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One of the most exciting reasons to collect NFL rookie cards is that you get to watch their values spike if the player performs well on the field. To help capture that excitement, Upper Deck launched a new website to help collectors track 2009 NFL rookie cards, but also make predictions on which rookie would have the best week at OwnTheRookies.com.
Collectors who successfully guess Upper Deck’s “Rookie of the Week” will be entered into a drawing to win a box of 2009 NFL trading cards. For throwing 3 TDs and helping his team to their first win, Josh Freeman has earned top honors for Week 9. If you entered codes from Freeman’s cards last week, stay tuned to the website to see if you are a winner!
Lately, it’s been commonplace to see rookie quarterbacks doing well. Last year was the year of Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco, while this year, Mark Sanchez has done very well in his inaugural campaign. Josh Freeman may have just had his first start of the year, but he is definitely making waves already. Hopes were high on Freeman at the beginning of the 2009 season, but the experts weren’t sure of his pedigree.
Coming out of a school not known for its football program, Freeman was considered a top prospect because of his talent, rather than his performance record at KSU. The Bucs saw that he was a great talent to develop, and drafted him as the third QB of the first round. They were banking on Freeman being able to sit for a while and learn behind the likes of Byron Leftwich, a player with similar tools, and then make a splash with his debut when they thought he was ready.
After both Leftwich and second year backup Josh Johnson had problems leading the offense, Freeman was called upon prematurely to be the main man against a great team in the Packers. Green Bay was heavily favored against the 0-7 Bucs, with star QB Aaron Rodgers expected to tear up a week Tampa Bay secondary. What people weren’t expecting was Freeman to not only outplay Rodgers, but to also help guide Tampa Bay to its first win.
The game started out as expected with the Packers going up with a couple of early TDs, stretching those to a sure win entering the fourth quarter with a lead. Freeman, instead of crumbling under the pressure, protected the football, and made some incredible plays to give the Bucs their first lead of the game with little time left for the Packers to recover.
Freeman may not have had any long completions for huge plays, but his fourth down TD pass to Sammy Stroughter was easily one of the best plays of the year by any rookie. Down 28-23 with less than 10 minutes in the game, Tampa Bay was knocking on the door for a go ahead score. After three plays, they found themselves with a fourth and four from the 7 yard line, the game resting on the shoulders of their biggest investment of the last five years. Freeman lobbed a beautiful pass to the corner, and Stroughter made a great catch to give the Bucs a fighting chance at a win. As a Vikings fan, I almost shouted as loud as I did during the previous week, but it was more out of shock that a rookie pulled off such a play. Even though Tampa Bay is only 1-7, they sure made that one win a memorable one for Freeman and the Bucs fans alike.
As for collectors? They have been cautious to embrace Freeman, who has been in the background during Stafford and Sanchez’s early games. He still has a good amount of value as a first round rookie QB, but up to this point was not at the same level as his draft buddies. But after the game on Sunday, Freeman has jumped considerably, and he definitely has some awesome cards to pick up when you have the chance.
My favorite of all of his cards so far is one that you can actually get for a great price. His card out of the 2009 Upper Deck Rookie Premiere box set is awesome, with Freeman’s larger than life picture pointing right at you from his card. It’s almost like he is telling you that you need this card in your collection (and after beating the Packers, I agree). There is also an autographed parallel, which features Freeman’s unique signature, so I would not hesitate to pick this one up if you are looking for a great card to start up your Freeman collection.
Freeman also has an awesome Rookie Jersey Autograph in this year’s SPx: the photo, material, and autograph all work incredibly well together. Not only do you get a rare, low numbered card, but you also get an autograph, three pieces of player worn jersey, and a cool action shot of Freeman in his Bucs uniform. It isn’t the bright orange throwback that Freeman wore on Sunday, but when you do what he did to a great team, those are surely coming.
Although he hasn’t risen to the level of an elite quarterback quite yet, he surely has displayed that he has the skill to eventually get there. His cards are still affordable for collectors right now, but they won’t be for long if he continues to play the way he did against Green Bay.
With all of the success that rookie QBs continue to have, the previously standard ceilings seem to be disappearing. Players like Freeman are going to be tested earlier and more often, rather than being held back to learn behind the vets. This could be an ideal situation for collectors who buy early, as they won’t have to wait as long to see what happens with their favorite players. Personally, I love what Freeman brings to the table, and I think the Bucs fans do too. At least when you are 1-7, there isn’t anywhere to go but up, and Josh Freeman is a great person to help them along the way.
Check in next week for the newest rookie to win “Rookie of the Week” honors, and don’t forget to enter in all your rookie card codes from the Upper Deck products you have collected so far. Not only can you win prizes, but the site has some great features that allow you to track rookies and their cards this season!
Adam Gellman runs the collecting blog Sports Cards Uncensored, and has been a collector of all things sports for over 15 years. To see more of his work, visit www.sportscardsuncensored.com (warning: strong language!).