John Barefield spent only three seasons with the St. Louis Cardinals, but with all due respect to Conrad Dobler, there may not have been a larger character. The 6-foot-2, 230-pound linebacker was the Cards second round draft pick in 1978 out of Texas A&I University where he was known for wearing quarters in his ears, stalking cemeteries at night, writing poetry about his tackles, and going by the name of Doctor Doom.
“I know I’m strange. I’ve got a strange mind,” the flamboyant linebacker said at a rookie workout at Busch Stadium in 1978. “I see visions, vibes and things. I was going to leave my Dr. Doom cap back at college, but I found myself putting it back on.”
Stump Mitchell rushed for 1,647 yards his senior season at The Citadel, second in the nation to South Carolina’s George Rogers who was rewarded with the Heisman Trophy and selected as the first overall pick in the 1981 NFL draft.
Meanwhile, Stump waited patiently for the telephone to ring while running backs were coming off the board left and right.
“I was waiting and praying,” the 5-foot-8 190 pound Georgia native told the St. Louis Post Dispatch in a 1981 interview..
Late in the second day of the draft, Stump picked up the ringing phone and heard St. Louis director of pro personnel Larry Wilson telling him, “Congratulations, you’ve been selected by the St. Louis Cardinals.” In response, Stump couldn’t contain his mood.
“He was mad,’ Wilson remembered. “He told Jim Hanifan (then Cardinals head coach) and me, both of us, that he was going to make our ball club, that he was better than a ninth-round choice, that he was going to make us forget about Ottis Anderson.”
Ken Gray was part of the greatest draft class in Green Bay Packers history. The Texas native was taken in the 6th round of the 1958 draft along with future Hall of Famers Jim Taylor, Ray Nitschke, and Jerry Kramer. The Packers also nabbed future All-Pro linebacker Dan Currie.
Gray and Kramer battled for a roster spot throughout training camp. A coach actually told Kramer that he would probably be traded because they had too many guards. But it ended up being Gray who was among the last cuts just before the start of the season. After his release, Packer head coach Ray “Scooter” McLean told Gray that he “would play somewhere in this league.”
“My heart went to my feet,” Gray said in a 2015 story in the Picayune, but what could I say? Those experiences make you a better person and better player.”
Based on the talent of both Kramer and Gray, the Packers should have kept both players as they would have made quite a tandem at guard over the next several years. The Packers went 1-10-1 in 1958 and McLean was fired and replaced with Vince Lombardi.
Meanwhile, Gray signed with the Chicago Cardinals and played defense his rookie season. He was moved back to guard in 1959, gained 30 pounds and was named to his first Pro Bowl two years later.