His personality is still as big and bold as some of the plays he authored as the quarterback of four Super Bowl-winning teams.
And today, more than 30 years after his last professional pass, Terry Bradshaw is as popular as ever thanks largely to his role on Fox NFL Sunday.
"Bradshaw was great to follow because he was a fun guy," explained Mike Fisher, who grew up in the Pittsburgh area and has assembled the No. 1 Current Finest Terry Bradshaw Master Set on the PSA Set Registry. "And people love watching him on TV now. You watch him on the pre-game shows and you get the impression that he really enjoys what he's doing."
The folksy enthusiasm Bradshaw brings to the broadcasts has helped him maintain his status as a household name and crossover into mainstream TV shows and movies. In fact, Bradshaw is the only former NFL player that has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
This type of adulation isn't something Bradshaw, who was born on September 2, 1948, in Shreveport, Louisiana, could have imagined when he was growing up. He was a multi-sport star in high school, and though he'd eventually become known for his long bombs on the gridiron, it was a javelin he tossed 245 feet that set a national record.
After graduating from high school, Bradshaw attended Louisiana Tech University, where in his junior year as quarterback, he topped the NCAA with 2,890 passing yards and led the team to a 33-13 victory over Akron in the Rice Bowl. Bradshaw threw for 576 less yards in his senior year, but he was still widely considered the nation's top college player. As a result, the Pittsburgh Steelers selected him first overall in the NFL draft.
His success in the professional ranks, however, was far from immediate. In his first season, he passed for just six touchdowns and was intercepted 24 times.
According to Mick Daly, who owns the No. 3 Current Finest Terry Bradshaw Master Set on the PSA Set Registry, Bradshaw's story as a rookie NFL player epitomized the Steelers' own playing history up until the early 1970s. "After he was drafted, he was benched and the fans booed him," Daly commented. "People were calling him dumb and there was a time, for a couple of years, where he was very dejected and withdrawn."
It wasn't until Bradshaw wrestled the starting quarterback job back from Joe Gilliam during the 1974 season that he finally found his stride and helped lead the Steelers to their first Super Bowl victory. With Bradshaw calling the plays for an offense that boasted full back Franco Harris, running back Rocky Bleier and receivers Lynn Swann and John Stallworth, the Steelers repeated as champs in Super Bowl X.
"I just loved the way Bradshaw ran the offense. He just had total command," said David Obreiter, who owns the No. 2 Bradshaw Master Set on the PSA Set Registry. "When that huddle broke, you just knew that he was in total control of that offense and that all of the other players knew he was the leader on the team. He was 'Mr. Clutch.' When he got into the post-season, he was a different player. He stepped it up."
"Whenever there was a big game, especially playoffs and Super Bowls, that was when Bradshaw was a Hall of Fame player," he said. "You could always pick four or five games each season where you'd wonder how the guy was a starting quarterback, but for the rest of the season and in the big games, he was a Hall of Famer. A lot of coaches would say, 'Bradshaw may not be the best player in the league, but if you have a big game, he's the one you would want as quarterback.'"
After the Steelers lost in the conference final in 1976 and were defeated in their first playoff game in 1977, Bradshaw responded with MVP performances to lead the Steelers to triumphs in Super Bowl XIII and XIV. In all, Bradshaw guided the Steelers to eight AFC Central division titles and four Super Bowl victories. At the time of his retirement, he held the records for most touchdown passes (9) and yards (932) in Super Bowl games.
On top of his playoff heroics, "The Blonde Bomber" was selected to three Pro Bowls and was named NFL MVP in 1978. And while his regular season statistics may not jump off the page (212 touchdown passes, 210 interceptions), Bradshaw was at his best when the stakes were the highest. He threw for more than 300 yards in a game just seven times in his career, but three of those games were in the post-season, two of which were Super Bowls. For his efforts, Bradshaw was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1989.
Yet even while he was still active with the Steelers, Bradshaw sometimes filled in as a TV analyst. He jumped into that role full-time almost immediately after he quit playing, and he has been doing it in some capacity ever since. On top of his movie and TV credits, Bradshaw has written/co-written five books, recorded six albums of country and gospel music and is a popular motivational speaker. He also makes a few appearances on the card show circuit each year.
It's no wonder then that a large group of collectors are pursuing his Basic (14 cards), Master (60 cards) and Master Topps (29 cards) sets on the PSA Set Registry.
Here's a rundown of his most coveted Basic and Master Set cards:
Basic Set Cards
1971 Topps #156 - Rookie Card. This card showcases a head shot of the "Blonde Bomber" against a blue sky in the background surrounded by fragile red borders.
"The red borders are notorious for chipping," noted Daly. "You can see the slightest little damage on them because of their color."
Obreiter has noticed the borders in different shades of red.
"There are cards where it's not a bright red; it's sort of a faded red," he said. "You can tell by putting it next to the one that is cherry apple red, and typically, a lot of those you see with the nice, cherry apple red color came from vending [boxes]."
Not surprisingly, collectors prefer cards with the brighter, richer borders.
Out of the 2,335 Bradshaw rookies submitted, there have been just three PSA GEM-MT 10s and 20 PSA MINT 9s. One PSA 9 sold for $6,600 in a Greg Bussineau Sports Rarities auction in December 2014.
1972 Topps #150. This white-bordered single features Bradshaw in a throwing pose inside a yellow frame. It's often found with poor left-to-right centering.
"Bradshaw's second-year card is probably his second-most popular because you can buy it, even in a PSA 9, for a fraction of what it would cost for his rookie card," said Obreiter. "I love the yellow and white border on that card."
There are six PSA 10s and 31 PSA 9s. One PSA 10 sold for $3,250 on eBay in March 2015.
1974 Topps #470. Bradshaw is, again, photographed in a throwing pose on this card. Daly and Fisher say this pasteboard is regularly found with poor centering.
"The 1974 Topps set is one of the hardest sets to put together because of the bizarre cutting," said Daly.
There has yet to be a PSA 10 example, and one of the 26 PSA 9s fetched $355.22 on eBay in July 2015.
1976 Topps #75. This white-bordered card presents a close-up photo of a helmetless Bradshaw in his black Steelers jersey. Like the 1974 issue, this card is often found with centering issues.
Of the 480 submitted, there have been three PSA 10s and 57 PSA 9s.
Master Set Cards
1972 NFLPA Wonderful World Stamps #319. Measuring 1-15/16" by 2-7/8", these stamps were designed to be affixed to an album called "The Wonderful World of Pro Football USA." Both Obreiter and Daly say this was one of the more difficult Master Set items for them to track down.
"They're very, very hard to obtain centered," noted Daly, who owns a PSA NM 7.
Of the 17 submitted to PSA, there has been five PSA NM-MT 8s and one PSA 9.
1976 Fleer Team Action Stickers #23 and #66. These standard-sized singles were part of a 66-sticker series. The white-bordered fronts present an action photo surrounded by a red border, while the backs offer text in black on white stock with a light blue NFL emblem in the background. These were distributed in limited quantities, and the backs provide collectors with instructions on how to peel the stickers off. The two stickers in this series that feature Bradshaw are "Pittsburgh Steelers - The Pitch-Out" (#23) and "Super Bowl X Pittsburgh (AFC) 21, Dallas (NFC) 17" (#66).
"It's extremely hard to find them in packs, as well as single cards," said Obreiter. "There are just not many of them out there."
Daly adds that the quality of the stock wasn't that strong.
The highest graded example of #23 has been a PSA 7, while there have been two PSA 8s of #66.
1976 Saga Discs. Measuring approximately 3-3/8" in diameter, this disc was part of a 30-disc issue. It employs the same design as the 1976 Crane and Buckman discs, but it has customized branding and was distributed in far smaller quantities. When these are uncovered today, they're usually in high grade. Of the 11 evaluated, one is a PSA 8, six are PSA 9s and four are PSA 10s.
"What makes these a little easier is that they were discs and they didn't have square corners," explained Obreiter. "There was no opportunity for [the] corners to bend because there were no corners."
One PSA 10 sold for $213.50 on eBay in September 2014.
1977 Topps Mexican #245. This set is comprised of the same 528 cards as the regular 1977 Topps set, but the text on the cards is in Spanish. The Mexican cards were printed on flimsier stock and were issued in two-card packs which often resulted in the cards being stained right out of the pack.
"The Topps Mexican cards are very tough and they're becoming even tougher," said Fisher.
"These cards were cut in a different fashion than the other cards; it's not a straight cut. Plus, there are also printing quality issues and some gum stains."
There has yet to be a PSA 10 Bradshaw and there are just two PSA 9s. One PSA 8 commanded $177.50 on eBay in July 2013.
Collecting Bradshaw Autographs
Terry Bradshaw was an accommodating signer during his playing days, but it has become a little more challenging to obtain his autograph in person in recent years.
"He gets paid good money to sign his name now, so getting him on the street has become more difficult," said the principal authenticator at PSA/DNA.
He further notes that Bradshaw's signature has evolved since his early playing days.
"Early on, he would stack his signature - placing his first name over his last. And because the signature was so big, it did not always fit adequately on some items like cards and index cards," explained the PSA/DNA authenticator. "But signatures of his from the past 20 years are usually all along the same plane."
The legendary Steelers quarterback also makes a few card show appearances a year. Obreiter remembers attending a signing in Youngstown, Ohio, just after Bradshaw had retired. At that time, the cost was $5 to get any item signed.
"He was very likeable and genuine," recalled Obreiter of Bradshaw at that signing. "He was a jokester, but he was serious too. He took the signing very seriously. He knew that the collectors were very into it."
Though authentic Bradshaw autographs are not rare, there are also a significant number of secretarial signatures circulating in the hobby. These were generally sent out in response to mail requests.
"Most of the trading cards and index cards we receive [at PSA/DNA] are secretarial signed," said the autograph expert, who says secretarial signatures are still being sent out for Bradshaw mail requests. "The secretarial signatures are very neat, and they're mostly signed vertically up the card."
Please feel free to contact Kevin Glew at [email protected] if you have any additional information or comments. Please note that the Population Report figures quoted and Set Registry rankings reported are those as of September 2015.
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