Big Red Draft History: 1965 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 1965 Draft, which was held November 28, 1964 in New York.

For the second year in a row, the Cardinals’ draft turned out to be generally disappointing. Except for running backs Johnny Roland and Roy Shivers, both of whom had one more year of college eligibility (at Missouri and Utah State, respectively) and wouldn’t start their NFL careers until 1966, the team received minimal production from its 20 selections. 

The Big Red made a play for Joe Namath, taking the Alabama quarterback with their first-round pick (12th overall), but lost him in a bidding war with the New York Jets, who made him the first overall pick in the AFL Draft. The Cardinals dispatched two representatives to Tuscaloosa, AL to meet with Namath in his dorm room and try to sign him to a contract. Namath told them he wanted a $200,000 annual contract and a Lincoln Continental convertible.

“They said, ‘Oh, my god.’ The two guys fell off the bed,” Namath recalled in a 2021 podcast on The Exchange. “They went into this ‘My god’ motion and then it made me feel like a, I don’t know, a jerk.”

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A Memorable Monday in Dallas

On this date (November 16) in 1970, before a Cotton Bowl crowd of 69,323 and a nationwide audience watching Monday Night Football on ABC, the Cardinals beat the Dallas Cowboys, 38-0.

It was the third consecutive shutout for the Big Red—they had blanked the Houston Oilers, 44-0, and the Boston Patriots, 31-0, in their previous two games—who became the first NFL team to shut out three opponents in a row since the 1935 New York Giants. The victory improved their record to 7-2 and kept them in first place in the NFC East Division.

For the Cowboys, who fell to 5-4, it was the first time in their 11-year history (147 games) that they were whitewashed.

Running back Johnny Roland and cornerback Roger Wehrli, a pair of University of Missouri products, were the Cardinals’ linchpins that night. 

Roland returned a first-quarter punt 74 yards for a touchdown and rushed for two more TDs (10 and 3 yards) in the fourth quarter.

Recalling his punt return, Roland, 79, said recently, “(Punter Ron Widby) kicked a low line drive and I was able to field the ball clean. I didn’t have Mel Gray-type speed, but for a big guy I was able to move pretty good.”

Wehrli, playing in only his second NFL season, intercepted two passes, broke up five others, and made three unassisted tackles. The A.P. selected him as the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Week.

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