Durable… hard-working… aggressive. Those are just some of the words that describe the football career of Mark Arneson who played for the St. Louis Cardinals from 1972-1980. The former linebacker passed away this morning at the age of 73.
Arneson was a three-sport star (football, track, and wrestling) at Palo Verde High School in Tucson, AZ, and played college ball at his hometown University of Arizona.
The 6-foot-2 inch, 210-pound linebacker was a 2-time All-Western Athletic Conference performer and became the first Arizona Wildcat to earn first-team All-American honors.
The Big Red selected Arneson with their second pick (#32 overall) in the 1972 NFL draft. He was chosen to play in the College All-Star game later that summer in Chicago and would miss a couple of weeks of his rookie training camp.
“I have mixed feelings about the All-Star Game,” he told Jeff Meyers of the St. Louis Post Dispatch. “On one side it’s a pain in the neck. I should be in camp. That’s the most important place for me.”
Steve Jones experienced both good times and hard times in his National Football League career.
The 6-foot-1, 200-pound running back was a 5th-round draft choice of the Los Angeles Rams in 1973 but was slowed by a hamstring injury and traded to St. Louis in training camp.
During his brief stay with the Cardinals, Jones impressed some coaches, but there was no room in a crowded backfield that included Terry Metcalf, Jim Otis, Donnie Anderson, Ken Willard, and Eddie Moss.
“I was beginning to pick up the St. Louis system,” Jones told The News and Observer in a 1973 interview. “They liked the way I was playing. And I know Larry Wilson was upset when I was put on waivers.”
After being release by St. Louis, Jones signed with the Buffalo Bills but didn’t see much action playing behind O.J. Simpson.
He has an “unusual background,” head coach Jim Hanifan said after the Cardinals drafted a little-known linebacker in the eighth round of the 1984 NFL draft.
That man was University of Hawaii star Falaniko “Niko” Noga who was born in American Samoa in 1962, and born with him, he said, was something that is given to all Samoans at birth.
“It’s an instinct that comes from way back,” he told the St. Louis Post Dispatch in a 1985 interview. “I think our people have big monsters in them. We believe that we can do anything to anybody. When you realize you have that monster in you, you have to find something to use it for. I found football.”
The 6-foot-1, 235-pound rookie quickly caught the eye of head coach Jim Hanifan. He excelled on special teams and introduced himself to the home fans in an October 1984 game against the Chicago Bears.
Noga broke open a close game when he barrelled through the Bears’ line and blocked Dave Finzer’s punt with just over 6 minutes remaining in the contest.
“As soon as I saw him drop the snap, I put on my engine and was gone,” Noga said after the game. “The play wasn’t designed to block a punt. But when I saw what had happened, I knew what I had to do. I just wanted to get there.
“That’s the best hit I’ve had in the National Football League,” the rookie added.
After Don Coryell left the NFL Cardinals, he appeared in St. Louis one time as an opposing head coach. It was an experience he could have done without.
On Nov. 20, 1983, Coryell brought the San Diego Chargers to Busch Stadium to play the Cardinals.
This was no tender homecoming. Too much weird mojo, and too many factors Coryell couldn’t control, not the least of which was an injured quarterback.
In five seasons with Coryell as their head coach, the Cardinals were 42-27-1 and reached the playoffs twice. “We weren’t the best football team when Don was here,” his quarterback, Jim Hart, said to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “but we were the most exciting. We did the unexpected.”
Coryell departed following the 1977 season after a falling out with club owner Bill Bidwill. Subsequently, the Cardinals had four consecutive losing seasons before going 5-4 in strike-shortened 1982.
From his first regular-season game as a head coach in the NFL with the St. Louis Cardinals, Don Coryell showed signs of being special. He got the Cardinals to play with confidence and collective pride.
When he was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Feb. 9, 2023, Coryell correctly was hailed as an innovator whose offenses with the Cardinals, and later the San Diego Chargers, were thrilling to watch and nerve-wracking to defend.
Those progressive schemes were just part of his skillset. Coryell also was an effective leader who got players to buy into his philosophies and to execute consistently within a framework of selfless collaboration.
Meet the new boss
The season opener between the Cardinals and Eagles on Sept. 16, 1973, at Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia marked the NFL head coaching debuts of Coryell and Mike McCormack.
Conrad Dobler, who Sports Illustrated once anointed “Pro Football’s Dirtiest Player,” has passed away at the age of 72 according to his family and former teammates.
Dobler played college ball at Wyoming and was a 5th round draft choice in 1972 by the St. Louis Football Cardinals where he played six seasons. He was traded to the New Orleans Saints in 1978 where he added toughness to a historically losing organization before finishing his career in Buffalo in 1980 and 1981.
“Our hearts go out to the family, friends and former teammates of Conrad Dobler,” Cardinals owner Michael Bidwill said in the team’s statement “He was the kind of tough, physical and fierce player that you love to line up with as a teammate and hate to line up against as an opponent. On the field, Conrad was a big reason for the success of the Cardiac Cards of the 1970s. Away from it, he brought authentic joy and caring to everyone who had the privilege of being his friend and that is what I will remember most.”
“Conrad was like a brother to me,” former teammate and friend Dan Dierdorf said during an interview with Gabe Kuhn on 92.3 ESPN Radio in Memphis. “He was just one year younger than I and we played side-by-side for six years. He was family.”
Dierdorf said that Dobler loved his reputation as the dirtiest player in football. “But deep down inside, he was a giant pussycat. He was as soft as a guy could be and I’ll miss him desperately.”
The annual Big Red alumni Christmas party was recently held at Circa Pub & Grill in Des Peres, MO. The following former players were in attendance: Dan Dierdorf, Jackie Smith, Johnny Roland, Eric Williams, Terry Miller, Keith Wortman, Irv Goode, … Continue reading →
Ulmo Shannon “Sonny” Randle was born in Washington, DC, on January 6, 1936, to Ulmo S. and Lillian D. Randle. Sonny attended Fork Union Military Academy where he excelled in track and field but didn’t play football until his senior season.
Randle enrolled at the University of Virginia, walked on, and eventually earned a scholarship. In 1958, Sonny was an honorable mention All American when he caught 47 passes and was the country’s top kick returner, averaging 24.1 yards.
The Chicago Cardinals drafted Randle in the 19th round in 1958, but the speedster struggled to adapt in the NFL catching only 15 passes his rookie season.
However, with the help of teammates Dick “Night Train” Lane and Jimmy Hill, Randle learned how to get “open” and would become one of the great receivers over the next decade.
St. Louis Bound
The Cardinals relocated to St. Louis in 1960 and opened the season with a 43-21 win over the Los Angeles Rams. Sonny caught 7 passes for 159 yards and scored three long touchdowns. “Randle had a phenomenal game,” head coach Pop Ivy stated after victory.
Sonny didn’t stop there. By season’s end, he set franchise records with 62 receptions and 15 touchdowns (still tops in Cardinals history). He was named to the Pro Bowl and first-team NFL All-Pro.
Big Red alumni, friends, and fans came together for a fun afternoon on Sunday at Circa Pub & Grill in Des Peres, MO. Jackie Smith, Mel Gray, Johnny Roland, Irv Goode, Eddie Moss, Ron Yankowski, Bob Rowe, former assistant trainer … Continue reading →
Bobby Joe Conrad was born November 17, 1935, in Clifton, Texas, and attended Clifton High School, where he was an All-state quarterback. Conrad led the team to back-to-back district championships in 1952 and 1953 and, as a senior, scored 207 points and took Clifton to the state semifinals.
Conrad accepted a football scholarship from Texas A&M University to play under head coach Paul “Bear” Bryant. He played quarterback, halfback, fullback and end for the Aggies and was a member of the school’s 1956 SWC Championship team.
Conrad participated in the 1958 Chicago College All-Star Game and although he had never attempted a kick in college, he set a scoring record by kicking 4 field goals and 3 extra points. He also intercepted one pass in the 35-19 upset of the 1957 NFL Champion Detroit Lions.
Conrad’s play in the College All-Star game caught the attention of NFL scouts and he was selected by the New York Giants in the fifth round (58th overall) of the 1958 NFL Draft. A few months later, he was traded along with safety Dick Nolan to the Chicago Cardinals, in exchange for EndPat Summerall and halfback Lindon Crow.
The Texas native intercepted four passes at defensive back his rookie season in 1958 and also did some place kicking. He was switched to a full time wide receiver in 1961 and caught 30 passes. The following season he caught 62 passes for 953 yards.