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 1976 Draft, which was held April 8-9 in New York.
If we’re going to lob tomatoes at George Boone for his failed drafts, we need to acknowledge—with golf applause, at least—his successful ones.
And by most measures, the Big Red’s 1976 draft was a hit—even though the Cardinals had picks in only 13 of the 17 rounds.
With three of their first four picks, the Big Red selected a rock-solid defensive lineman (Mike Dawson), a highly productive wide receiver (Pat Tilley) and a first-class running back (Wayne Morris)—all of whom would become starters and major contributors.
Much later in the draft, the Big Red chose a defensive back (Lee Nelson) who would help them for 10 seasons.
There may have been no player more respected in the Big Red locker room than Wayne Lee Morris. The six-foot-200 pound running back was a quiet, unassuming leader who did whatever the coaches asked of him.
The Cardinals selected Morris in the 5th round of the 1976 NFL draft out of Southern Methodist University. But the team was already stacked at running back with Pro Bowlers Terry Metcalf and Jim Otis as well as solid backups Steve Jones and Jerry Latin. Morris was hardly guaranteed a roster spot.
“In high school they had me starting on the varsity as a sophomore,” he told Tom Barnidge of the St. Louis Post Dispatch after the draft. “In college, I joined the varsity as a freshman. Now I’m trying to join it again. I hope this is one more stepping-stone.”
Morris was well-known in Dallas. He rushed for 3623 yards in three seasons at South Oak Cliff High School and was named an All-American in three different publications.
At SMU, he was the nation’s top freshman rusher with 884 yards and went on to set the school’s career rushing record. He ran for 154 yards in his first varsity game against Wake Forest and racked up 202 yards against Texas his senior season.
Morris knew that he would once again have to prove himself in the NFL.
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.
The Top 100 St. Louis Football Cardinals of All-Time: 50-41
50. BENNY PERRIN(S)
The late Benny Perrin was the Cards 3rd round pick in 1982 out of Alabama where he won two National Championships under Bear Bryant. Perrin had 9 INTs and two fumble recoveries during his 4 year NFL career and was the Big Red co-rookie of the year in ’82. Perrin started his first 41 NFL games, but a nagging knee injury cost him half the season in ’85 and would ultimately force him to retire the following training camp. Perrin was a gritty player, a team leader, and played through numerous injuries in his short career. He battled CTE for several years before passing away in 2017.