After the September 13 game between the Atlanta Falcons and the Seattle Seahawks, a pair of recent football cards, by mainstream maker Topps, suddenly began to merit collector attention.
Yes, Topps football cards.
Products from the very brief partnership between Topps and the Alliance of American Football served up the first cards of 26-year-old Younghoe (pronounced YOUNG-way) Koo, the Falcons’ 26-year-old Korean born placekicker. Koo was a kicking sensation for the Atlanta Legends of the now-defunct AAF where he appeared on a Topps Now card and also in the regular 2019 Topps AAF set.
Koo’s Topps Now card during last year’s abbreviated AAF season showcased his game winning boot on March 9, 2019 against the Memphis Express. A mere 242 were produced as part of the print-on-demand format. It was among last games played before the money-losing AAF finally folded, at the order of League Chair Tom Dundon on April 2, 2019.
The other Koo card is No. 108 in the standard 175-card regular AAF Topps set.
Collector interest in Koo’s cards soared following Atlanta’s game versus Seattle, as his play in the big league brought Koo attention none of his kicking feats in the failed AAF “back burner” league ever garnered. After nailing three more field goals on Sunday against New Orleans, he’s now connected on 96 percent of his tries and leads the NFL with 24 conversions despite missing one game. He’s also 5-for-5 in kicks beyond 50 yards.
Measuring the standard trading card size of 2 ½ X 3 ½, and in full color, the regular set Topps Koo card pictures him in action as he follows through. His Topps Now card is more of a portrait, with Koo fist pumping a successful kick.
He also has an autographed card on the AAF set checklist but they’re tough to find. One recently sold for $100
After joining the Falcons in training camp, Koo picked up where he left off in the AAF, supplying two 49 yard goals against Seattle. There are some who compare Koo at this stage of his career to the legendary Lou “The Toe” Groza, whose stalwart kicking was a major asset to the Cleveland Browns, where Groza spent 21 years booting the ball through the sticks.
Perhaps the Groza comparison isn’t too far-fetched, given that in 2016, as a star at Georgia Southern University, Koo was a finalist for the annual Groza Award. Proving right from his freshman year to be a tough, reliable kicker, Koo amassed at GSU an eye-popping 88.6 career field goal percentage, a school record. Another area where Koo reportedly excels is in onside kick.
While cards of kickers don’t often become hugely valuable, Koo’s cards are seeing some demand from overseas. Few NFL players are foreign born. Fewer still are from the continent of Asia.
Koo got his entrée into the sport when he came to the USA with his mother as a sixth grader. He then lived in New Jersey, playing for Ridgewood High School. A superb athlete, Koo excelled on special teams and defense, tallying six interceptions for the Ridgewood Maroons. From there, Koo became an all-conference placekicker for the Georgia Southern Eagles, a Sun Belt powerhouse that moved up to the College Football Bowl Series competition in 2014.
In years past, players from another failed league, the United States Football League (USFL) eventually migrated en masse to the NFL. Many went on to stellar careers. They include such football luminaries Steve Young, Jim Kelly, Reggie White, Sam Mills, and Herschel Walker. The Topps 1984 USFL cards for these and other players are today among the vintage hobby’s most cherished treasures.
Where Younghoe Koo’s rare AAF Topps Now or his regular Topps rookie card might go no one yet knows. But at less than a dollar for Koo’s regular rookie card and less than $10 for his Topps Now, they are certainly affordable. He also appeared in his NFL uniform inside some of Panini’s 2020 products.
Whether Koo’s kicking kicks Koo’s rookie cards any higher is a question it will likely take the balance of the 2020 NFL season and beyond to answer.
But current signs are they are headed straight between the uprights.