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Photographer shoots and scores

In 1989, Gregg Forwerck went to meet one of his childhood idols.

He approached Roman Gabriel, the former Los Angeles Rams quarterback who then was general manager of the Charlotte Knights. Forwerck asked if he could take pictures for the Knights, who did not have a team photographer. Gabriel agreed.

Two decades later, Forwerck, who lives in Indian Trail with his wife and three kids, is one of the preeminent sports photographers in the business.

He does steady work for Topps, a trading card company, and is the team photographer for the NHL's Carolina Hurricanes. He travels around the U.S. to shoot players and events.

Two weeks ago, he was in Baltimore. Next week, he will be in New York to shoot the Major League Baseball All-Star Game. He shoots every Hurricanes home game in Raleigh, often bringing son Jake, 13, along to learn the trade.

Forwerck's success has sprung from a love of photography and sports, he says, and an entrepreneurial spirit he picked up as a college student at Northwood's (Mich.) business school.

He worked for several years shooting and writing for a newsletter, and then managing a Rally's franchise. He wanted to shoot more.

“I was thinking: ‘How can I make this full-time?'” he recalls.

So he hooked up with the Knights, then called a Topps employee several times looking for work – until he got some.

“I literally just forced my way into Topps,” he said.

Forwerck also worked for a few years as the Charlotte Hornets' team photographer, before he joined the Hurricanes when they relocated from Hartford, Conn., in 1997.

Forwerck keeps many of his photos in an office upstairs in his home, along with boxes of unopened cards.

We asked him to pick a few of his favorite photos, from the 1980s and early '90s, and discuss them. Here's what he chose:

Rookie Deion Sanders

During the 1989 NFL season, Topps dispatched Forwerck to shoot several tight head shots for football cards. One that stands out is a picture of Deion Sanders, then an Atlanta Falcons rookie cornerback, standing on the sidelines before a game.

It's straight out of a time capsule: Sanders sports a Geri curl, the Falcons' white-red-and-gray uniform and a quizzical look. All that's missing is a “Fresh Prince of Bel Air” T-shirt.

The card forever links budding superstar athlete with budding photographer. “That started it all,” Forwerck recalls. “Now it has a lot more (cachet) because he's an icon.”

Galarraga and Jackson

Forwerck went to Cincinnati in 1990 to get a shot of Reds' pitcher Danny Jackson for Topps' 1991 series.

Before the game, Forwerck stepped onto the field and approached Andres Galarraga, a first baseman with the Montreal Expos.

Galarraga kneeled and stretched, holding his pose. The shot landed on a Topps card and earned Forwerck plaudits from company brass.

They had seen few photos like the horizontal close-up of Galarraga; they wanted to know how he got the shot.

Simple: He had guts. Photographers were not allowed on the field.

“That's what got me my notoriety (with Topps),” Forwerck said.

Danny Jackson battled injuries throughout his career. He returned from an injury and was scheduled to pitch that night.

As the game started, Jackson toed the rubber. “May as well get it now,” Forwerck thought to himself. So, “as soon as he took the mound, I started firing.”

Good thing. The second batter of the game hit a line drive that drilled Jackson in his pitching arm. He had to leave the game and went on the disabled list.

Forwerck still got his shot. “It taught me a lesson,” he said. “Shoot early and shoot often.”

The 1992 Bowman set

Topps launched Bowman, a new line of cards, in 1991. The company asked Forwerck to shoot a few highly touted rookies for the 1992 set.

Forwerck shot Cleveland Indians prospect Manny Ramirez sitting on the Duke University campus near his rookie ball team's home.

Atlanta Braves shortstop of the future Chipper Jones posed in a striped Structure shirt. Forwerck shot Expos prospects Ugueth Urbina posing next to a cannon and Cliff Floyd (outfielder) dunking a baseball on an outdoor basketball court, in purple shorts.

In 1989, Gregg Forwerck went to meet one of his childhood idols.

He approached Roman Gabriel, the former Los Angeles Rams quarterback who then was general manager of the Charlotte Knights. Forwerck asked if he could take pictures for the Knights, who did not have a team photographer. Gabriel agreed.

Two decades later, Forwerck, who lives in Indian Trail with his wife and three kids, is one of the preeminent sports photographers in the business.

He does steady work for Topps, a trading card company, and is the team photographer for the NHL's Carolina Hurricanes. He travels around the U.S. to shoot players and events.

Two weeks ago, he was in Baltimore. Next week, he will be in New York to shoot the Major League Baseball All-Star Game. He shoots every Hurricanes home game in Raleigh, often bringing son Jake, 13, along to learn the trade.

Forwerck's success has sprung from a love of photography and sports, he says, and an entrepreneurial spirit he picked up as a college student at Northwood's (Mich.) business school.

He worked for several years shooting and writing for a newsletter, and then managing a Rally's franchise. He wanted to shoot more.

“I was thinking: ‘How can I make this full-time?'” he recalls.

So he hooked up with the Knights, then called a Topps employee several times looking for work – until he got some.

“I literally just forced my way into Topps,” he said.

Forwerck also worked for a few years as the Charlotte Hornets' team photographer, before he joined the Hurricanes when they relocated from Hartford, Conn., in 1997.

Forwerck keeps many of his photos in an office upstairs in his home, along with boxes of unopened cards.

We asked him to pick a few of his favorite photos, from the 1980s and early '90s, and discuss them. Here's what he chose:

Rookie Deion Sanders

During the 1989 NFL season, Topps dispatched Forwerck to shoot several tight head shots for football cards. One that stands out is a picture of Deion Sanders, then an Atlanta Falcons rookie cornerback, standing on the sidelines before a game.

It's straight out of a time capsule: Sanders sports a Geri curl, the Falcons' white-red-and-gray uniform and a quizzical look. All that's missing is a “Fresh Prince of Bel Air” T-shirt.

The card forever links budding superstar athlete with budding photographer. “That started it all,” Forwerck recalls. “Now it has a lot more (cachet) because he's an icon.”

Galarraga and Jackson

Forwerck went to Cincinnati in 1990 to get a shot of Reds' pitcher Danny Jackson for Topps' 1991 series.

Before the game, Forwerck stepped onto the field and approached Andres Galarraga, a first baseman with the Montreal Expos.

Galarraga kneeled and stretched, holding his pose. The shot landed on a Topps card and earned Forwerck plaudits from company brass.

They had seen few photos like the horizontal close-up of Galarraga; they wanted to know how he got the shot.

Simple: He had guts. Photographers were not allowed on the field.

“That's what got me my notoriety (with Topps),” Forwerck said.

Danny Jackson battled injuries throughout his career. He returned from an injury and was scheduled to pitch that night.

As the game started, Jackson toed the rubber. “May as well get it now,” Forwerck thought to himself. So, “as soon as he took the mound, I started firing.”

Good thing. The second batter of the game hit a line drive that drilled Jackson in his pitching arm. He had to leave the game and went on the disabled list.

Forwerck still got his shot. “It taught me a lesson,” he said. “Shoot early and shoot often.”

The 1992 Bowman set

Topps launched Bowman, a new line of cards, in 1991. The company asked Forwerck to shoot a few highly touted rookies for the 1992 set.

Forwerck shot Cleveland Indians prospect Manny Ramirez sitting on the Duke University campus near his rookie ball team's home.

Atlanta Braves shortstop of the future Chipper Jones posed in a striped Structure shirt. Forwerck shot Expos prospects Ugueth Urbina posing next to a cannon and Cliff Floyd (outfielder) dunking a baseball on an outdoor basketball court, in purple shorts.

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