Roger Wehrli Arizona Cardinals
"If you can delay or re-route a receiver, you’ll goof up a passers timing and force him to look for a secondary receiver…I’ve been knocked around, but no one has run me over.”
The St. Louis Cardinals bolstered their secondary with the selection of cornerback Roger Wehrli in the first round of the 1969 draft. An All-America at Missouri, Wehrli picked off 10 passes as a senior as well as led the nation in punt returns that year.
Wehrli, utilizing his speed, finesse, and strength, easily made the transition to the NFL and for the next 14 seasons was a steadying force on the Cardinals defense. His reliable and durable play at the right cornerback position forced opposing quarterbacks to avoid his area.
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. He also was named to the first of seven Pro Bowls that year.
Wehrli led or tied for the lead in interceptions for the Cardinals four times during his career. He registered an interception in all but two seasons during his career and amassed a total of 40 interceptions that he returned for 309 yards. Two of his steals he returned for touchdowns – one on a 53-yard return in 1974 against the Washington Redskins and the other against the Minnesota Vikings in 1979.
From 1974 to 1976, Wehrli picked off 12 passes as the Cardinals put together a string of three straight double-digit win seasons (10-4 in 1974, 11-3 in 1975, and 10-4 in 1976) that included back-to-back NFC East titles in 1974 and 1975. He intercepted three Roger Staubach passes, including two in the fourth quarter, during a key 31-17 win over division rival Dallas on December 7, 1975. In doing so, he was the first Cardinals player since Hall of Famer Larry Wilson in 1966, to record three picks in one game.
In 1977, Wehrli again led the Cardinals in interceptions with five that included an interception in four straight games – all St. Louis wins.
In 1981, with the Cardinals defense struggling, Wehrli was moved to the left cornerback position. In his first start on the left side, he made four tackles and broke up two passes as the Cardinals shutout the Buffalo Bills, 24-0, to begin a four-game winning streak.
Besides his ability to cover receivers, Wehrli had a knack for finding the ball and recovered 19 fumbles during his career. That total is a franchise record that still stands today.
Wehrli was named to the NFL's All-Decade Team of the 1970s, earned first-team All-Pro recognition five times (1970, 1974, 1975, 1976, and 1977) and was named All-NFC five times.