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Larry Wilson picked off Steelers QB Bill Nelson while playing with two broken hands in a 1965 game. pic.twitter.com/Ts4DJ4ywP9
— St. Louis Football Cardinals (@BigRed_STL) March 24, 2020
I first laid eyes on the St. Louis Cardinals All-Pro FS Larry Wilson at Yankee Stadium on November 24, 1963.
I was 8 years old and was searching for a new idol, having lost my cherished president, John F. Kennedy, two days previously.
Thanks to an invite by my Uncle Michael from Scarsdale, NY, this was the first time I ever saw a live NFL game.
Every one in my family was a New York Giants fan—-but—-that all changed for me when I saw the acrobatic #8 in the milk white with redbird helmet playing centerfield for the St. Louis Cardinals.
Larry Wilson was an absolute game changer.
Wherever the football went, Larry Wilson closed like a beeline on it.
Oh and if a WR, TE or RB got to the ball first—-he’d sting him.
If the ball was up for grabs, Larry Wilson would leap toward to sun to catch it, often summersaulting to the turf, while still managing to hold on to the ball.
Some football fans don’t know this—-but Larry Wilson was the first defensive back to popularize the free safety blitz.
His coaches knew exactly how to use him—-they moved him a round the field like a queen on a chessboard.
No other player that I have ever seen was more ubiquitous than Larry Wilson.
Larry Wilson was everywhere.
He even made it to my elementary school classroom—-not in person, mind you—-but he was there each day alright, due the fact that I drew him in his Cardinals helmet (which took me a couple of years to come close to perfecting) on just about every page of my notebook.
I shigger you not—-my pencil bag always had a pencil and three felt tip markers: red, black and yellow.
One of my best childhood friends, Ward “Wally Wahoo” Wallau, whom I hadn’t talked with in a while, called me on my birthday from his home outside of San Francisco and before we hung up, the last question he asked me was, “Hey, Mitch, are you still drawing Cardinals helmets in your notebooks?”
Larry Wilson started all of that when I was eight years old.
Wilson initiated my life-long love for the Cardinals.
Thus, if at times I get extra peeved with Cardinals’ players who cut corners or play tentatively—-you see—-Larry Wilson set a standard for defensive intensity that I came to embrace as an 8 year old boy.
There was absolutely nothing tentative about Larry Wilson. He was all instinct, impulse and instant acceleration.
As i look back over the years, it is with a tremendous sense of pride in the tradition of outstanding defensive backs the Cardinals have drafted.
And for me, it all started with #8 Larry Wilson. A 7th round RB from the University of Utah whom the Cardinals converted to FS.
Therefore, as a tribute to Larry Wilson, here is a video collage of what, imo, is the 5 player Mount Rushmore of the Cardinals’ defensive backs:
And—-no Mount Rushmore of Cardinals’ defensive backs would be complete without this baller—-Pat Tillman was the closest player I have ever seen to the kind of baller Larry Wilson was. You ever want to get fired up—-watch this video:
All of these dudes were drafted and developed by the Cardinals.
Think about this concurrence: Larry Wilson and Pat Tillman have to be the best 7th round draft picks the Cardinals ever made.
I hope that the current Cardinals’ secondary understands this prestigious and extraordinary history of baller DBs and that they go out there this season and create a new and exciting chapter of Cardinals’ lore.
After all, there is plenty of room on Camelback Mountain for a second Mount Rushmore of Cardinals DBs.
Happy 82nd birthday, Larry Wilson!
Carpe the living heck out of the diem…as you always do.