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 1970 Draft, which was held January 27-28, 1969 in New York.
This will forever be known as the Larry Stegent draft.
With the eighth overall pick, the Cardinals could have taken Heisman Trophy winner Steve Owens, Norm Bulaich, Bobby Anderson or Duane Thomas—all running backs who would have productive NFL careers. Instead, they selected Stegent, a running back from Texas A&M, whose career would be derailed by injuries.
“It’s unbelievable—I’m overwhelmed,” Stegent told Jeff Meyers of the St. Louis Post Dispatch after the draft. “I didn’t feel I’d be picked until much later. I didn’t really think anyone wanted me that much.”
In July 1970, while practicing for the College All-Star Game, Stegent suffered a partial ligament tear in his right knee that forced him to miss most of his rookie training camp and the first two preseason games. He played in the third preseason game, against the Bears, but tore ligaments in his left knee while trying to tackle a Bears defender who had intercepted a pass. He missed all of the 1970 season.
In 1971, Stegent spent time on the Big Red’s taxi squad and saw spot duty on special teams. He didn’t make his first start until a December 12 game against the Eagles. While taking a swing pass from quarterback Jim Hart, Stegent planted his foot attempting to cut back and ripped ligaments in his right knee.
End of season. End of career.
The Cardinals didn’t get much production from the other 21 players they drafted in 1970 except for Tom Banks, a center from Auburn, who was their first pick (eighth round) on the second day. What center Bob DeMarco meant to the Big Red in the 1960s, Banks meant to them in the ‘70s.
1970 St. Louis Cardinals Draft
|1-8||Larry Stegent||RB||Texas A&M|
|2-33||Jim Corrigall||LB||Kent State|
|2-38||Chuck Hutchison||G||Ohio State|
|3-58||Charlie Pittman||RB||Penn State|
|4-86||Greg Lens||DT||Trinity (TX)|
|5-111||Tom Lloyd||T||Bowling Green|
|9-214||Paul White||RB||Texas-El Paso|
|11-267||Mike Siwek||DT||Western Michigan|
|12-292||Charles Collins||WR||Kansas State|
|13-320||Jack Thomas||G||Mississippi State|
|15-370||Ron Wilson||WR||Western Illinois|
*Larry Stegent was a three-time All-Southwestern Conference running back for Texas A&M. But he played in only seven games and touched the ball just one time for the Cardinals (he gained 12 yards on that swing pass). Here are the NFL statistics for the aforementioned other four running backs drafted in the first round:
You know what they say about hindsight.
*In three seasons with the Cardinals, Chuck Hutchison played in 24 games (two starts). He recovered one fumble.
*Charlie Pittman played in eight games and averaged 23.7 yards on 10 kick returns in 1970, his only season with the Big Red.
*Don Parish played in 1970 and parts of ’71 and ’72 with St. Louis. In 17 games (14 starts), he returned one interception 41 yards for a touchdown, recovered one fumble and had 1.5 sacks.
*In five seasons with St. Louis (1970-74), Jim McFarland played in 61 games (five starts). He caught seven passes for 64 yards and two touchdowns and returned three punts for a 19-yard average.
*A broken ankle forced Tom Banks to miss his rookie season. Then, for most of the next 10 seasons, he anchored a stellar offensive line that included tackles Dan Dierdorf and Roger Finnie, and guards Conrad Dobler and Bob Young. That line allowed a then-record of only eight sacks in 1975. … Banks played in 116 games and made 110 starts for the Big Red. He was selected to four consecutive Pro Bowls (1975-78) and earned All-Pro honors in 1976. An outspoken critic of Cardinals management, he was released by the team midway through the 1980 season. He later played briefly with the Birmingham Stallions of the USFL.
*Mike Holmgren never played in the NFL, but he won a Super Bowl as head coach of the Green Bay Packers in 1997.
*Paul White played 11 games in two seasons for the Cardinals (1970-71). He averaged 21.7 yards on three kick returns.
*Tony Plummer played one game in his only season with St. Louis (1970).
*Mike Siwek appeared in two games for the Cardinals in 1970.
Wow!! 12 of the picks never played a single game. In fairness to the Big Red and Larry Stegent, who knows what might have happened if not for the injury in the College All Star Game. I suppose it shouldn’t be surprising that today a lot of potential top draft picks skip out on their teams bowl games. Its great to know that Larry Stegent turned out to be a very successful businessman.