The sport of football runs deep in the Leggett Family.
Brad is widely considered one of the greatest centers to ever suit up for the University of Southern California where he was part of some outstanding teams in the late 1980s.
The Vicksburg, Mississippi born offensive line standout was drafted in the eighth round of the 1990 NFL Draft by the Denver Broncos. He played for the New Orleans Saints and the Detroit Lions but his career was cut short due to various injuries.
Brad’s father Earl, was a first round draft pick of the Chicago Bears in the 1957 NFL Draft. The elder Leggett went on to play 12 seasons in the NFL and spent the nearly three decades after his playing career as a defensive line coach, with most of that time being spent with the iconic Oakland Raiders teams.
The father and son duo became the first such family combo to both play for the New Orleans Saints when the younger Leggett donned the Fleur de Lis in 1990.
Brad is a football historian and curator. He is the founder and operator of the extensive Pro Players Business Network, the only networking site dedicated to former pro football players, with a reach of more than 15,000 members.
We talked with him about his lone official appearance on cardboard, his family’s love of football and how collecting brought him and his hero closer together.
Tony Reid– How important is the hobby to you?
Brad Leggett-Sports card and memorabilia collecting really hits home with me. I have collected all my life. My mother collected all of my dad’s stuff when he was in the league, too.
TR–Do you remember the very first time you were asked for your autograph?
BL– Wow, how about that one? It had to be at USC. I played at USC from 1985 to 1989. I played on some amazing teams with some great players. We went to three straight Rose Bowls. Rodney Peete was my quarterback. Todd Marinovich was my quarterback. Junior Seau was on the team. I want to say that every member of our offense from my senior year in 1989 played in the NFL. To be part of the tradition of USC is truly amazing.
TR–Although you didn’t have a professional trading card released, you had a card in 1989 Smokey Bear USC Trojans card set. Yes, I looked that up. Do you have that card in your collection?
BL– Let me color the picture a little bit. I started collecting cards back in 1976. What a year to start collecting cards. My dad was coaching the defensive line with the expansion Seattle Seahawks. It was Walter Payton’s rookie (card) year. All my life I collected cards. When I got to college it slowed down a bit. It was such a thrill, being a kid and collecting cards and getting autographs and then seeing one of myself. As an offensive lineman, it was especially a thrill. It wasn’t Topps or anything like that but it was still a neat thing for me.
TR– Your father played and coached in the league for years and years. Was he a collector, too?
BL– I was so lucky. My father was a first round draft choice of the Chicago Bears in 1957 out of LSU. He was a part of the Monsters of the Midway. He played next to Doug Atkins, NFL Hall of Famer. On the other side, Bill George, Hall of Famer. He played nine years with the Bears. He walked out of camp. Back then you didn’t do that. (Rams coach) George Allen traded for my dad (in 1966). The Saints were an expansion team. My dad got to go back home and be part of the first two years of the Saints.
Growing up, I missed his playing days. I was too young. What trading cards did for me, it was a way to connect to my father through all those guys he played with. I got to know about his teammates and the guys he played against. I would show him a card of someone he played with or against and we would have these conversations. That is how special collecting really was to me. It was a way to connect to my father.
As he got into coaching, here I am, just a little kid collecting cards. When he was coaching with the Seahawks in 1976 and 1977 I would give him a stack of Topps cards. He would know the defensive line coach for the Colts, Eddie Khayat. He would give Eddie a stack of cards to get autographed for me. He did that as I was growing up. My dad was old school and hard-nosed, so for him to do that it was really surprising.
My idol was Bert Jones, the quarterback out of LSU that played for the Colts. My dad took me on the team bus and introduced me to Bert Jones. I got to meet all of my heroes.
In 1980 my dad got hired by the Oakland Raiders. He spent the next eight years with the Raiders. I got to know Lyle Alzado and Howie Long. Howie used to come to my high school football games. You talk about the greatest childhood memories.
TR–Is it safe to say that you got up close and personal with a number of NFL players?
BL-I would get 8x 10s of Raiders players. I would get them autographed and I would take them to high school and I would sell them. I would sell them for $10-15 apiece. I ate so well my freshman year. I remember Rod Martin asking me one time if I was taking these and selling them. Of course, I said that I would never do that!
In 1982 the Raiders traded for Lyle Alzado. Every year I would go to camp with my dad. At night, I would go into the defensive line meeting room and just sit and listen. I would take cards with me to training camp to get them signed. I probably had 30-40 Lyle Alzado trading cards. After the one meeting I asked him if he would sign them. He sat there, after a meeting about 9 or 10 o’clock at night, and signed all of those cards for me. He was talking to me the whole time. Those memories are priceless.
TR–You’ve told me that you still have many of those items and much more, almost as a family collection. Can you walk us through the area and tell us what all it entails?
BL– My mother really encouraged my collecting. She did it when my dad was playing. She kept every program from every game he ever played in and then when he was coaching she kept every program from when he coached.
When you go to the house, my father inducted Howie Long into the Hall of Fame, Howie’s jersey is hanging on the wall. We have a family joke that there are more pictures of Howie Long in the house than there are of me.
Michael Strahan, who my dad coached his first two or three years in the league and who credits his whole success to my dad, his jersey is on the wall.
We found one of my dad’s jerseys from back in the 1960’s. We framed that and have that hanging on the wall. We have pictures of my dad’s defensive line from the Raiders hanging up. That was a special group for my dad. He found them, coached them and they were very successful.
As you look at all of the shelves you will see game balls from back when my dad played with the Bears, the Rams and the Saints. We also have game balls from his coaching days. There are pictures hanging of my dad when he played with all of those teams.
I lost my hero twelve years ago. The great thing about the internet is that I have been able to find so many pictures of my father that we’ve never seen before. That is a thrill for me. That has been how collecting has changed for me. That is what drives me. It’s another way to connect to my father.
Over to the side is all of my USC stuff. There are game balls. The last snap of the Rose Bowl, which was Bo Schembechler’s last game, we beat them in the Rose Bowl. I have that ball. There are helmets and trophies and all kinds of stuff. The eras come together, from the 50’s, the 60’s, the 70’s the 80’s and the 90’s. It’s really neat. Every time I go back home I get lost in the room because you always see something different. We have been a family of collectors and it’s just been a neat thing.
TR–We talked a lot about memorabilia but do you have a favorite card in your collection?
BL-Probably the smartest thing my mother did was she bought me a case of 1984 Topps Football cards for Christmas. I had 23 sets from that year. We know the rookies-Elway, Marino and others. Going back to 1957 Topps, I had rookie cards of Unitas, Starr, Hornung and others. I had an incredible collection including the 1985-86 Star Basketball set. So, the set with the Jordan’s second year card, yeah I had that. There was a tornado that hit close to the house, so I ended up selling all of them. I kept the autographed ones because they are so special to me. I have a few cards but not nearly what I had.