Where Are They Now? Tom Banks (Part 1)

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Tom Banks is arguably the greatest center in Big Red history. He was a team leader and outspoken critic of management which made him a fan favorite during his playing days in St. Louis. Banks tells it like it is (and still does) and the fans loved him for it. The All-Pro center was drafted in the eighth round out of Auburn in 1970 and played 11 seasons for the Cardinals (1970-1980). After missing his rookie season due to a broken ankle, Banks became one of the top NFL centers in the mid-70s anchoring an offensive line that only gave up 8 sacks in 1975. He earned Pro Bowl honors from 1975-1978. I recently spoke with Tom about his time at Auburn, his days in St. Louis, and finishing his career with the Birmingham Stallions of the USFL.

Where Are They Now: Tom Banks (Part 2)

Where Are They Now: Tom Banks (Conclusion)

Q: Tom, tell us a little about your father, Tom Banks Sr.? I understand that he was a pretty good ball player himself.

Banks: My dad came out of WWII and went to Jones Junior College in Mississippi. It was impossible to get a scholarship to a major school because of all the veterans coming back from war. He was an undersized offensive lineman at 185 pounds, but he became a Junior College All-American. He took a year off to work in the steel mill when I was born and said it was the best decision he ever made because it made him realize to value education.  He went to Auburn in 1949 and earned a scholarship. He played in the first Senior Bowl in Mobile, AL in 1951 and I was in the stands sitting on my mom’s lap. I was only 2 and a half years old. Later we became the first father-son to play in the Senior Bowl (Banks played in the 1970 game).

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The NFL, Concussions, and Marijuana

According to a study in 2017, chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) was found in 99% of deceased NFL player’s brains that were donated to science. CTE has been linked to repeated blows to the head which is, obviously, is very common among NFL players, in particular, offensive and defensive linemen.

Last year, Jeff Meyers, who covered the Football Cardinals in the early 1970s for the St. Louis Post Dispatch, and former Big Red Pro Bowl Center, Tom Banks, collaborated on an unscientific study of 23 former pot-smoking Cardinals who regularly lit-up during the season and sometimes before games. Meyers became curious of how they were doing after watching the movie “Concussion” in 2016.

The results of the “anecdotal evidence” were published in the Winter/Spring 2017 edition of O’Shaughnessy’s, the Journal of Cannabis in Clinical Practice. The story has been re-printed below with Mr. Meyers’ permission. While most of the players wanted to remain anonymous, a few such as Conrad Dobler,  Dale Hackbart, and Banks shared some of their experiences with concussions and how the use of marijuana helped them cope with injuries.

This in an interesting read. Enjoy! Continue reading

JIM HART GOLF OUTING

Former Big Red greats tee off for a great cause.

It was a beautiful day for golf as many former Football Cardinal greats participated in the 11th annual Jim Hart Celebrity Golf Outing at The Legends County Club in Eureka, MO. This event benefits Sunnyhill, Inc. which provides services, programs, and opportunities for children and adults with developmental disabilities.

Former Mizzou head coach Gary Pinkel served as the honorary chairman of the event and drove the ball right down the middle of the fairway on the first tee. Hart and many of his former Big Red teammates such as Mel Gray, Roger Wehrli, Tim Kearney, Tim Van Galder, Johnny Roland, and Jim Otis were in attendance.

Hart currently lives in Naples, FL and only gets back to St. Louis about once a year. We talked about his induction into the Arizona Cardinals Ring of Honor and was surprised to learn that he did not see Bill Bidwill during his visit. However, you could tell he was honored and humbled by the ceremony last December. We also talked about the late great Bill Wilkerson who was Hart’s college teammate at SIU-Carbondale in the 1960s.

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BIG RED ALL TIME TEAM ANNOUNCED

Almost 3000 votes cast for Big Red greats.

The St. Louis Football Cardinals called St. Louis home from 1960-1987 and although they didn’t enjoy a lot of success on the field, they definitely had their share of great players and characters. From Hall of Famers Jackie Smith, Larry Wilson, Dan Dierdorf and Roger Wehrli to Jim Hart, Conrad Dobler, Roy Green, and Terry Metcalf.

Facebook and Twitter fans recently had the opportunity to vote for the All-Time Big Red Team. Some may argue that this list should be called the All-Time Favorites Team, but I think the fans did a good job overall. Unfortunately, many players from the 1960s era didn’t get a lot of votes, but I’m guessing it’s because most Facebook and Twitter users are too young to remember the great offensive line of the 60’s like Bob DeMarco, Ken Gray, Irv Goode, and Bob Reynolds. However, Jerry Stovall, Pat Fischer, and Dale Meinert were voted to the team as well as Hall of Famers Jackie Smith and Larry Wilson.

The All-Time team is led by head coach Don Coryell who coached the Big Red from 1973-1977. The team was known as the Cardiac Cardinals as they always had a knack of coming from behind late in games. The Cards had 8 games decided in the final minute of play in 1975 and won seven of them. Coryell led the Big Red to NFC East Titles in 1974 and 1975.

The offense is led by #17, Jimmy Hart who is still the Cardinals all-time passing and TD leader. O.J. Anderson and Terry Metcalf were voted as the top running backs. O.J. is the all-time Cardinal rushing leader and there was no one in the NFL more exciting than Terry Metcalf in the 1970s. The most competitive position was wide receiver. Roy “Jet Stream” Green was the top vote getter, followed by the speedster Mel Gray and sure handed Pat Tilley. Of course the Hall of Famer Jackie Smith was voted the top tight end in a landslide over the late J.V. Cain. The offensive line is dominated by the group who only gave up eight sacks in 1975. Tom Banks was voted as top center, Conrad Dobler and Bob Young are the guards and Dan Dierdorf and Ernie McMillan are your tackles.

While the defense may not have as many big-names as the offense, there are two Hall of Famers in the secondary. The defensive line is represented by three members of the 1980s Cardinals. Al “Bubba” Baker and Curtis Greer who combined for 54 sacks in 1983-1984 are the defensive ends, and David Galloway and Bob Rowe are the defensive tackles. Former number one draft pick E.J. Junior was the top vote-getter at linebacker, followed by Larry Stallings, and a tie between Dale Meinert and Mark Arneson. Hall of Famer Roger Wehrli and Pat Fischer are the cornerbacks and Hall of Famer Larry Wilson and Jerry Stovall were the top vote-getters at safety.

The Cardinals all-time leading scorer, Jim Bakken was voted to the team as the kicker and Carl Birdsong the punter. Terry Metcalf edged Stump Mitchell as the all-time kick/punt returner. Metcalf set numerous NFL records returning kicks in 1975.

Congratulations to the All-Time Big Red Team members!

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