With the NFL celebrating its centennial season in 2019, the league will soon be announcing its top 100 players of all-time. I thought it would be fun to go back and rank the Big Red’s top 100 players who played in St. Louis.
The Cardinals moved from Chicago after the 1959 season and played 28 years in St. Louis before Bill Bidwill moved to the desert in 1988. Several great players played under the arch during this period including four Hall of Famers.
These rankings are only based on the player’s time spent in St. Louis. Consideration was given to the player’s statistics, All-Pro/Pro Bowl selections, team leadership, and impact in the community. It is next to impossible to compare eras, so many of these picks were very difficult.
The Top 100 St. Louis Football Cardinals of All-Time: 90-81
90. Donny Anderson (RB)
Donny Anderson was acquired for MacArthur Lane in 1972 and scored 25 TDs in just three seasons in St. Louis. Anderson lead the team in rushing in 1972 and finished second in the league with 13 TDs in 1973. The versatile Anderson also was team co-leader with 41 receptions in ’73. He was the Green Bay Packers first round draft pick out of Texas Tech in 1965 and was a member of their Super Bowl teams in 1966-1967.
89. Don Owens (DT)
Don Owens was acquired from the Eagles during the 1960 season. The St. Louis native was a big, powerful tackle at 6’4″ 265 lb. He immediately became a fixture on the defensive line recovering 7 fumbles in his three and a half years with the Cardinals. The “Sarge” was a Marine veteran who served in Korea, was very active in the St. Louis community, and played center on the Big Red charity basketball team. Owens played at Southside Catholic High School and Southern Miss. He played 7 seasons in the NFL and became a Big Red scout after retiring in 1964.
88. Willis Crenshaw (RB)
Another St. Louis native, Willis Crenshaw played high school ball at Soldan, starred at Kansas State, and was the Cardinals 9th round draft choice in 1963. Crenshaw was an outstanding blocker and led the team in rushing (813) and touchdowns (7) in 1968. He was also an excellent receiver out of the backfield totaling almost 3000 yards in 6 seasons in St. Louis.
87. Prentice Gautt
Dr. Prentice Gautt was the first African American to play football at Oklahoma University in the 1950s. He went on to star at OU and was the Cleveland Browns second round pick in 1960. Gautt led the Cardinals in rushing in 1961 after being acquired in a trade. He scored 16 TDs and totaled almost 3200 yards from scrimmage in seven seasons in St. Louis. After retiring in 1967, Gautt coached football and earned his Ph.D. in psychology at Mizzou. He later became assistant commissioner for the Big Eight Conference and a special assistant to the commissioner of the Big 12 Conference.
86. Luke Owens (DE/DT)
Big Luke Owens was a solid defensive end for the Cardinals for five seasons before Defensive Coordinator Chuck Drulis decided to move him to tackle in 1963. The 6’2″ 260-pound Owens went on to win team MVP in ’63 and helped lead the Big Red to nine wins and a top-5 NFL defense. Owens was a third round pick by the Colts in 1957, but played six seasons in St. Louis, retiring in 1965.
85. Tom Brahaney (LS/C)
Tom Brahaney was a college All-American at Oklahoma and is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame. He was the Cardinals fifth round draft choice in 1973 and never missed a game during his nine year career spanning 134 games. Brahaney was the long snapper for many years and known throughout the NFL as the best reserve center in the league (playing behind Tom Banks). However, he started 13 games for the 1974 NFC champs after Banks season ending injury, and he eventually replaced Banks as the starting center in 1980. Brahaney started all 32 games at center in ’80-81 before being released in 1982 training camp.
84. Robert Awalt (TE)
Robert Awalt was the NFC Rookie of the Year in 1987 when he caught 42 passes for 526 yards and 6 TDs. It was the most receptions by a Big Red tight end since Jackie Smith in 1969 and he accomplished that in only nine starts. Awalt was a third round pick out of San Diego State. He caught 9 passes in each of his first two NFL starts. He continued with a couple of very good seasons in Phoenix before finishing hi scareer with Dallas and Buffalo.
83. Taz Anderson (TE)
Taz Anderson starred at Georgia Tech and was acquired from the Browns prior to the 1961 season. He was an excellent receiver scoring six touchdowns and totaling over 1000 yards receiving his first two seasons. Anderson was named the Big Red rookie of the year in 1961 after averaging 18.1 yards per catch and scoring three TDs. The 6’2 220-pound tight end averaged over 15 yards per catch during his four years in St. Louis. However, injuries and the arrival of Jackie Smith made Anderson expendable. He was released in 1965.
82. Terry Stieve (G)
Terry Stieve was acquired in the Conrad Dobler trade following the 1977 season and became a fixture at LG until his surprise retirement during training camp in 1985. Stieve was an offensive co-captain and named the Big Red NFL Man of the Year in 1983 and 1984 for being an outstanding citizen and athlete. He was drafted in the 6th round out of Wisconsin in the 1976 NFL Draft.
81 Willard Harrell (KR/PR/RB)
Willard Harrell was a “back-of-all-trades” who performed a number of roles effectively during his 7 years with the Cardinals. Harrell rushed for 444 yards, caught 57 passes, returned 91 kickoffs, and returned 71 punts (one for a TD in 1978). Willard was even the team barber and hair stylist. Harrell was on the receiving end of Neil Lomax’s first career TD pass in Dallas in 1981 and perhaps his biggest catch was a 36 yard last minute reception against the Giants in 1982 which set up Roy Green’s 8 yard TD catch to send the Big Red to the Super Bowl Tournament. Coach Jim Hanifan once said Harrell was “one of the smallest men to play in the National Football League in size and certainly one of the biggest in heart, desire and intelligence.” Harrell played 10 seasons in the NFL and was drafted in the third round by the Packers in 1975 out of Pacific.
Players 80-71 will be announced later this week.
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