Big Red Flashback 1978: Terry Metcalf Leaves for Canada

“Best of luck to him,” Cardinals director of operations Joe Sullivan told the St. Louis Post Dispatch after star running back Terry Metcalf announced he was taking his talents to the Canadian Football League in March of 1978. “Money is a great thing to have in life when you’re young.”

Metcalf signed a seven-year, $1.4 million contract with the Toronto Argonauts after turning down a 3-year, $240,000 offer from the Cardinals and curiously similar proposals from other NFL teams. Metcalf was looking for a reported $300,000 yearly contract.

“I wouldn’t have made as much in five years in St. Louis as I’ll make in one year in Toronto,” Metcalf told the St. Louis Post Dispatch after the deal was announced. “I laid in bed all Saturday night thinking about it. There were a lot of doubts in my mind, but I have to do what’s right for me.”

Metcalf added, “I thought I would still be in the NFL, but nobody seemed willing to want to talk. So I had to look elsewhere.”

The 26 year old Metcalf was known as “The Franchise” in St. Louis. He was the Cards third round draft choice in 1973 out of Long Beach State and quickly became one of the greatest all-purpose backs the game had ever seen.

In 1974, Metcalf became the first NFL player to average 30 yards per kick return and 10 yards per punt return in the same season. The following year he set an NFL record with 2462 combined yards and became one of only four players to account for touchdowns by rushing, receiving, kick return, punt return, and passing in a season.

“He did everything for us except drive the bus to the stadium,” Dan Dierdorf said of Metcalf in a 2018 interview on KFNS radio.

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The Big Red vs Toronto Argonauts? It Happened in 1961.

TICKET STUB from CFL Game

A few months after the 1961 signing of legendary Canadian Football League quarterback Sam “The Rifle” Etcheverry, the St. Louis Cardinals traveled north of the border to play an exhibition game with the Toronto Argonauts. Oddly enough, it wasn’t the first time the NFL and CFL hooked up. The New York Giants tangled with the Ottawa Rough Riders in 1950 and 1951. And the Chicago Cardinals beat the Argos in 1959 by a score of 55-26.

In 1960, the Cardinals relocated from Chicago and finished 6-5-1 in their inaugural season in St. Louis. The offense  featured star running back John David Crow and wide receiver Sonny Randle. However, quarterback play was inconsistent and below average. As a matter of fact, the 1960 trio of John Roach, King Hill, and first round pick George Izo would all be playing elsewhere by opening day of the 1961 season. Etcheverry, who threw for over 30,000 yards and 183 TDs with the Montreal Alouettes, was brought in to lead the team to an NFL Championship. Unfortunately, Sam injured his throwing shoulder on his first pass in training camp and struggled during his two seasons in St. Louis.

Etcheverry in CFL exhibition

The Cardinals practiced 12-man football for 10 days in preparation for the exhibition game with the Argonauts. The game would be played in accordance with Canadian rules. CFL fields are 10 yards longer, 15 yards wider and also feature 25 yard end zones. Games are played with 12 starters. Big Red head coach Frank “Pop” Ivy was no stranger to CFL football. He won three consecutive Grey Cups with the Edmonton Eskimos before taking over the Chicago Cardinals in 1958. Assistant coach Ray Willsey played quarterback for a season in Edmonton as well. So, the Big Red were not only bigger and stronger than their opponent, the coaching staff had experience with CFL rules and style of play.

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