Stump Mitchell rushed for 1,647 yards his senior season at The Citadel, second in the nation to South Carolina’s George Rogers who was rewarded with the Heisman Trophy and selected as the first overall pick in the 1981 NFL draft.
Meanwhile, Stump waited patiently for the telephone to ring while running backs were coming off the board left and right.
“I was waiting and praying,” the 5-foot-8 190 pound Georgia native told the St. Louis Post Dispatch in a 1981 interview..
Late in the second day of the draft, Stump picked up the ringing phone and heard St. Louis director of pro personnel Larry Wilson telling him, “Congratulations, you’ve been selected by the St. Louis Cardinals.” In response, Stump couldn’t contain his mood.
“He was mad,’ Wilson remembered. “He told Jim Hanifan (then Cardinals head coach) and me, both of us, that he was going to make our ball club, that he was better than a ninth-round choice, that he was going to make us forget about Ottis Anderson.”
Ottis “O.J.” Anderson set numerous NFL rookie rushing records in 1979 including most yards in a debut (193) and most yards in a season (1605). He was named NFC Player of the Year and NFL Rookie of the Year.
On the eve of the 2019 NFL Draft, let’s take a close look at the 31 St. Louis Football Cardinals first round draft picks.
The Big Red drafted four quarterbacks who combined to start only 5 games for the team. Two Hall of Famers were drafted, but only one actually suited up in St. Louis. Of the 31 top picks, 12 can be considered busts. Many of these picks were made by the late George Boone, who was the team’s long time player personnel director. He may or may not have had incriminating photos of owner Bill Bidwill.
And so, here’s my ranking of the Big Red first round draft picks, worst to first. Let me know what you think!
31. Kelly Stouffer QB (1987 – 6th Pick)
On the 10th anniversary of the Steve Pisarkiewicz pick, the Big Red reached for the relatively unknown Stouffer out of Colorado State who also admitted he was shocked to be taken that early in the draft. He also held out of training camp and never signed with the Big Red. He was traded a year later to Seattle for three draft picks where he started 16 games in four seasons.
30. Clyde Duncan WR (1984 – 17th Pick)
The Big Red passed on eventual rookie of the year Louis Lipps and drafted Duncan after one good college season at Tennessee. There was only one problem according to then head coach Jim Hanifan, “He couldn’t play.” Duncan, who was admittedly surprised to be a first round pick, held out of training camp and then suffered a shoulder injury. He caught only four passes in his career and was out of football after two season.
29. Steve Little K (1978 – 15th Pick)
It’s never a good idea to draft a kicker in the first round, but the Big Red were desperate to replace their all-time leading scorer Jim Bakken. They drafted Little out of Arkansas who had a big leg (kicked 67 yard FG), but was never able to transition to kicking FGs without a tee. Little lasted three forgettable seasons. After being released in 1980, Little was paralyzed after crashing his car on a rain slicked highway in St. Louis.
28. Larry Stegent RB (1970 – 8th Pick)
The Big Red drafted the injury prone running back out of John David Crow’s old school Texas A&M. The Cards drafted him despite Stegent playing very little his senior season. He was injured before training camp in the College All-Star game and then tore knee ligaments on his first preseason carry and was out for the year. He caught one pass in 1971 and tore up his other knee and never played another down in the NFL.
The St. Louis Cardinals and Washington Redskins met at RFK Stadium on December 16, 1984. The stakes were simple. A Big Red victory would give them their first NFC East title since 1975 and their first home playoff game. A loss would end their season. Turnovers and mistakes gave the Redskins a 23-7 halftime lead and it appeared the Cardinals would soon be dusting off their golf clubs. But, as it turned out, the Cards were not ready to give up.
“At halftime, we said that anybody who didn’t think we couldn’t win the game shouldn’t go back out.” — Big Red safety Benny Perrin.
The Big Red came out on fire in the second half. After a slow start to the game, Neil Lomax shredded the Washington secondary going 25 of 28 for 314 yards and two touchdowns. He finished the with 468 passing yards, his best day as a pro. It was the most passing yards ever given up by a Redskin defense. “We were a little nervous; this was our first big game for most of us. Once we got our timing down in the second half, things opened up a little bit.”