Big Red Draft History: 1973 NFL Draft

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 1973 Draft, which was held January 30-31 in New York.

After his first draft as head coach of the Cardinals, Don Coryell gave his stamp of approval to the team’s first four picks: Purdue defensive tackle Dave Butz, Texas-El Paso quarterback-punter Gary Keithley, Bowling Green guard Fred Sturt, and Long Beach State running back Terry Metcalf.

“We drafted the great defensive lineman, the young quarterback with super potential, the fine offensive lineman, and the darting-type runner,” Coryell told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Only one of those four players worked out.

Butz played in only 13 games before departing St. Louis over a money issue. Keithley stuck around for just one season. And Sturt never played for the Cardinals.

Metcalf was the exception. An exciting multipurpose player who played five seasons for the Big Red, Metcalf became one of the linchpins of the Cardiac Cards with his ability to run, catch and return kicks.

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Bonnie Sloan: First Deaf Player in NFL

“This kid is an athlete. He’s got a real good chance to make our football team,” claimed Cardinals Personnel Director George Boone after drafting Bonnie Sloan in the 10th round of the 1973 NFL Draft.

Not only did the 6’5″, 260 pound defensive lineman make the team, he was the starting defensive tackle in the season opener against the Philadelphia Eagles.

The odds are long for any late round draft pick to make it in the NFL. The Cardinals already had three established defensive tackles in Bob Rowe, John Richardson, and Fred Heron, and they drafted Dave Butz with their top pick. But, Sloan had to overcome a larger obstacle. He was deaf.

Sloan was born in Lebanon, TN. His parents discovered that he was deaf when he was almost two years old. He learned to read lips and say words before the age of three and later learned to play football. Sloan earned all-state honors as a tight end and defensive tackle at Litton High School.

“We just thought football would be good therapy for him,” his mother told the New York Times. “We never thought he’d develop as he did.”

Sloan played college ball at Austin Peay where he was named team MVP and earned All-Ohio Valley Conference honors. In four seasons at Austin Peay, Sloan never jumped offside. His college line coach, Ray Thomas, felt that he should have been a fourth round draft choice at the very least.

“His deafness was definitely a factor in his not being taken until the tenth round,” Thomas told the Philadelphia Daily News.

Bonnie Sloan was All-Ohio Valley Conference lineman at Austin Peay (Photo APSU Athletics)
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