Merced, California native Mervyn Fernandez was a standout on the gridiron at Andrew Hill High School in San Jose and then signed to play close to home at San Jose State University. He was selected in the tenth round of the 1983 NFL Draft by the Los Angeles Raiders but decided to take his considerable skills north of the border and spent six seasons becoming one of the best players in CFL history. He was a star from the beginning, recording over a 1,000 yards receiving as a rookie.
In fact, “Swervin’ Mervyn” began his illustrious CFL career with four straight 1,000 yard receiving seasons, culminating in an amazing 1985 season where he caught 95 passes for over 1,700 yards and 15 touchdowns as his BC Lions captured the 73rd Grey Cup. Fernandez also became the first BC Lion to win the CFL’s Most Outstanding Player award. He was later elected to the CFL Hall of Fame in 2019.
After five years in the CFL, Fernandez signed with the Raiders, catching 209 passes for over 3,700 yards and 19 touchdowns in six seasons in the silver and black. In 1988, he led NFL receivers in average yards per catch (26) and his career average of 18 is the best mark in Raiders history. In 1989, he caught 57 passes for 1,069 yards and nine touchdowns.
In this interview with SC Daily, Fernandez talks about his first CFL cards, a memorable (and untimely) first autograph request, part of his missing collection and much more.
Tony Reid–Your first cards came out when you were playing in the CFL, with Jogo and Mohawk producing cards of you for a few years. Your NFL rookie cards appeared in various sets in 1989 from Pro Set to Score Supplemental to Topps. Do you remember seeing yourself on a card for the first time?
Mervyn Fernandez-I do have several different copies of those cards. In my personal collection I only have three or four different cards. The first CFL card was the Mohawk Gas Station. I remember that one. I have that one. It would be interesting to see the other cards. I go online and see what different stuff is out there and see what people are trying to sell that I signed.
TR- Did you manage to hold on to any of your own cards over the years?
MF-When they made a card they sent me the whole set from that year. I still have most of those sets. The ones that were almost like a pop out card, I have a whole collection of those. I either lost a collection or someone stole it. I know it disappeared when we were having some remodeling done back in the 80s. Either I put it away (or) it might still be in the attic of the house (where I was) trying to keep it away from the workers. They found it when I was remodeling and were oohing and aahing about it. It might still be in the attic. It might even be under the house. I can’t remember where I hid it. I will have to knock on the door and just ask “Can I look in the attic?” (Laughs)
TR–Oh, man. That sounds like a story in itself. With all of your on field accomplishments from being a college star, a CFL Hall of Famer to a number of really productive years in the NFL, do you have a man cave or room where you have memorabilia displayed?
MF-It’s funny you should say that. I have been in this house for five years now. I live in a town called Manteca in California. We just painted the garage. It’s a three car garage. One side will be memorabilia. I am starting to pull things out of boxes. I just had my first CFL jersey framed and matted. We are going to do one from the NFL. I want to get a San Jose State one up there. I will get the jersey from the Niners framed where I spent a few months, too. My wife wants to put everything out here. I don’t want to sit out here and look at myself. I don’t want to do that. How about I put all of your pictures out here and you can look at yourself (Laughs).
It will be fun. My grandkids enjoy it. My kids are old enough now where they understand and realize I had some pretty good accomplishments. My two boys made it up with me when I was inducted into the CFL Hall of Fame. That was great.
TR–When was the first time you were asked for your autograph?
MF-I remember this person but I have no idea who it was. I was at San Jose State. In 1981 we went undefeated. We were in the California Bowl. I scored the last three touchdowns that got us back in the game. We had the lead and they came back and beat us by two points. After the game we were walking off the field and doing all of that and some kid or student came up “Dude you are awesome! You are going pro. You are going to be a professional football player. Can I get your autograph?”
That was the first time somebody ever asked for my autograph. I remember that so well. I’m like “Shut up, dude. We lost.” I was mad. Lo and behold…
TR–The jersey swap wasn’t nearly as prevalent in past eras as it is today. If you could go back to your career and swap jerseys with anybody, who would it be and why?
MF-We played so many great players back in the day. I’m sure they say the same thing today. I wish that was a part of the game back then. Back in the CFL, 100 percent, I would have swapped my jersey with Warren Moon. That is the first one. One of my first outstanding games in the CFL we were playing Edmonton and Warren was the quarterback. I ran a punt back for a touchdown to beat them. That was the first time the BC Lions beat Edmonton in I don’t know how long. Everybody was going crazy. I was just happy we won. We had no idea about the history of the game.
In the NFL, there were so many guys it’s hard to even narrow it down. Deion Sanders was definitely one. Even my teammates alone, Bo Jackson and Marcus Allen, not that I don’t see them anymore but we don’t do that now. We are old school guys. I do a lot of golf tournaments. I just called Vida Blue because I do his golf tournament. I told him I would really love to have his jersey to put on my wall, so we are trying to work that out.
Coming later…a Card Back Q&A with Fernandez, who appeared on cards for two pro leagues.