As we move closer to the 2023 NFL Draft (April 27-29), The Big Red Zone is looking back on each of the 28 St. Louis Cardinals drafts (1960-87). This installment focuses on the 1968 Draft, which was held January 30-31, 1968 in New York.
Were it not for MacArthur Lane, their first-round selection from Utah State, the Cardinals would have come away all but empty from the ’68 draft. Of their 17 other choices, eight had average performances with the team and nine never played in the NFL.
Perhaps reflective of the times, the Post-Dispatch described Lane as “running back of reputed speed” after the Big Red took Lane with the 13th overall pick. As a senior, Lane had ranked second in the nation only to USC’s O.J. Simpson in rushing after the first six games of the 1967 college season, but a thigh condition forced him to miss the rest of the season.
The Cardinals were hoping Lane would be an outside threat who would complement running back Johnny Roland.
Referring to Lane’s 40-yard dash speed, coach Charley Winner said, in a somewhat puzzling analogy: “Maybe it’s more likely 4.7 (seconds) than 4.6, but I’ll settle for 4.8. I’m like the woman buying shoes whose size was 5, but size 6 was so comfortable she took 7’s.”
1968 St. Louis Cardinals Draft
|1-13||MacArthur Lane||RB||Utah State|
|2-42||Bob Atkins||DB||Grambling State|
|4-87||Don Fitzgerald||RB||Kent State|
|4-96||Joe Schmiesing||DE||New Mexico State|
|6-151||Frank Lane||LB||Stephen F. Austin|
|7-177||Ken Henry||FL||Wake Forest|
|8-205||Jerry Daanen||WR||Miami (FL)|
|9-231||Billy Sinkule||DE||Central Michigan|
|10-259||Tom Busch||FL||Iowa State|
|13-339||Mack Sauls||DB||Texas State|
|16-421||Dan Lankas||LB||Kansas State|
*In four seasons with St. Louis (1968-71), MacArthur Lane played in 50 games and made 25 starts. He rushed 404 times for 1,736 yards and 15 touchdowns; he caught 70 passes for 724 yards and two scores; and he averaged 26.2 yards on 20 kickoff returns. His best year was 1970, his only Pro Bowl seasons, when he carried 206 times for 977 yards and an NFL-leading 11 touchdowns, and caught 32 passes for 365 yards and two TDs. … A frustrated Lane publicly criticized Big Red Vice President Bill Bidwill late in the ’71 season and was suspended for the final game. Although it appeared that the two sides had mended the fence after the season, the Cardinals traded Lane to the Green Bay Packers for running back Donny Anderson on February, 22, 1972. Cardinals coach Bob Hollway claimed Lane’s suspension had no effect on the trade. “The trade came about because we were able to get a more versatile running back,” Hollway said. Nonetheless, Lane, when contacted by the Post, claimed the trade caught him off guard. “It was just a total surprise,” Lane told the newspaper. “I was baffled by it all because when I was in St. Louis recently, we were very close to signing (a new contract). … It was a complete shock, that’s all.” … Lane played seven more seasons in the NFL—three with the Packers and four with the Kansas City Chiefs.
*Fred Hyatt played five seasons for the Cardinals (1968-72), mostly as a backup. He caught six passes for 90 yards and returned one kick for 41 yards.
*Although he played only two seasons in St. Louis, Bob Atkins intercepted five passes for 74 yards.
*Joe Schmiesing played 48 games (11 starts) in four seasons with the Big Red. He had four sacks in 1970.
*Rocky Rosema had 2.5 sacks and one interception in four years with St. Louis.
*Jerry Daanen played in 37 games in three seasons. He caught eight passes for 75 yards.
*Vern Emerson, Mack Sauls and Bobby Lee played in 23, 10 and four games, respectively, with no starts.
Another disappointing draft. Speaking of MacArthur Lane, can somebody please tell me what happened to the Big Red running game during the final three games of the 1970 season?