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2015 NFL countdown: Uniform No. 78 and the Cardinals

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We focus on a couple of players in history.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

There are 78 days remaining until the Arizona Cardinals have their 2015 regular season opener. What does that mean? It means we will take a look at jersey No. 78 and focus on a player or two.

As of  right now, guard Earl Watford is 78. He enters his third season as a Cardinal. He was drafted in the fourth round out of James Madison and hasn't done much in the league. He has had a handful of snaps, but he has the inside track to be the team's tackle/guard backup entering this season.

What about the past?

Here are two players from the past. The more recent of the two is Freddie Joe Nunn. He wore 78 four of his nine seasons with the Cardinals. He was drafted in the first round by the Cardinals -- then in St. Louis -- in 1985. He started as an outside linebacker, but also played defensive end for the team. He holds the franchise record for sacks in a career with 66.5.

His two best seasons were 1987 and 1988. In 1987, he had 11 sacks in 12 games. He had 14 in all 16 games in 1988.

Nunn had a drug issue, though. He was suspended four games in 1987 and struggled with it later in life.

After his career, he was convicted of drug trafficking and was sentenced to 20 years in prison in 2008. He was found with 30 pounds of cocaine and over $1 million in his vehicle.

Going further back in time, No. 78 was worn the longest  by defensive lineman Ron Yankowski. He was drafted in the eighth round in 1971.

He played for the St. Louis Cardinals for 10 seasons, appearing in 128 games, starting 87.He played for the Cardiac Cards under Don Coryell, appearing in the playoffs twice.

In 2009, he was inducted into the Northeastern A&M Athletic Hall of Fame for his play in high school.

He said this about his time with the Cardinals:

"It was a great time," he said. "We had some great players, Jim Hart, Dan Dierdorf and Conrad Dobler — the meanest man in football. I played against him in practice, and when you play against the best, that makes you better.
"One of my coaches in the pros said ‘we've got about 10 all-pros here and rest of you are average ballplayers.' I knew whom he was talking about. ‘If we can get you people to play above your average, we can win.' We went through four seasons where we went 10-1 and 10-5 and made the playoffs twice. That is what team is all about...: the harder you work, the better you are gong to be for you and your teammates."

78 days left.

For a full list of No. 79, here is the site.

Do you have any favorites of No. 78 or memories of any of the players who did?


For a listing of the entire collection of stories in the Countdown to the Season series, all you have to do is click here.