Forgotten Big Red Stars: Jimmy Hill

While Cardinals safety Larry Wilson rightfully became a national darling, many believed Jimmy Hill was the best cornerback in the NFL in the early 1960s.

The Dallas, TX native was a star offensive end at Booker T. Washington High School where he was named to the all-Texas team in 1945 and 1946. He caught 134 passes and scored 16 touchdowns or the Bulldogs and also set a high school record in track and field in the low hurdles.

Hill attended Sam Houston State College in Austin, TX where he starred in four sports. He was named All-American honorable mention in 1948 and 1949 as a running back and once ran for 5 touchdowns in a game. In addition to football, Hill was a sprint champion in track racking up a 9.5 mark in the 100 yard dash and also starred on the baseball and basketball teams. He was named the school’s best all-around athlete his last three years in college.

Jimmy Hill played 12 seasons in the NFL

Hill was good enough in baseball as a pitcher to garner interest from the Washington Senators and Cleveland Indians. In 1950, he was offered a contract by the Montreal Alouettes to play football in the Canadian Football League and the San Francisco 49ers of the National Football League, but he decided to teach and coach football after college.

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Big Red Legends: Jim Otis

(Editor’s Note: This story was written by Kay Burnett and originally published in a 1978 Edition of Pro! Magazine.)

It’s three-fourths of the way through the 1978 season—time to check on yourself just to make sure you haven’t blown all your tubes watching 11 successive Sundays of Cardinal and NFL football.

Like all good psychological tests, this one begins with a variation of the word association challenge. If you’re a Cardinal fan, your tester says “Big” and you say “Red.” He says “long bomb,” you say “Hart to Gray.”

He tosses out the time-worn football phrase, “three yards and a cloud of dust,” and your immediate response is the name of just one standout Cardinal running back.

If you miss this one, you will be declared legally a victim of amnesia for the past six years, the time 6-foot, 225-pound Jim Otis has played for the St. Louis.

Jim Otis is third on the Cardinals all-time rushing list.
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Rigby resident raising money to honor Larry Wilson

Larry Wilson was a humble man, from humble beginnings who never forgot where he came from. Wilson was born and raised in the small town of Rigby, Idaho and would later become the greatest athlete in Rigby High School history, earning 16 Letters in football, baseball, basketball and track. Larry went on to star at the University of Utah and then with the St. Louis Cardinals of the National Football League.

On July 7, 1967, the town honored Larry Wilson by retiring his high school number 7 and naming their football field “Larry Wilson Field.” Over 300 friends and acquaintances of Larry descended on Rigby to help honor “Willy.” Even Cardinals vice president Bill Bidwill flew in unexpectedly to participate in the celebration.

Larry Wilson is carried off the field by teammates after his last NFL game in 1972.

According to Wilson family friend, Michelle Barber, the name Larry Wilson Field was supposed to remain in perpetuity. However, when the new high school was built in the early 1990s, Larry’s name was removed and replaced with the name of a local doctor who never played ball in Rigby.

Michelle grew up watching Larry play football and said she and her late father, Dean Allgood, would watch the Cardinals whenever they were on television. Dean was a good friend of Whitey Wilson (Larry’s father) and the family felt terrible when Larry’s name was removed from the field.

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Big Red Characters: “Dr. Doom” John Barefield

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.

John “Dr. Doom” Barefield played with the Cardinals from 1978-1980 (Photo courtesy of Paul Turner)

“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.”

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Big Red Flashback 1982: Stump’s Big Day in Philly

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..

Lyvonia Albert Mitchell

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.”

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Forgotten Big Red Stars: Ken Gray

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.

Ken Gray was a 6x Pro Bowl guard with the Cardinals from 1958-1969.

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.

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Big Red Flashback 1978: Terry Metcalf Leaves for Canada

“Best of luck to him,” Cardinals director of operations Joe Sullivan told the St. Louis Post Dispatch after star running back Terry Metcalf announced he was taking his talents to the Canadian Football League in March of 1978. “Money is a great thing to have in life when you’re young.”

Metcalf signed a seven-year, $1.4 million contract with the Toronto Argonauts after turning down a 3-year, $240,000 offer from the Cardinals and curiously similar proposals from other NFL teams. Metcalf was looking for a reported $300,000 yearly contract.

“I wouldn’t have made as much in five years in St. Louis as I’ll make in one year in Toronto,” Metcalf told the St. Louis Post Dispatch after the deal was announced. “I laid in bed all Saturday night thinking about it. There were a lot of doubts in my mind, but I have to do what’s right for me.”

Metcalf added, “I thought I would still be in the NFL, but nobody seemed willing to want to talk. So I had to look elsewhere.”

The 26 year old Metcalf was known as “The Franchise” in St. Louis. He was the Cards third round draft choice in 1973 out of Long Beach State and quickly became one of the greatest all-purpose backs the game had ever seen.

In 1974, Metcalf became the first NFL player to average 30 yards per kick return and 10 yards per punt return in the same season. The following year he set an NFL record with 2462 combined yards and became one of only four players to account for touchdowns by rushing, receiving, kick return, punt return, and passing in a season.

“He did everything for us except drive the bus to the stadium,” Dan Dierdorf said of Metcalf in a 2018 interview on KFNS radio.

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Big Red Legends: Jackie Smith

(Editor’s Note: This is a reprint of a story written by Howard Balzer on August 3, 1994 about Jackie Smith’s induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame)

MAKING A HALL by Howard Balzer

Canton, Ohio—Friends, fans and family.

On another sun-splashed Saturday in the city where professional football was born, a new class of the game’s greats was enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Friends, fans and families came from far and wide to honor them and show their love. Emotions were high as even the most stone-faced among them broke down. No matter what was said beforehand, the new Hall of Famers become overwhelmed by the moment, by the hospitality of the volunteers, by the fans lined deep on the sidewalks waving during the parade Saturday morning.

For Jackie Smith, the weekend was a whirlwind of non-stop action. He seemed to be operating on adrenaline alone, overcome by what is happening, surrounded by friends, fans and family.

Friends: They came from everywhere, including teammates Charley Johnson, Jim Hart, Larry Stallings, Bill Koman, Terry Miller, Steve Jones, Tim Kearney, Kurt Allerman.

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Big Red Legends: Ernie McMillan

Ernie McMillan grew up in Chicago where he lettered in baseball, basketball and football at DuSable High School. He attended the University of Illinois, but didn’t play much his first three years.

“I had wanted to go to Arizona or some other college far away, but my mother didn’t want me to be too far from home,” Ernie said in a Post Dispatch story in 1969.

McMillan was used primarily as a blocking tight end at Illinois and caught only 7 passes in his college career, but the Cards drafted him in the 13th round of the 1961 NFL draft. The 6-foot-6 McMillan reported to camp at 283 pounds and requested to switch to tackle just a few days into practice. The Big Red agreed and it was a move neither would regret.

Ernie McMillan was a four time Pro Bowl tackle for the Big Red from 1961-1974.

“When Billy Bidwill came to Illinois to sign me, I told him I didn’t think I could make the team,” McMillan told attendees at the annual kickoff luncheon in 1961. “I taught school for six months and I realized there had to be a better and easier way to make a living, so here I am.”

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Big Red Flashback 1965: Why the Cards traded John David Crow

Frustrated about lack of playing time under head coach Wally Lemm, Big Red star running back John David Crow requested a trade after the 1964 season.

Crow won the Heisman trophy at Texas A&M in 1958 and was later the Chicago Cards first pick in the NFL draft. The team moved to St. Louis in 1960 where Crow became a star. His 1,533 total yards and 5.9 yards per carry were tops in the league in 1960 and he scored scored 17 touchdowns in 1962.

However, Crow struggled with injuries during his time in St. Louis. In 1961 he suffered a broken leg. In 1963 a knee operation limited him to just nine carries.

John David Crow was the Cardinals top pick in the 1958 NFL Draft.
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Big Red Draft: All-Time Picks by Round

Most people are aware of the historic struggles the St. Louis Cardinals had when it came to the NFL draft. There were some very good drafts over the years (1979-1983 for example), but more times than not, the Big Red left their fans scratching their heads (“They drafted a girl!”).

I thought it would be fun to go back and rank the all-time Big Red draft picks by round. Many on this list were no-brainers, but there were a few very competitive rounds. I’m sure everyone will agree that some of the greatest names in Cardinals history are on this list, including four Cardiac Cards offensive lineman, and all four Hall of Famers. But I also learned something about the Cards top 16th and 20th round picks, Jimmy Lee Hunt and Tom Day. Both were released by the Cardinals and both went on to become stars in the AFL. Hope you enjoy!


ALL-TIME ST. LOUIS CARDINAL DRAFT PICKS BY ROUND

ROUND 1 – ROGER WEHRLI (1969)

Wehrli was a consensus All-American at Missouri when the Cards selected him with the 19th pick in the draft. He went on to a 14 year career in St. Louis that included 3 All-Pro and 7 Pro Bowl selections. He had 40 interceptions, 19 fumble recoveries and was the longtime holder for Big Red kickers. He returned a fake FG for a TD in his final NFL game in 1982. Roger Staubach called him the best cornerback he ever played against. Wehrli was inducted to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2007, a member of the College Football Hall of Fame and the 1970s NFL All-Decade Team.

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Big Red Draft Bust: Larry Stegent

Picking eighth in the 1970 NFL draft, the St. Louis Football Cardinals selected running back Larry Stegent out of Texas A&M.

“It’s unbelievable—I’m overwhelmed,” Stegent said in a St. Louis Post Dispatch interview after the draft. “I didn’t feel I’d be picked until much later. I didn’t really think anyone wanted me that much.”

Stegent was an All-American high school halfback and Southwest Conference all-star his sophomore and junior seasons at A&M. The Houston native was slowed by injuries for much of his senior season, but that didn’t stop the Cardinals from drafting him ahead of All-American running back Steve Owens from Oklahoma.

“Owens is a straight-ahead type runner,” Big Red head coach Charley Winner said. “We think Stegent can go outside for us, and he’s a good pass receiver.

Unfortunately, Stegent would never “go outside” for the Cards and became yet another Cards first round disappointment.

Larry Stegent was a high school and college star at Texas A&M when the Cardinals drafted him with the 8th pick in the 1970 draft.
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Big Red Flashback: The Ahmad Rashad Trade in 1974

By Jeff MeyersSeptember 19, 1974

“The doctors with the Bills told me that the Cardinals were telling everyone that I had mental problems and that’s why I couldn’t get along with people,” Ahmad Rashad said, his voice inflecting both laughter and anger at the same time.

It is easy to understand how Rashad could drive other people crazy, like cornerbacks. Willie Brown, the All-Pro of the Oakland Raiders, wound up talking to himself after Rashad turned him in circles and tied his shoelaces together during the Monday Night Game of the Week on ABC-TV.

Even Howard Cosell, given to hyperbole on some things as mundane as a stadium hot-dog vendor, was going nuts over Rashad’s two-touchdown performance that gave the Buffalo Bills a 21-20 victory. “In Buffalo,” Cosell raved, “the acquisition of Rashad is being termed the ‘Steal of the Century.'”

Bobby Moore changed his name to Ahmad Rashad in the summer of 1973. He was traded to Buffalo the following January for backup QB Dennis Shaw.

The victims of this outlandish thievery are the Cardinals, whose state of mind may be more in question than Rashad’s considering that they traded him straight up for second-string quarterback Dennis Shaw last January. Not that Shaw isn’t a competent professional; it’s just that Rashad has the talent to become one of the greatest receivers in the National Football League.

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Forgotten Big Red Star: Bob Reynolds

While the Big Red offensive line of the 1970s gets all the glory, the front five of the 1960s Cardinals was just as good and may have been better. Bob DeMarco, Irv Goode, Ken Gray, Ernie McMillan, and Bob Reynolds combined for 19 Pro Bowls from 1961-1970.

The 6′-6, 265-pound Reynolds was the Cards second round draft choice in 1963 out of Bowling Green where he was a two-time all-conference selection. He started his first training camp on defense, but was moved to left tackle after a string of injuries on the offensive line.

Big Red line coach Ray Prochaska believed Reynolds had the tools to succeed on the offensive line.

“He seems to know what pass protection is about. He knows the footwork pretty well and knowing this is three-fourths of the task.”

Bob Reynolds played left tackle 9+ seasons for the St. Louis Cardinals.

Reynolds had another reason for the move to offense

“I didn’t feel I was good enough to be a defensive tackle,” he told Jeff Meyers of the St. Louis Post Dispatch in 1970. “All the way up to pro ball I was always bigger than most players. I may have loafed. I had the tendency to take it easy. In college all I knew about defense was to overpower everybody.”

Reynolds told Meyers that he became convinced that mental preparation was the most important factor of playing on the offensive line.

“That is how you beat your opponent,” he said. “Better shape? No, you beat him because you’ve prepared yourself more than he has. Strength? No, you beat him because you prepared yourself more.”

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Big Red Legends: Charley Trippi

By Dennis Dillon

12/28/2020

The oldest living member in the Pro Football Hall of Fame rose from his chair, eyed his target squarely and moved in for the play. With his wife, Peggy, cheering him on, he huffed, and he puffed, and he blew out every one of the 99 candles on his birthday cake.

His health may be betraying him—his hearing is shot, his mobility is compromised, and he fell and broke his shoulder while walking out to the mail box a few months ago—but Charley Trippi hasn’t lost the singular trait that defined his magnificent football career, where he was a multi-dimensional player at the University of Georgia and in the NFL.

“I’ve never met a man more determined than my grandpa,” says Clint Watson. “If you go back and look at all the pictures of him in action, you’ll see a similarity. You’ll see the face that he’s making. He’s gritting his teeth and straining with every ounce of energy and determination that he has. When you see those pictures, you’re like, ‘That’s Pa-Pa.’ He has a determination about him that a lot of people just don’t have.”

Trippi lives in Athens, Ga., not far from the college stadium where he starred in the mid-1940s. You used to be able to drive by his house and see Charley out in his yard, raking leaves. But he pretty much stays inside any more.

Born on December 14, 1921 in Pittston, Pa., Trippi was the son of a Sicilian immigrant coal miner. His mother died when Trippi was young. Trippi played football at Pittston High School, but he felt he needed to add some weight before playing in college.

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Big Red Flashback: Vai Sikahema Returns Two Punts for TDs in 1986 Game

“Thank goodness for little return people,” Big Red head coach Gene Stallings said after the Cardinals defeated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 21-17 to close out the 1986 season.

The “little return people” Stallings was referring to was 5 foot 8 inch Vai Sikahema who had just become the fifth player in NFL history to return two punts for TDs in one game.

The Cardinals and Buccaneers were arguably the two worst teams in the NFL in 1986 and they certainly lived up to that billing on this cold Sunday afternoon at Busch Stadium. The teams combined for 15 punts, 6 turnovers, and 500 total yards.

Vai Sikahema returning a punt 71 yards for a touchdown. He would return another 60 yards for a TD minutes later.

The Cardinals struggled on offense, turning the ball over three times and missing three easy field goals. They converted on only one of 10 third down plays and entered Tampa territory nine times, coming away with only one offensive touchdown.

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Forgotten Big Red Star: Dale Meinert

Bill Bidwill called him “one of the great defensive players we had.”

Dale Meinert was a three-time Pro Bowl middle linebacker with the Cardinals from 1958-1967. He was a college star at Oklahoma A&M (now Oklahoma State) and was drafted by the Baltimore Colts in 1955. But instead of playing in the NFL, the Lone Wolf, Oklahoma native decided to play in the CFL for Frank “Pop” Ivy and the Edmonton Eskimos, where he won a Grey Cup Championship.

Dale Meinert played 10 seasons with the Cards

In1958, after spending a couple of years in the Air Force, Meinert rejoined Pop Ivy with the NFL Chicago Cardinals. He played offensive line his first two seasons, but defensive coordinator Chuck Drulis converted him to linebacker in 1960.

“I guess they figured I wasn’t big enough to play guard,” the 215 pound Meinert said in Bob Burnes book Big Red, “and I sort of agreed with them because those defensive tackles kept looking bigger and bigger.”

It was a decision the Cardinals and Meinert would not regret. The tall rangy linebacker intercepted a pass in his first start against the Rams in 1960 and quickly developed into an aggressive tackler and pass defender. He was named team MVP in 1961 and earned Pro Bowl selections in 1963, 1965, and 1967. He did a brilliant job quarterbacking the Big Red defense and calling all the plays.

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The Rise of Charley Johnson

(Editor’s note: This story is a reprint from the January 1966 issue of Sport Magazine and was written by John Devaney.)

In sports, some success stories begin with a dream. Here is how one dream of playing professional football came true — at almost impossible odds.

By JOHN DEVANEY

The quarterback was sitting bare-chested, on the edge of the rubbing table. He was holding a white towel to his face, and a large crimson stain was slowly spreading over the towel because blood was pouring from a gash in his chin. The quarterback didn’t seem to notice the blood. He was staring at the floor with the rapt concentration of someone watching scenes from his life flash, one by one, on a movie screen.

This was Charley Johnson, St. Louis Cardinal quarterback, in the visitor’s clubhouse at Yankee Stadium one afternoon late this October. Minutes before he had run off the field, plunging almost blindly through the swirling crowd, after New York had beaten St. Louis 14-10. Twice in the game’s closing minutes Johnson had brought the Cardinals inside the Giant 25, and twice he had failed to get the touchdown that would have won.

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Cardinal Great Larry Wilson Passes Away at 82

It’s been a rough couple of weeks for St. Louis sports fans. We lost baseball Hall of Famer Lou Brock on September 6 and on Friday we learned of the passing of former Big Red great Larry Wilson.

Wilson played college ball at the University of Utah and was the Chicago Cardinals 7th round draft choice in the 1960 NFL draft. He went on to a 13 year Hall of Fame career in St. Louis.

The Rigby, Idaho native played in 8 Pro Bowls and was named first team All-Pro five times. He was selected to the NFL 1960s All-Decade Team, the 75th Anniversary Team, and the NFL 100 All-Time Team. Wilson was the NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 1966 and is the all-time Cardinals leader in interceptions with 52. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1978.

Wilson was a member of the Cardinals organization as a player, coach, and executive for over 40 years. He was inducted into the team’s Ring of Honor in 2006.

Arizona Cardinals owner Michael Bidwill had this to say about Wilson.

“Besides my father, Larry Wilson was the most influential male figure in my life. He was someone who truly lived his faith and demonstrated it daily in the kindness he showed every single person he met. Any of us lucky enough to be in his orbit – whether that was for a few minutes or four decades – was always better off from the experience. I will remember Larry Wilson first as a fantastic person but then obviously as one of the greatest players the National Football League has ever seen. It’s fitting that his passing coincides with the league’s 100th birthday because his toughness and the way he revolutionized his position make him one of our game’s most unforgettable figures. Whether on the field playing with casts on both hands or brightening the lives of every person he knew, Larry’s selflessness defined who he was and how we will all remember him.”

Larry Wilson is survived by Nancy, his wife of 40 years, as well as daughter Christie, son Larry Jr., numerous grandchildren and one great-grandchild.