawne Merriman signing.
Next up was Art Monk and Darrell Green who walked in together. Art Monk denied all autograph requests saying that he doesn't sign memorabilia. I guess he must be under contract. Darrell Green denied us as well but he said he'd get us inside which normally is a false promise. I was a bit upset since it was only five of us but rejection is part of the hobby so it wasn't the end of the world.
Luckily I didn't strike out today as Andre Reed stopped by and signed for all of us. Like Coach Edwards, Andre was nice and personable and he signed a mini helmet for me and I also took a photo with him.
Isaac Bruce was the next former NFL player to sign for us. What was funny was that when Isaac walked by Matt he told him that he doesn't sign for 49ers fans. Matt was decked out in 49ers gear today and wore a Joe Montana jersey. I replied by telling Isaac that I have a Rams helmet for him to sign so he signed my helmet and he took a photo with me as well.
Matt was persistent and ended up getting Isaac Bruce to sign his 49ers helmet for him. He explained that he's a huge 49ers fan and was a big fan of Isaac during the tail end of his career when he played for the Niners.
In terms of pregame graphing that was pretty much it but it was a nice start. Since it was the first time I ever visited the Home Depot Center I decided to take a few pictures of the stadium.
Here is a picture of Coach Holmes and Coach Bruce below
On Twitter we read that the NFLPA was holding a photo contest for fans attending the game. Panini and the NFLPA would choose the fan with the best photo at the game with the grand prize being a signed football by both Coach Herm Edwards and Dick Vermeil. Matt ended up winning when he submitted a photo of his Redskins mini helmet near the field. You can check out what he won here.
Since it was game time the coaches weren't signing so we decided to wander around the stadium. We heard that DeSean Jackson was in attendance so we wandered around looking for him. At the other end of the stadium we noticed someone signing autographs. It was Antonio Cromartie. I guess he was there to support his cousin Marcus Cromartie who was playing for the American Team. Since I didn't have anything for him to sign I had Antonio sign the game program.
Here is a picture of Antonio and his cousin Marcus who is wearing the #22 jersey for the American Team.
When Matt went to pick up his prize at the suite we got a tip from the NFLPA rep that there were more NFL players in attendance watching the game at the suite adjacent to us. We walked by and noticed that Andre Reed, TJ Houshmandzadeh, and Eric Decker were watching the game together at the suite. Since Terrell Davis was a no show I had my throwback Broncos mini with me and Matt had his Broncos helmet with him as well. Thus we ended up getting Eric Decker to sign our mini helmets for us.
We heard from other graphers that DeSean was at the game and signed a few but left early.
When the game ended Matt and I decided to wait near the entrance hoping for a second shot at Darrell Green or Art Monk. I had low expectations since they denied us earlier but I still was hoping I could at least get Priest Holmes or Coach Dick Vermeil.
Again there weren't any graphers besides me, Matt and his dad waiting outside. When Priest Holmes walked out I politely asked him for an autograph. Priest said he would only sign one so I was a bit confused when he made that comment since I was only holding 1 mini helmet. I told him that I only wanted my mini helmet signed and he gladly signed it for me. When it was Matt's turn to get his football signed he told him that he already signed one and it was time to go. I thought that was a bit strange since we were the only two asking for an autograph. I guess Matt got denied since he was decked out in Niners gear.
The last Coach to sign for us was Coach Dick Vermeil. He was nice just like Coach Edwards and he signed my Rams mini helmet.
There was no sight of Art Monk and Darrell Green. I guess they left through a separate exit. Overall however it was a great day of NFL graphing.