Topps Football Cards to Collect
Gather ’round the tailgate, football fanatics! The 2023-2024 season commences with the Chiefs locking helmets with the Lions. While Mahomes dazzles us with his modern-day heroics, let’s not forget the shiny relics of yesteryears – those coveted rookie cards from AFC West legends. Yup, we’re giving a Mile-High salute to the Broncos and their championship pedigree, the Raiders and their commitment to excellence (and a touch of renegade flair), the electrifying Chargers making bolts fly, and the Chiefs, whose Arrowhead pride began long before master Mahomes ushered in a new era of greatness. As we fire up the grills and fill out fantasy teams, let’s take a moment to appreciate the cardboard legacies of the legends that set the standard for today’s showdowns.
Each week during the first month of the 2023-2024 season, we’re tackling a different division in football to uncover the top cards of the top players who represent the best of their franchises. Be sure and check all of our Football & the Hobby coverage.
Kansas City Chiefs
Kansas City Chiefs: 1997 Bowman’s Best Cuts #BC4 Tony Gonzalez Atomic Refractor
Look, as much as we’d love to slap Patrick Mahomes on this list, we’re throwing it back. Queue up Tony Gonzalez. This guy’s face should be on every Chiefs coffee mug — seriously, can Arrowhead get on making a stadium Mount Rushmore? By the time Gonzalez peaced outta KC, he was flexing franchise records for receptions (916), receiving yards (10,940), and touchdown grabs (76). Travis Kelce might be on his tail, but hey, records are meant to be chased, right? In his day, no tight end rocked the field quite like Gonzalez. With a cool 14 Pro Bowl invites and six All-Pro badges, it’s no wonder he’s chilling in Canton and snagging titles like the “tight end kingpin” from NFL Films. And props to “Tony G” for being the trendsetter — swapping college hoops for the NFL turf and paving the path for future stud tight ends like Antonio Gates, Martellus Bennett, and Mo Alie-Cox.
PS: Gonzalez currently holds NFL records for most receptions (1,325) and receiving yards (15,127) by a tight end.
Los Angeles Chargers
2001 Bowman Chrome® #190 LaDainian Tomlinson Gold Refractor #/99 RC
“LT” lit up the league in the early 2000s with the Bolts, keeping the franchise relevant in an era when “Stay Classy, San Diego” was just a Ron Burgandy from Anchorman quote. “LT” set the gridiron ablaze, notching NFL records for total touchdowns in a season (31), rushing TDs in a campaign (28), and seasons with at least 20 house calls (three). Trying to snag his 2001 Gold Refractor rookie card, with its elusive 99 print run, is like attempting to tackle him in open space.
1984 Topps #158 John Elway RC
Had the Colts refuted Elway’s trade demands, we may have never seen him toss pigskins professionally. The Hall of Fame quarterback chose hardball to kickstart this NFL tenure, leveraging the threat of his baseball career to force a trade to Denver. The rest is football history as Elway became arguably the most clutch quarterback to lace em’ up, orchestrating 46 game-winning or game-tying fourth-quarter drives. The rocket-armed QB also topped 50,000 passing yards, led the Broncos to five AFC Championships, and capped his career with back-to-back Super Bowl victories. And guess what? The 1984 Topps #158 John Elway RC is “The Comeback Kid’s” lone official rookie card. Legendary.
Las Vegas Raiders
1988 Topps #327 Bo Jackson RC
Several Al Davis disciples, including the bone-jarring Jack Tatum, Charles Woodson, and Ken Stabler, were eligible for this honor. But Bo Jackson typically prevails in popularity, foot races, and folklore. He’s the greatest “what could’ve been” story in the history of the NFL, dazzling in his four seasons, including his Pro Bowl campaign (1990), authoring several memorable highlights, including the time he rumbled through Brian “The Boz” Bosworth on a touchdown blast and finishing in the top-five in yards per attempt twice (1989 and 1990). Due to a hip injury, Jackson wasn’t with the Raiders for a long time. But it was a darn good one.
Baddest In the Game: AFC West
1973 Topps #288 Jack Tatum RC
Jack Tatum, often referred to as “The Assassin,” was the embodiment of the hard-hitting, no-nonsense style of the Raiders in the 1970s. Recognized by NFL Films as one of the 10 most feared tacklers of all time, his bone-crushing hits not only made him one of the most dreaded players of his era but, if replicated in today’s NFL, would lead to a mountain of fines and perhaps even a ban from the league. Beyond his fierce reputation, Tatum displayed elite ball skills; he was a three-time Pro Bowl selection and landed in the top 10 for interceptions twice in his career.
PS: Though this card came out in 1973, two years after his first season, it’s Tatum’s first in a Raiders uniform.
Topps Football Cards to Collect