Crossing the Streams: NFL SuperPro and Captain America

This post originally appeared on Panels, which is now Book Riot Comics

Here at Crossing the Streams, we check out those moments when characters who don’t normally interact suddenly do.

With the Super Bowl this weekend, it seems only right that we look back on the only official NFL superhero to ever run around the Marvel Universe. That’s right, today we’re talking about the one and only NFL SuperPro and the odd, extremely brief time he hung out with Captain America.

NFL SuperPro #8 (1992) Cover by John Romita, Ron Frenz, and Joe Sinnott

NFL SuperPro #8 (1992) Cover by John Romita, Ron Frenz, and Joe Sinnott

NFL SuperPro was a short lived hero who only lasted for 12 single issues and one special debut adventure. He was a joint venture between the NFL and Marvel Comics and he wasn’t been seen since the last of his 13 issues was published in 1992.

His story began simply enough. Phil Grayfield was a former quarterback who played for Notre Dame and nearly played for the Philadelphia Eagles until he blew out his knee on the first day of training camp. So, he turned to journalism. While working for a TV show called Sports Inside, Phil interviewed an obsessive NFL fan. While checking out the fan’s collection, Phil was tied up and nearly set on fire by bandits who looted the place, looking for sell-able memorabilia. Then, Phil kicked over a “vat of experimental plastics.”

From NFL SuperPro Special Edition #1 (1991) by Fabian Nicieza, Jose Delbo, and four inkers

From NFL SuperPro Special Edition #1 (1991) by Fabian Nicieza, Jose Delbo, and four inkers

Somehow, fire and plastic and celluloid gave Phil superpowers. Maybe. Any superpowers that he had didn’t really come up much again after that first issue. More importantly, Phil also stole the fan’s prototype of a suit he was trying to sell to the NFL worth 5 million dollars. Again, it needs to be stated again that Phil just took that guy’s 5 million dollar suit and used it to keep fighting various kinds of sports related crimes. NFL SuperPro, ladies and gentlemen. Real hero, that guy.

He was a joke from the beginning. Still, that didn’t stop him from going up against his first mainstream Marvel villain in his 8th issue. That’s when he battled Crossbones, assassin and occasional ally of the Red Skull.

From NFL SuperPro #8 (1992) by Matthew Morra, Herb Trimpe, and Mike DeCarlo

From NFL SuperPro #8 (1992) by Matthew Morra, Herb Trimpe, and Mike DeCarlo

During the battle, Crossbones threw a poison dagger at NFL Superpro, grazing him. As the poison worked its way through his system, Captain America suddenly showed up and sucked the poison out in a short but very weird scene.

From NFL SuperPro #8 (1992) by Matthew Morra, Herb Trimpe, and Mike DeCarlo

From NFL SuperPro #8 (1992) by Matthew Morra, Herb Trimpe, and Mike DeCarlo

Make a note: Cap knows what cobra venom tastes like and is cool swilling strangers’ blood around in his mouth. Also, Crossbones drives a sensible sedan while out on assassinating.

Instead of immediately chasing down the evil villain, Captain America and NFL SuperPro started chatting about how great it was to be a superhero.

From NFL SuperPro #8 (1992) by Matthew Morra, Herb Trimpe, and Mike DeCarlo

From NFL SuperPro #8 (1992) by Matthew Morra, Herb Trimpe, and Mike DeCarlo

While Cap did make an open offer to NFL SuperPro that the former quarterback could workout in the Avengers’ gym, the poor guy never made it. I like to imagine he did show up one day but he wasn’t allowed in because even Gilgamesh thought his costume was too silly.

After this brief interaction, Cap skedaddled and left NFL SuperPro to track down Crossbones himself. Eventually, the two ran into each other again and the true side of NFL SuperPro’s heroism was shown when he shut out the lights in the room and sucker-punched Crossbones into submission while screaming about how he didn’t really like it when people called him a coward.

From NFL SuperPro #8 (1992) by Matthew Morra, Herb Trimpe, and Mike DeCarlo

From NFL SuperPro #8 (1992) by Matthew Morra, Herb Trimpe, and Mike DeCarlo

I’m surprised that his sidekick NFL SuperReferee didn’t throw a flag on this play. This is clearly unsportsmanlike conduct. Crossbones should have gotten an automatic first down and the Avengers should have leveled a pretty heavy fine afterwards.

At the story’s end, Cap showed up up again to tell Phil he was doing great but it was tough to believe. The First Avenger didn’t follow through on his praise. NFL SuperPro would never see any other regular member of the Marvel Universe again during the final few months of his career. He was a strange, tacky piece of NFL licensing who had a new creative team on his book seemingly every other issue.

So, while you’re sitting down to watch the Super Bowl this weekend, take a moment to reflect on Phil Grayfield and his all too brief time wearing a red, white, yellow, and blue costume with the NFL’s logo awkwardly placed on its helmet and chest. Remember, he was deemed special enough by Captain America himself to work out at the Avengers gym every once in a while. That’s gotta count for something.

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