Friday, January 22, 2010

Tshimanga 'Tim' Biakabutuka Autograph Card

With another Montréal-area player in the NFL this year (Samuel Giguère), and one who is close to retiring (Jean-Philippe Darche), I thought it'd be nice to remember the guy who made it all possible: Tshimanga 'Tim' Biakabutuka.

Biakabutuka was born in Kinshasa, Zaïre, in 1974 but moved to Montréal in 1978 - incidentally, the year I was born. His family still lives in the area. He didn't take up playing football until late in high school, but was impressive enough to catch the eye of the Vanier College coaching staff, where his play was so spectacular he was given the nickname 'Touchdown Tim', despite playing running back, a position more about winning yards than scoring.

In fact, he was so good that the University Of Michigan gave him a full scholarship to play football there. And he didn't just show up and phone it in: to this day, he still holds the school's second highest single-game rushing performance, with 313 yards. That performance helped him get drafted in the first round by the Carolina Panthers in 1996, with the 8th overall pick. He left Michigan with 1818 yards in his final season - a record that still stands to this day.

Unfortunately, injuries got the better of him in the NFL and he was forced out of the line-up in 2001, despite being convinced he could still pull it off. His per-carry numbers are pretty good, but he never played more than 12 games, never carried the ball more than 173 times, and never rushed for more than 718 yards in a single season; Wikipedia calls him a ''first round bust'', but I call him an inspiration for my generation.

This card is from Fleer's 2000 NFL set, the Autographic/Fresh Ink sub-set, showing him in his Panthers' white uniform, ready for a carry.

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