There are now only 57 days left between now and the start of the 2014 regular season for the Arizona Cardinals. Today we look at the history of the jersey number 57 that has been worn by many players stemming all the way back to their days as the Chicago Cardinals, as well as St. Louis.
The number 57 jersey has not been the most popular over the years for the Cardinals. If you ask a real diehard fan of the team who has worn the number, the first player that comes to mind will more than likely be Ronald McKinnon. He has to be the most popular of the bunch by far. More on him later, but first let's take a look at the player who is currently wearing jersey No. 57, and who could give McKinnon a run for his money, or number for that matter.
Alex Okafor is the man who currently dons the jersey 57 and intends to do so for many years to come for the Cardinals. Okefor of course sat out most all of his rookie campaign due to a torn bicep tendon suffered in week 3 at New Orleans last season, but according to an article written by Kyle Odegard of AZCardinals.com, Okefor explained how the injury couldn't have come at a better time, as he took advantage of it to learn instead of soak. Perhaps it would be how he would find comfort in his rehab.
"I definitely would have been better off not injured and out there, but on a positive note, if I was going to get hurt, my rookie year is the best time for it to get done," he said. "Essentially, I probably would have been sitting anyway. It was a wasted year, but I took a lot in and learned from some great vets. It made a world of difference."
During his rehabilitation, Okafor would also make his presence felt in many of the defensive meetings, which earned him a lot of respect by others, and has the team very excited about his potential as an outside linebacker for the Cards in years to come. Alex was one of the top ranked pass rushers in the draft a year ago coming out of the University of Texas where he mostly played defensive end.
Okafor knows that he still probably won't get a whole lot of playing time in his sophomore season as well, seeing as if he is behind proven veterans like John Abraham, Matt Shaughnessy and Marcus Bernard. Oh, and there is also that Sam Acho guy coming back from injury as well who just so happened to play is college ball for the longhorns as well. Though Okafor may not be guaranteed a lot of the reps for the upcoming 2014 season, I'd say he definitely has a pretty good supporting cast around him to help mentor his way onto the field in 2015 and beyond.
Before Okafor was given the number, there had not been others who have worn it in a successful manner.
Jamaal Westerman wore it in 2012, but only lasted five games for the team as he only recorded one total tackle. Curtis Gatewood played for several teams in the NFL before joining the Cardinals practice squad in 2010. He would remain on the squad off and on for the Cardinals, until he would be waived before the start of the 2011 season.
Victor Hobson just wore 57 for one game with the Cardinals in 2008 before finishing the season with the Bengals. He would only play 5 seasons in the NFL, mostly as a member of the New York Jet's.
Orlando Huff wore number 57 at linebacker for the Cardinals in 2005-2006. He started in 15 games for the Cards in 2005 recording 69 tackles with only one total sack. His greater success perhaps came after the game of football though as he currently manages and coordinates at Microsoft studios. The one in which created the XBOX gamming console.
Now we have come to the afar mentioned Ronald McKinnon (1996-2004). Ronald is the most impactful of them all to have worn the jersey No. 57 for the Cardinals so far. He also was very valuable to his college team at North Alabama where he won two Division II National Championships, and a Harlon Hill trophy which is division II's equivalent to the Heisman Trophy. This video courtesy of YouTube should best describe his football career.
Before McKinnon, there was veteran Randy Kirk. Randy spent his NFL career with various teams as a linebacker around the league including two stints with the Cardinals. He wore number 52 in his first stop with the team back when they were known as the Phoenix Cardinals in 1989. Then in 1994-1995 he would return as an Arizona Cardinal. Kirk only recorded one sack in his entire NFL career; it would not be as a member of the Cardinals.
Kani Kauahi played 11 seasons in the NFL as a long snapper including 5 seasons with the Cardinals (1989-1993) while wearing number 57 of course. It is safe to say he is a local product considering he played his college ball at Arizona State.
He has also coached many teams on many different levels, as he has served as offensive line coach for the Mesa Community College (MCC) football team, as well as Desert Vista High School football. He has even coached the team he once played for professionally here in Arizona with the Cardinals. He has also coached in the Canadian Football League (CFL), as well as the short-lived XFL. Most recently, he has coached the offensive line of the Successful Arena League football team Arizona Rattlers.
Niko Noga (1985-1988) along with his brother Pete Noga (1987) wore 57 for the St. Louis Cardinals. Niko actually first made his debut in 1984 with the team and wore No. 49, but returned in 1985 wearing 57. His brother Pete would join him in 1987, and I'm sure Niko was nice enough to hand over the number to his brother, but Pete only wore it for 3 games. Niko and Pete were a part of a trio of athletic brothers, as their brother Al also played in the NFL, but for a different team. They all attended the University of Hawaii before entering the league.
Chet Parlavecchio and Jim Eliopoulos both shared the No. 57 jersey in 1983 for the Cardinals, but none would play for long as Eliopulos only wore it for 4 games, and Parlavecchio for 9. Chester, better known as Chet currently serves as the linebackers coach ironically enough for the Tennessee Titans.
John Gillen played for the Cardinals at LB from 1981-1982 while wearing 57, but he put the number to shame by not recording a single stat.
I don't remember much of Mark Arneson, but he played in 8 fairly successful seasons with the Cardinals from 1972-1980. He wore number 57 at linebacker for the Cardinals. Perhaps he was better known for wearing No. 18 for the Arizona Wildcats as an all-American linebacker according to an article found on AZCentral.com as the chronicled the top 50 football players in U of A history.
Other players that have worn the No. 57 jersey for the Cardinals football franchise include:
Don Parish; LB, 1970-1971
Carl Brettschneider; LB, 1956-1959
Jerry Groom; (played on both sides) MG, DT, C, LB-1951-1955
Bill Blackburn; C, 1950
How many of these guys do you actually remember beyond Ronald McKinnon if any?