I'm taking this opportunity to share with Cardinals fans my first (and still my all-time) football hero.
Larry 'Wildcat' Wilson, whose jersey number '8' has long since been retired by the Cardinals, was not only a first ballot Hall Of Famer, Larry was the ONLY Cardinal elected to the NFL All-75th Year Team.
Larry is also credited as the innovator of the "safety blitz":
"Not long after Wilson made the team, defensive coordinator Chuck Drulis crafted a play that called for the free safety to take part in a blitz. The play was code-named "Wildcat", after Wilson's nickname. When the Cardinals first ran the safety blitz, the pressure was severe since most teams did not (and still do not) expect a defensive back to take part in a pass rush. This single play also helped to set up today's defenses where a blitz can come from anywhere."
"Wilson was named All-Pro eight times in his career and represented the Cardinals on eight Pro Bowl teams. During 1966, he had at least one interception in seven consecutive games, en route to a 10-pick season that led his league. Fellow Idahoan Jerry Kramer, a guard for the Green Bay Packers and author of Instant Replay, called Wilson "the finest football player in the NFL". Kramer described Wilson's play during an October 30, 1967 game, "...he fired up their whole team ... his enthusiasm was infectious."
"Wilson is renowned for not only playing, but intercepting a pass, with casts on both hands due to broken wrists. On the September 18, 2006 edition of SportsCenter, Mike Ditka challenged Terrell Owens' toughness by not playing for 2-4 weeks due to a broken finger. He cited Wilson's interception with casts on both hands as proof of a tougher football player. He ended his career with 52 career picks for 800 yards and five touchdowns."
His 52 career interceptions (12 and 14 game seasons with no post-season appearances) are still the Cardinals all-time record. But what is just as impressive were his sack totals and tackles for losses. Unfortunately, in those days, sacks were not recorded as statistics, but there is no doubt that had they been, Larry would have been the all-time NFL leader in combined sacks-interceptions by a mile (a very impressive combination indeed). Larry would have more sacks in a month than Ed Reed has for his career - just saying.
Of course most of you never had the pleasure of seeing him play, but I'm sure today's Cardinal fans would have taken to him like a duck takes to water. The ultimate ball-hawk, whether a running play, a sack, or a long pass, it seemed number '8' would always be closing in to make a play. Watching him play with casts on both hands (which still didn't prevent him from making interceptions), along with having most his teeth knocked out, NFL films has described Larry as "None Tougher".
For those fans interested in Cardinal history and would like (free) copies of two short documentary videos of Larry "Wildcat" Wilson, please send me an email (my address is in my profile). These jaw-dropping videos will put a smile on your face about being a Cardinals fan and give greater appreciation when you see number '8' on the Cardinals Ring Of Honor - the greatest Cardinal to ever snap on a chin-strap, bar-none.
Forever a Cardinals fan.