College Days: Roger Wehrli

College Days: Roger Wehrli

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Each week throughout the 2013 season, recaps the college days of a pro football legend.

Roger Wehrli
Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2007

A diamond in the rough would be the perfect way to describe Pro Football Hall of Fame cornerback Roger Wehrli. As a versatile high school athlete he played football, baseball, basketball and ran track. The problem was that he played at tiny King City (population 1,000) High School in Missouri and the football team did not garner much attention. As a senior, Wehrli was resigned to the fact that his football career was over and he would accept a scholarship offer to play baseball at Northwest Missouri State.

“I felt I was through with football and I regretted that,” Wehrli later reflected, “but, after all, the game we played wasn’t very sophisticated.”

Roger is one of two Hall of Famers to play at Mizzou. Kellen Winslow is the other. 
As luck would have it, due to Wehrli’s success in track where he led King City to a state title, he gained the attention of Clay Cooper, the defensive backfield coach for the University of Missouri. After examining crude 8 mm footage of Wehrli playing football, Cooper convinced head coach Dan Devine to offer the young defensive back a scholarship. There was, however, one stipulation; Wehrli also had to play baseball.

“They wanted me to play both in case I couldn’t play football.” Wehrli admitted.

Baseball soon went by the wayside when Roger earned a starting position in the defensive backfield as a sophomore. He was an instant hit. In just his second collegiate game, the quick-footed defender helped seal a win over Illinois with a late-game interception. As a junior, the hard-hitting Wehrli began to also excel as a return man. These improving new skills were evident when he returned the opening kickoff for a TD to prime a 23-7 Tigers’ win over Iowa State.

His senior season was one for the ages. He again burned Iowa State when he returned six punts for 149 yards – one a 54-yarder – to spur a 42-7 Homecoming victory. Against Oklahoma State, the 6-0, 184-pounder set a Missouri record when he intercepted three passes. The nation’s leading punt returner set several school and Big Eight conference records and totaled 10 picks that season. His play naturally earned him All-American honors. In his final collegiate game, Wehrli intercepted a pass to spark a 35-10 upset victory over Alabama in the Gator Bowl.

The St. Louis Cardinals bolstered their secondary with the selection of Wehrli with the 19th overall pick in first round of the 1969 draft. He earned a starting role with the Cardinals as a rookie and contributed three interceptions and led the team in punt returns. The following season, he picked off a career-high six passes - a feat he would match in 1975 - to earn his first All-Pro and All-NFC honors. 

Roger’s Hall of Fame Bio>>> Back to news