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 1967 Draft, which was held March 14-15, 1967 in New York.
After conducting separate drafts while competing for the same players for seven years, the NFL and AFL held their first common draft in 1967. As part of the June 1966 NFL-AFL merger, the two leagues collaborated in one two-day selection meeting that went 17 rounds and yielded 445 players.
The Cardinals made a trade right before the draft, sending running back Bill Triplett to the New York Giants in exchange for linebacker Jerry Hillebrand. The Big Red’s starting linebackers (Dale Meinert, Bill Koman and Larry Stallings) were getting older, so management obtained the younger Hillebrand, projecting him as a starter in the middle. Alas, Hillebrand lasted only one season in St. Louis and never made a start.
With the NFL celebrating its centennial season in 2019, the league will soon be announcing its top 100 players of all-time. I thought it would be fun to look back and rank the Big Red’s top 100 players who played in St. Louis.
The Cardinals moved from Chicago after the 1959 season and played 28 years in St. Louis before Bill Bidwill moved to the desert in 1988. Several great players played under the arch during this period including four Hall of Famers.
These rankings are only based on the player’s time spent in St. Louis. Consideration was given to the player’s statistics, All-Pro/Pro Bowl selections, team leadership, and impact in the community. It is next to impossible to compare eras, so many of these picks were very difficult.
So here goes.
The Top 100 St. Louis Football Cardinals of All-Time: 100-91
100. CARL BIRDSONG (P)
It seemed the Big Red never took the punting position seriously. In the 1960s they used safeties Jerry Norton and Jerry Stovall, kick returner Chuck Latourette, and even Jackie Smith. In the 70s it seemed they had a new punter every season. Hal Roberts, Jeff West, and Terry Joyce among others. And then there was the Steve Little experiment in 1978/79.
After 21 seasons Carl Birdsong finally brought some stability to the position. He was an undrafted free agent out of tiny SW Oklahoma St. where he was an All-American punter. Birdsong played for the Cardinals five seasons (1981-1985) and had the longest punt in the NFL his rookie season (75 yards) as he was named to the UPI All-Rookie team. His best year was in 1982 when he averaged 43.8 yards per punt. He followed that up with a Pro Bowl berth in 1983 when he finished second in the NFL with a net average of 37.3 yards. Birdsong lost his job in 1986 in part because new kicker John Lee’s kickoffs were too short and the head coach Gene Stallings wanted someone who could punt and kick off.