As we move closer to the 2023 NFL Draft (April 27-29), The Big Red Zone is looking back on all of the 28 St. Louis Cardinals drafts (1960-87). This installment focuses on the 1962 Draft, which was held December 4, 1961 in Chicago. Although the Cardinals had 21 picks, it was arguably their least productive selection meeting. Wally Lemm, who was in his first season as the team’s head coach in 1962, summarized it succinctly. “We came up with only one player,Irv Goode, who helped us,” Lemm said in the 1975 book “Big Red,” written by St. Louis Globe-Democrat sports editor Robert L. Burnes.
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.
With the 2023 NFL Draft on the horizon (April 27-29 in Kansas City), the Big Red Zone is looking back at each of the St. Louis Cardinals’s 28 drafts, starting in 1960. Each installment in the series will include a list of that year’s selections, an evaluation of each pick (based on what the player contributed to the Cardinals), and notes about some of the players. We begin the series with a story on the St. Louis team’s first draft pick: quarterback George Izo.
During their time in St. Louis (1960-87), the football Cardinals took 24 shots at drafting quarterbacks. They missed on only 22 of them.
With the exceptions of Charley Johnson and Neil Lomax, the other quarterbacks drafted contributed little to nothing to the Cardinals, played for other teams, or never played a single snap in the NFL. Four of the misfires came in the first round, starting, well, right from the start.
Although the Cardinals were still in Chicago when the 1960 draft was held on November 29, 1959, that is recognized as the first draft class in the team’s St. Louis history. And with their first pick in that draft (No. 2 overall), the Big Red selected Notre Dame quarterback George Izo.
(Izo also was a “territorial selection” of the New York Titans in the 1960 AFL draft. He chose to sign with the Cardinals—for $15,000, including a $2,000 signing bonus—not only because the AFL was just beginning but also because Chicago was geographically close to Notre Dame and he thought he could parlay his college stardom and, hopefully, success in the NFL into a lucrative off-the-field career in Chicago business. He even received a lucrative offer from Chicago radio station WGN. Alas, the Cardinals moved to St. Louis in March 1960.)
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.
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.”
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.
As exciting as the Cardinals’ offense was during Don Coryell’s tenure as head coach (1973-77), the defense was a poor stepchild. And for good reasons.
During the Coryell years, the Big Red defense ranked 26th (last in the NFL) in total defense in 1973, 17th in ’74, 18th in ’76, 12th in ’76 and 24th in ’77. The only defensive player who was selected to the Pro Bowl during that span was cornerback Roger Wehrli.
A frustrated Coryell once said that the Cardinals had only two defensive players who could start for the New York Giants. The joke was that all of the defensive starters went up to Wehrli and said, “You and me, right Rog?”
But older Big Red fans might remember that the Cardinals had several good defensive players in their first 10 seasons in St. Louis (1960-69), when Chuck Drulis was the defensive coordinator.
Drulis joined the Cardinals in 1956, when the team was still in Chicago, and coached 16 seasons (through 1971), serving five different head coaches. Tragically, Drulis died at the age of 54 on August 23, 1972 when he suffered a massive heart attack on the team’s charter flight from St. Louis to Houston for an exhibition game.
Former Big Red and Washington Redskins defensive tackle Dave Butz has died at the age of 72
Butz was an All-American defensive lineman at Purdue when the St. Louis Cardinals drafted him in the first round of the 1973 NFL Draft. The Chicago native arrived late to camp in 1973 because of a contract squabble but played pretty well during his rookie season. Unfortunately, Butz suffered a season-ending knee injury in the 1974 season opener and didn’t play another game for the Cardinals. The 6-foot-7, 290-pound lineman and Big Red Director of Operations Joe Sullivan could not come to an agreement on a new contract in 1974 so Butz left for Washington.
“He asked for a guaranteed, no-cut contract and he asked for multi-contracts,” Sullivan told the St. Louis Post Dispatch. “The things he was asking for make people fat, dumb and happy. I couldn’t agree to All-Pro wages. He’s a nice kid. There’s never been a problem with Dave . . . except money.”
Because of the Rozelle Rule, Washington was forced to turn over two first round draft picks to the Cardinals for signing Butz, but it was well worth it as the mammoth lineman would go on to play over 200 games in 14 seasons with the Redskins and helped them to two Super Bowl victories. He was named Defensive Player of the Year in 1983 and later inducted into their Ring Of Fame. He was also named to the second team of the 1980s All-Decade Team.