Pat Fischer was a jack of all trades in college while playing for the Nebraska Cornhuskers. He started at quarterback and defensive back his senior season and was a fabulous kick returner. The Omaha native still holds the Cornhusker record with a career average of 18.3 yards per punt return. He was inducted into the Nebraska Hall of Fame in 1974.
The diminutive Fischer stood just 5 foot-9 inches and was deemed by many to be too small to play in the pros, however the St. Louis Football Cardinals drafted him in the 17th round of the 1961 NFL draft.
“I was selected in the 17th round of the draft, so whenever anyone would ask I could say that I was drafted. I didn’t have to say the round, just saying that I was drafted by an NFL team was enough to impress people,” Pat told the Washington Times in a 2008 interview.
Charles Pierre Latourette’s childhood dream was to someday become a surgeon.
“I’d like to think that some day I can do just in part for other people what Dr. (Fred) Reynolds (The Cardinals team physician) did for me,” Latourette told the St. Louis Post Dispatch in 1970.
Latourette was a football star at Jonesboro (AR) High School and played college ball at Rice University where he was an All-Southwest Conference safety. In 1965, Latourette returned a kick that helped the Owls, who were four touchdown underdogs, upset Texas 20-17.
Latourette made it clear to pro football scouts that he planned to study medicine after graduation. “Forget me in the draft,” he warned. As a result, he was not selected by a professional team in the 1967 NFL Draft. But that didn’t mean he wasn’t wanted.
The Denver Broncos and Cardinals both offered him rookie contracts in 1967, so he thought it over and decided to give pro ball a try before entering med school. He chose to play for the Cardinals.
“Even though Denver offered more outright, I figured I might as well go all out and try to play with the best,” the 6-foot, 190-pounder told the St. Louis Post Dispatch in 1967.
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.
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.”
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.”
(Editor’s Note: This story was authored by former St. Louis Globe Democrat sports writer Rich Koster and was originally published in Sport Magazine in July 1967)
To appreciate Johnny Roland’s talent, you must be aware of his shortcomings. In a game dominated by specialists, he has no specialty. He’s not as fast as Gale Sayers, as quick as Leroy Kelly, or as powerful as Ken Willard. He’s never run a 10 second 100 and when he throws a football it frequently wobbles or floats. On the longest run of his rookie year, a mere 50 yards from scrimmage, he was hauled down from behind in the open field. He tabulated over 80 yards rushing in only one game and he average an unspectacular 3.6 yards per carry over the season.
So how did the 6-2, 215-pound Roland emerge as the NFL’s Rookie of the Year? And what made him worth a $300,000 bonus contract to the St. Louis Cardinals?
Simple. He wins football games. He wins them the way Frank Gifford used to. And Paul Hornung. With the relentlessness of that 3.6 yard average and the lighting of the big play. He succeeds with versatility. He wins with his head . . . and heart.
A confirmed non-specialist in a world of specialists, Johnny Roland has his shortcomings on the football field. He doesn’t move too fast, he can’t run over people and he throws a wobbly option pass
“Some guys in this league play three or four games a season,” suggest Abe Stuber, who excavates college material for St. Louis. “Roland has shown he plays them all. He gives 100 percent all the time.. That puts him in a different category from the others.”
The Missouri Governor’s Cup was awarded to the winner of the annual meetings between the St. Louis Cardinals and Kansas City Chiefs.
The first Governor’s Cup game was played two seasons after the NFL/AFL merger agreement in 1966. The contest was played on August 17, 1968 at Municipal Stadium in Kansas City in front of 47,462 fans. The Chiefs held on for a 13-10 victory.
The Chiefs pretty much dominated the Governor’s Cup series with a preseason record of 13-6-1. The Chiefs held 3-1-1 regular season advantage over the Big Red as well.
Here is a summary of the 20 preseason Missouri Governor’s Cup games played between the Chiefs and Cardinals.
After ten years of co-owning the St. Louis Football Cardinals, Charles “Stormy” Bidwill had had enough. Either he or his brother Bill had to go.
The Bidwill brothers took over the Cardinals after their mother had suddenly passed away in 1962. Violet Bidwill Wolfner was the first female owner in NFL history and she left most of her multi-million dollar estate, including the football team, to her sons. The brothers already held titles of President and Vice President, but Violet’s husband, Walter Wolfner, essentially controlled the team. After being pushed out after Violet’s death, Wolfner filed a lawsuit claiming the brothers were illegally adopted as babies. This shocked Stormy and Bill who had not known they were adopted until they heard about it in Probate Court.
Judges ultimately ruled against Wolfner which resulted in the Bidwills assuming full control of the Grid Birds in early 1963.
From undrafted free agent to one of the most prolific passers in NFL history, Jim Hart’s career had more than its fair share of challenges. The Chicago area native had to overcome fan favorite Charley Johnson in the late 60s, the Bob Hollway era in the early 70s, a career threatening shoulder injury in 1973, and #1 draft pick Steve Pisarkiewicz in 1979. But he could not beat his last challenger, Father Time, which is still undefeated.
After losing his starting job to Neil Lomax, the Big Red released the 39 year old Hart in 1984. He would retire a year later as the team’s all-time leading passer, throwing for 34,665 yards and 209 TD passes. Only Johnny Unitas and Fran Tarkenton had thrown for more yards than Hart.