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.
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.
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.
From a seventh round draft pick to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Larry Frank Wilson played the game with sheer determination, guts, and maximum effort. He played thirteen seasons with the Cardinals earning 8 Pro Bowls and was named to five All-Pro teams. He is a member of the 1960s All Decade Team and is still the organization’s all-time leader with 52 interceptions.
Wilson was born and raised in Rigby, Idaho where he faced adversity as a youngster. His mother died of spinal meningitis when he was just ten years old and his father was a truck driver, so Larry helped rear his younger brother, John. As a teen, Larry worked ten-hour days harvesting potatoes, but his father encouraged him to play sports. Larry was a tremendous all around athlete, earning 16 letters in high school. He broke the state high jump record and was a very good baseball and basketball player.
The late Chuck Drulis was known for his defensive talents. Some said that he was a generation ahead of his time. “He was a defensive genius,” linebacker Jamie Rivers told the St. Louis Post Dispatch in 1972.
The Pennsylvania native was a star offensive lineman at Temple before playing seven seasons in the NFL for the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers. He arrived in Chicago in 1956 as a defensive assistant under Cardinals head coach Ray Richards and would serve under five different head coaches until his sudden death in 1972. Drulis was also credited with two victories when he shared head coaching duties after Frank “Pop” Ivy resigned with two games left in the 1961 season.
Drulis made his mark by devising the “safety blitz.” It involved a defensive back bursting through the offensive line just as the ball was snapped in a frantic attempt to sack the quarterback. Drulis called it the “Wildcat” and he had been tinkering with it for a couple of years, but needed a player who had the toughness and nerves of steel to successfully carry it out. That player arrived in 1960. Larry Wilson was drafted as a running back out of Utah in the eighth round of the draft, but was converted to safety by Drulis in training camp. After struggling early, Wilson showed just enough to make the team. He ended up starting 11 of 12 games his rookie season intercepting two passes.