It's national signing day, a sports holiday where grown men obsess over where 17- and 18-year-olds decide to go to college! I had already planned a football post today, so that definitely works out for me. I also wanted to take the opportunity to show some of the defensive players a little bit of love, because for some reason many collectors ignore them. Not me, though--many of my Wolverine favorites played on this side of the ball.
As an added bonus today, I'm going to see what I can dig up in going back and looking at the scouting reports for these guys at the time they signed with the Maize and Blue, and comment briefly about how they turned out.
Alan Branch 2007 Topps Chrome Red Refractors Uncirculated (#052/139)
Alan Branch 2007 Upper Deck Signature Sensations auto
Branch was a 4* DT out of Albuquerque when he committed to Michigan in 2004. He, uh...well he did just fine on the Wolverine D-line, also playing end occasionally. He started for three years and picked up nine sacks and 17 TFL in his 35 games, finishing his career as an All-American. That was good enough to get him drafted at the top of the second round in 2007, and while his Cardinals career wasn't stellar, he's been pretty good for his current team, the Seahawks. But before all that, don't forge that he did this:
No worries, guys--as usual, I didn't forget the "Alan Branch kills QBs" tag.
The Uncirculated Refractor is the only non-"hit" of the day, but it's still a fun one. Considering the guy played for the red-smitten Cardinals at the time, a Red Refractor was totally ideal. It's actually my second Branch uncirculated card (and fourth overall). I still wanted a hit of him as well, so I got the solid UD auto above, my 13th (out of 13 hits) of the QB-slayer.
Brandon Graham 2010 Certified Mirror Red Signatures auto (#185/250)
Brandon Graham 2010 Sweet Spot Signatures manuhelmet auto RC (#066/400)
There was no mistaking Graham for a hit-or-miss prospect back in 2006--the Detroiter was tops in the state, second at the ILB position, and 15th overall as a 5* recruit according to Rivals. It took him a bit of time to live up to that hype due to effort and conditioning concerns, but once Rich Rodriguez stepped in Graham became an outspoken leader (by words and example) for a team that would come to desperately need such a teammate. He earned universal support from the Michigan faithful when, again leading by example, he stuck around for his senior season despite a mass exodus of talent and depth, and despite being THE defense that year, STILL managed to put up video game-type numbers, which is still mind-boggling today.
Guys, if you didn't follow Michigan football during the RichRod era, times were dark in an unprecedented way, and this guy stayed through some shit, becoming the heart and soul of a team without much of anything. That and his massive talent led to being selected by the Eagles in the first round in 2010, and although injuries have limited his career to-date, he still has lots of time left to become a special player, following in the footsteps of such Michigan legends as LaMarr Woodley.
The Mirror Red was a fun pickup, and since a lot of Panini's designs tend to blend together, at the time I could have sworn I already had this one, but apparently not. More exciting is the Sweet Spot card, which is the most basic version of the three manuhelmet autos, but is awesome nonetheless, and it goes along with this variation version, meaning I just need the iconic "winged" helmet card to complete the trio. Flip the digits on the Graham hit counter to 15.
Gabe Watson 2006 Press Pass Autographs Bronze auto
Watson came to Ann Arbor with 5* hype, though he was initially considered an OT. He would go on to a nice career for the Wolverines at the DT position, however, playing all four years and compiling five sacks and 14.5 TFL. Arizona took him in the fourth round back in 2006, and he played through 2010 with the Cardinals before his career stalled with the Giants. In terms of his production with Michigan, he didn't quite live up to a five-star rating, but ultimately became a quality starter who was valuable on defense.
I only have five Watson hits (all autographs) to my name, but what's great about this one is that it's the first I've picked up that shows him in a Michigan uniform. By the way, #80 that you see in the background there? That's Alan Branch! Anyway, Gabe has a gorgeous signature that's 100% legible and simply looks fantastic. Score another win for Press Pass in the college autograph race.
Marlin Jackson 2005 UD Reflections Signature Reflections Gold auto (#44/89)
Jackson was considered a 4* safety out of Pennsylvania when he committed back in 2001. He then went on to play all four years for the Maize and Blue, and if anything he probably played above that initial rating. He suffered through some positional shuffling as an underclassman, but was outstanding in his senior season, 2004, which as an All-American DB that was so dangerous, opponents threw his way on less than 14% of plays. He was good enough for Indy to take him late in the first round the following year, but his NFL career was cursed by the injury bug. He did, however, earn a piece of the Colts' Super Bowl title in 2006, coming up big with a game-sealing Tom Brady interception against the Pats to lead his team to the AFC title.
I'm up to 13 Marlin hits at this point, and given that I hit double digits, it's no surprise that this one parallels one I already had. I'd say the gold (and numbering) makes this one a bit cooler than the original, but it doesn't really matter because now I can enjoy both!
Mike Martin 2012 Leaf Draft Red auto
Martin garnered a 4* rating from Rivals in 2008 as the 16th best DT. Another local boy, he endured the trying RichRod era fairly well, and proved to be a bright spot on some disappointingly poor defenses. His star would shine bright in his senior season, 2011, though, with the arrival of defensive-minded HC Brady Hoke and virtuoso DC Greg Mattison. A force up-the-middle that drew double-teams (and THEN some, at times) but still made big plays, nobody on his side of the ball was more important to Michigan's resurgence in Hoke's first campaign in Ann Arbor. Tennessee picked him up in the third round of 2011's draft, and if he dropped that low, it had more to do with his size than his talent and work ethic. He was definitely missed at times last season.
Prior to picking up this beauty, I had one other autograph of Martin, this one from 2012 UD, which also features him in his Michigan get-up. Despite the fact that Leaf might have done a bit of an airbrush job on part of his helmet for some reason, I think I prefer this one because the design really makes the colors pop. Then again, with only two hits of the young Titan, I'll take whatever I can get!
I still have plenty more stuff to show off this week, so I'll be back tomorrow or Friday with more fun pickups.