By Barry Janoff
April 21, 2015: Iconic trading card and collectibles company Topps plans to go down kicking as it enters its final season as an official producer of NFL cards.
Topps has signed quarterback Jameis Winston to an exclusive deal for the 2015 season, with the 2013 Heisman Trophy winner at Florida State expected to go as the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL Draft on April 30.
Winston enters the league dealing with a serious issue that dates back to an allegation of sexual assault from 2012. Winston has not been charged but the young woman in the situation filed a lawsuit this month accusing him of "sexual battery, false imprisonment and intentional infliction of emotional distress."
Topps did not address the issue. But Nike, which signed Winston to a deal last week, said in a statement, "Jameis has stated his innocence regarding serious charges made against him. We'll continue to monitor the situation."
Winston will autograph cards and potentially other memorabilia and be a face of Topps NFL marketing, which would include packaging, print, Internet and social media.
Financial terms of the deal were not released.
Winston's cards will first appear in the Bowman Football, scheduled for release in June.
Topps had been producing NFL cards for about a half-century prior to 2009, when it lost its license for a season before re-signing with NFL Players Inc., the licensing and marketing division of the NFL Players Assn., for 2010.
Rival Panini America, which also produces official NFL products, takes over the exclusive NFLPI license beginning with the 2016 season under a multi-year deal signed last summer.
Panini also plans to make noise this season, having signed quarterback Marcus Mariota last month to an exclusive deal. Mariota is seen as a Top Five pick and going as high as No. 2 in the NFL Draft.
“We are excited to add a player of Jameis Winston’s caliber to the Topps family,” Kevin Eger, brand manager for Topps Football , said in a statement. “Winston is an electrifying player and collectors always look forward to a player’s first Topps Rookie Card. Winston will lead a thrilling 2015 rookie class, and we look forward to working with him in our 60th year of football cards.”
Winston and Mariota are both on the same team in another endorsement deal, having both signed with Nike, along with incoming top-rated rookie running backs Melvin Gordon and Todd Gurley.
Both Topps and Panini America currently produce upward of 17-20 NFL-related releases a year.
Panini America To Go Solo With NFL Players Inc.
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