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The Skyhawks History

The Raleigh-Durham Skyhawks were an American football team headquartered in Raleigh, North Carolina that played for one season in 1991 in the World League of American Football (WLAF). The name was inspired by the Wright brothers' flights on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. The three jet-trails and three planes in flight, as well as the triangle design in the logo, represented the three points of the Research Triangle area (Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill). The team's cheerleaders were known as the "Kittyhawks."

The name was chosen by Raleigh citizens, the choices being the Skyhawks, Daredevils or Rogues as published in the News and Observer.  The Skyhawks' home field was N.C. State's Carter-Finley Stadium in Raleigh. Then-Charlotte Hornets owner George Shinn owned the franchise, and the head coach was former NFL player and State alumnus Roman Gabriel.  The team posted a perfectly dismal 0-10 record in the 1991 season and averaged less than 13,000 spectators per game due in part by the lack of beer sales at Carter-Finley Stadium; the team was relocated to Columbus, Ohio in early 1992 .

The Skyhawks' lack of success did not sour the NFL on the whole state, as in 1995, Charlotte welcomed the expansion Carolina Panthers franchise.


The Skyhawks Coach

Roman Gabriel (1962)
Sports Illustrated Cover

Roman Ildonzo Gabriel, Jr. (born August 5, 1940 in Wilmington, North Carolina) is a former American football player. The son of a Filipino immigrant, he was the first Asian-American to start as an NFL quarterback and is considered by many to have been one of the best players at that position during the late 1960s and early 70s. At 6'4" and 235 pounds, he is considered the first truly big quarterback of the modern era. Gabriel attended and played high school football at New Hanover High School.

College career

A two-time All-American, and a two-time Two-time ACC Player of the Year (1960-61) he starred at quarterback for North Carolina State University in the early 1960s and finished his career holding virtually every Wolfpack passing record. An academic All-American, Gabriel saw his jersey retired and presented to him by North Carolina governor Terry Sanford on Jan. 20, 1962, at half-time of an NC State-Maryland basketball game in Reynolds Coliseum. As captain of his team Gabriel set 22 school and nine conference football records. He threw for 2,961 yards and 19 touchdowns. He also played baseball and was voted the best amateur athlete in the Carolinas. In a three-year career he passed for 20 touchdowns and ran for 15. Against Maryland in 1959 he completed 23 passes. The Atlantic Coast Conference’s 50th Anniversary Football Team was announced in 2003 and Gabriel was among the top 50 players in the history of the ACC to be listed. Gabriel was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1989.

The number one 1962 AFL Draft pick (Roman was chosen second in the 1962 NFL Draft by the Los Angeles Rams), by the Oakland Raiders, he went on to a distinguished professional career.

Gabriel's arm strength

Gabriel had an incredibly powerful arm. "Once against Duke, game film showed that he chucked a desperation pass 78 yards in the air - only to see it intercepted by a Blue Devil defender."

Professional career

NFL career

Gabriel wore the number 18 with the Rams and the number 5 with the Eagles. In the professional ranks Gabriel went on to play 16 seasons in the NFL, splitting time with the Los Angeles Rams (1962-72) and the Philadelphia Eagles (1973-77). He was named the NFL Most Valuable Player Award in 1969 and earned Pro Bowl spots in 1967, 1968, 1969, and 1973. He ranked as the Rams' all-time passing leader with 22,223 yards and 154 touchdowns (1,705 com./3,313 att.) and threw for 7,221 yards and 45 touchdowns (661 com./1,185 att.) with the Eagles. In 1973 he led the NFL with 3,219 yards and 23 touchdown passes, for which he was awarded the NFL Comeback Player of the Year Award. He still holds the Rams' career records for touchdown passes (154), passing yards (22,223), passes attempted (3,313), passes completed 1,705 and wins by a starting quarterback (74).

However, all that came with a cost. From 1962 through 1965, Gabriel had a difficult time securing a starting quarterback job. Ram coaches felt that either Zeke Bratkowski or Bill Munson should get the nod over Gabriel. However, due to other quarterback slumping or being injured, Gabriel did get to start 23 games from 1962 through 1965. The Rams record in those games was 11 wins, 11 losses, and one tie. That may seem average, but considering the other Rams quarterbacks who started the other 32 games combined record was a paltry three wins, 27 losses and two ties, it seems that Gabriel's record was stellar. Gabriel's wins seem to be quality wins as well. For example in 1965 he beat the eventual Champion Green Bay Packers and the 11-3 Cleveland Browns and barely lost to the strong Baltimore Colts team.

When George Allen came to coach the Rams in 1966, he knew that Gabriel was the best QB the Rams had and stated that Gabriel was one of the toughest quarterbacks to beat in the NFL. In 1966 the Gabriel started all 14 games and the Rams went 8-6, the first winning season since 1958. In 1967 things went even better, the Rams were 11-1-2 and in the playoffs. In consecutive weeks in the 1967 season Gabriel was named the AP Offensive Player of the Week, after week 13 and week 14, with top performances that put the Rams into the playoffs. Eventually, they lost in the miserable cold of Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wisconsin to the eventual Super Bowl champions Packers. Gabriel threw for 2,779 yards and 25 touchdowns and was a 2nd-team All-Pro and a Pro Bowler. The following season they picked up right where they left off and finished 10-3-1, however this time they did not make the playoffs.

In 1969 the Rams opened the season with an 11-game winning streak, still a team record, before losing four straight at the end of the year, including another ice bowl to the Minnesota Vikings. Gabriel threw 24 touchdowns and only seven interceptions and was named the NFL's Most Valuable Player by the AP and NEA and the Player of the Year by the UPI and we was voted All-Pro and to the Pro Bowl.

Gabriel suffered knee injuries as well as shoulder and rib injuries through 1970-1972. Some of that led to the trade to the Philadelphia Eagles in 1973. Gabriel went to a 2-11-1 Eagle team and turned them around to a 5-8-1 team that could have been 7-7 if they had not missed a couple of crucial field goals that would have changed the outcomes of several games. Gabriel was voted to the Pro Bowl for the fourth time and was voted the "Comeback player of the Year" by Pro Football Weekly. For the 1973 Season Gabriel led the Eagles with 270 completions, 460 attempts and 3,219 yards and 23 touchdowns (all league highs) as the Eagles offense was the most prolific passing game in the NFL.

Gabriel played though 1977 but his final two years were in a backup role. In his career he had a winning record of 86-64-7 and passes for over 29,000 yards and 201 touchdowns. He is the only quarterback from his era to still rank high in the "lowest interception percentage" category in NFL passing statistics—Meaning, quarterbacks today avoid throwing interceptions in a way similar to how Gabriel did it a generation earlier. His 3.3% interception percentage will likely last longer, and it may be some time before they can get Gabriel out of the Top 100 of all-time in that category.

World League of American Football (WLAF) career

He was the head coach of the Raleigh-Durham Skyhawks of the World League of American Football, becoming the only coach to have a perfect losing season (0-10), in the inaugural season of 1991-1992. The team disbanded shortly thereafter.

Acting career

Gabriel had a brief career in movies, playing a prison guard in Otto Preminger's 1968 spoof Skidoo and an American Indian named "Blue Boy" in the 1969 John Wayne film The Undefeated. Gabriel's dark complexion gave rise to a popular belief that he may really be a Native American, but this is not the case; he is actually Filipino American on his father's side and Irish-American on his mother's. Gabriel had previously appeared as a headhunter in an episode of CBS' Gilligan's Island.

Personal life

After retirement from pro football in 1977, Gabriel went into broadcasting as a color commentator for CBS television and, later, Carolina Panthers radio. Committed to charity work in his home of Charlotte, North Carolina, he has raised over $4 million for charity through RG Sports Connection trust through which he promoted celebrity golf tournaments for various charities - multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, leukemia, the blind, the Special Olympics and the Salvation Army.

Gabriel was married to:

  • Lisa Katolin (29 October 1980 - present) 1 child
  • Tedra Bidwell (29 January 1972 - 6 August 1980) (divorced) 1 child
  • Suzanne Horton (1960 - 1971) (divorced)


Gabriel's last completion of his career was a 15-yard pass to Vince Papale, the walk-on WR and special-teams captain who is the inspiration for and subject of Disney's movie Invincible, starring Mark Wahlberg. In 1982 he was the last football coach at Cal Poly Pomona.


  • 1973 -NFL Comeback Player of the Year
  • 1969- NFL Most Valuable Player Award, AP, UPI, NEA, and the Bert Bell MVP Trophy (Maxwell Club)
  • 1968 - Pro Bowl MVP


Skyhawks Coaching Staff

Doug Kay (Defensive Coordinator)
Johnnie Walton (Offensive Coordinator)
Claude Humphrey (Defensive Line)
Buck Fowler (Offensive Line)
Charles Harbison (Defensive Backs)
Jim Popp (Receivers)
Ernie Driscoll (Director of Player Personnel)
Mike Mazzella (head trainer)
Mike Kennedy (Equipment Manager)
Wayne Thompson (Vice President of Administration)
Betty Kaye Gilmore (Director of Marketing/Sales)
Ken Einhorn (Director of Public Relations)
Melissa Marcotte (Dir. of Community & Player Relations)
Chuck Lanier (Dir. of Group Sales & Promotions)
E.J. Narcise (Corporate Sales)
Sherry Reavis (Ticket Manager)
Mike Durkin (Asst. Marketing Director)


Black & White photographs taken from 1991 Gameday Magazine

The Raleigh-Durham Skyhawks Schedule

WeekDateKickoffOpponentResultsGame siteAttendance
Final scoreTeam record
1Saturday, March 234:00 p.m.at Sacramento SurgeL 3–90–1Hughes Stadium15,126
2Saturday, March 308:00 p.m.at Orlando ThunderL 20–580–2Florida Citrus Bowl20,811
3Saturday, April 68:00 p.m.Barcelona DragonsL 14–260–3Carter–Finley Stadium17,900
4Monday, April 158:00 p.m.San Antonio RidersL 15–370–4Carter–Finley Stadium11,818
5Saturday, April 208:00 p.m.at Frankfurt GalaxyL 28–300–5Waldstadion21,065
6Sunday, April 286:00 p.m.at London MonarchsL 10–350–6Wembley Stadium33,997
7Sunday, May 51:00 p.m.New York/New Jersey KnightsL 6–420–7Carter–Finley Stadium10,069
8Monday, May 138:00 p.m.at Montreal MachineL 6–150–8Olympic Stadium20,123
9Monday, May 208:00 p.m.Orlando ThunderL 14–200–9Carter–Finley Stadium4,207
10Saturday, May 253:00 p.m.Birmingham FireL 7–280–10Carter–Finley Stadium16,335

The Skyhawks Stadium

Carter-Finley Stadium

Carter-Finley Stadium
Original Construction 1966

Total Capacity: 55,571

North Endzone: 7,421
Sideline Upper (east & west): 17,618
Sideline Lower (east & west): 22,364
Towers: 1,931
Chancellor's (west side lower): 84
Director's Box (east side lower): 96
South Endzone (100): 3,918
South Endzone (200): 2,139

Vaughn Towers
(source: NC State University
Athletic Department)
117,000 square feet
955 club seats
430 length in feet
183 height in feet from the field
140 height in feet from the concourse
112 media seats in working press box
87 height in feet from the back
of the upper deck
51 luxury suites
4 levels
4 radio/television booths
2 coaching booths
1 video platform


Facts and information about the Raleigh-Durham Skyhawks

  • The Raleigh-Durham Skyhawks only played the first season in the WLAF; they were replaced by the Ohio Glory for the 1992 season.
  • The Skyhawks were the only WLAF franchise to never win a game, going 0-10 in their lone season in the league.
  • In their second game ever, the Skyhawks gave up the most points ever in a World League of American Football game when they lost 58-20 to the Orlando Thunder.
  • The name Skyhawks was inspired by the Wright Brothers first flight which was made in the same geographical area.
  • In a fan poll to name the team, Skyhawks was chosen over Cobras.
  • The Raleigh-Durham Skyhawks were owned by George Shinn, the then-owner of the Charlotte Hornets of the NBA.
  • The Head Coach of the Raleigh-Durham Skyhawks was former NFL Quarterback Roman Gabriel.
  • Though the Skyhawks did not win a game in their only season of play, they were also never shutout.
  • The Skyhawks were held to single digit scoring (9 point or less) in four of their ten games.


The Skyhawks Owner

George Shinn - Team Owner

George Shinn (born May 11, 1941) is the current owner of the New Orleans Hornets. He purchased the team for $32,500,000 in 1987. In 1997, he lost his bid for a National Hockey League expansion franchise to be called the Hampton Roads Rhinos. His net worth in 2010 was $100,000,000.

The Skyhawks Uniform

1991 Skyhawks Home Jersey
Skyhawks Home (back)
1991 Skyhawks Helmet
1991 Skyhawks Away Jersey
Skyhawks Away (back)

1991 Results, Stats, Roster

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