Cleat Geeks

Get Larry Into Ring of Honor!

With Kurt Warner becoming the 266th player to enter the Pro Football Hall of Fame this past weekend, it’s a fitting time to look ahead to Jim Hart becoming the 17th member of the Arizona Cardinal Ring of Honor during the 2017 season, in addition to who needs to be the 18th member of the ROH as early as 2018.

During halftime of the Cardinals game against the Los Angeles Rams, the former St. Louis Cardinal quarterback, Jim Hart will be the 4th member in the last 4 years to be inducted into the ROH. Following the likes of Warner (’14), Adrian Wilson (’15) and Roy Green (’16) to be selected as an elitist to the longest standing professional football club in North America (roots date back to 1898). Hart played 17 of his 18 seasons (1966-1983) with a Cardinal decal on both sides of his white helmet. The now 70-year-old Hart, played with Washington his last NFL season, though he only attempted 7 passes, none of which were caught for a touchdown. The newest member of the Cardinal fraternity was a 4-time consecutive Pro-Bowler in the mid 1970’s (’74-’77) and is still the franchises all-time leader in career passing yards with 34,639 yards, as well as touchdowns with a total of 209. For perspective, Niel Lomax is 2nd in team history in both passing yards, with nearly 12,000 less (22,771) than Hart, and only 136 touchdowns, compared to Hart’s 209. While longevity and health led Hart to lapping the field when it comes to individual statistics, it should be known that the Evanston, IL native actually ended his career with 38 more interceptions (247) than touchdowns. Nevertheless, while he’s no Kurt Warner it’s safe to say that the history of the Cardinals can not be told without one Jim Hart.

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While the Cardinals franchise has only been in Arizona for what will now be their 30th season, which is not even 1/3 of their NFL existence (founding member in 1922), the next ROH member should be a one who was drafted by the team after their arrival from St. Louis in 1988, is considered one of the greatest pass catchers in the history of the game, and is named Larry.

There were 3 constants while being a Cardinals fan in the 1990’s: Non-winning seasons (finishing only once with over a .500 record), Aeneas Williams and Larry Centers. Aeneas Williams, considered the greatest cornerback to play for the franchise (sorry Peterson), is in both the Pro Football Hall of Fame and the Cardinals Ring of Honor. If only the same could be said about greatest pass-catching running back in the history of the game. The fact that the NFL’s current career leader in receptions by a running back, was drafted by and spent the first 9 of his 14 seasons as a member of the Phoenix/Arizona Cardinals – before being released after the 1998 season, even though he chose to sign a 3-year contract extension before the 1997 season – is not already in the teams ROH is something that fans from those ’90s teams would expect from then owner Bill Bidwill, not by his beloved son and current team owner Michael.

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Even though Centers was labeled as a fullback, he was nothing like the prototypical blocking fullback, as his 827 receptions are not only the most by anyone out of the backfield, they are more than hall of fame wide receivers Steve Largent and Michael Irvin, in addition to tight end Shannon Sharpe and of course running back Marshall Faulk. Centers was the first running back to ever top 100 catches in a season, when he hauled in 101 passes in 1995. While all Cardinal fans would say David Johnson is the best pass catching running back in the game today, he still pales in comparison to the pass-catching phenomenon that Larry Centers was. While he was a Cardinal, Centers caught 81% of the passes that were thrown in his direction compared to Johnson’s current 66% catch rate. While it’s still very early into DJ’s career, it’s probably safe to say that Larry’s record of 827 receptions is in no great threat to be challenged, as David would need to average 80 catches a season for 11 more full seasons to surpass the standing record that is held by the Cardinals 5th round pick in the 1990 draft.

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Why Larry Centers doesn’t have a Gold jacket like the one that Warner received over the weekend, is in large part because he didn’t run the ball very often, nor was he greatly effective when given the opportunity to do so. In his 14 NFL seasons, the Stephen F. Austin standout averaged 3.6 yards a carry and totaled only 2,188 yards on the ground. Only 368 more yards than David Johnson, whose entering his 3rd season in the league. That being said, Centers currently sits at 28th all-time in NFL history in receptions by any player at any position, whether it be running back, tight end or wide receiver. Although both Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald eventual passed him, at the time of his release in 1998 Larry Centers was the all-time franchise leader in receptions with 535 catches, passing last seasons ROH inductee Roy Green. Not only does he have the accolades, Centers was also an integral part of the Valleys first taste of the NFL playoffs in 1998 when he was 2nd on the team with 69 catches in 12 regular season games. Oh yeah, he also added 9 catches in that playoff game loss to the Cowboys in Dallas. That would be the last time he would done the red and white jerseys of the Cardinals. While it took the Cardinals over 30 years to induct their all-time leader in passing yards and touchdowns, hopefully the same won’t be said about the greatest pass catching running back in NFL history. So great, that when he retired after walking off the field a Super Bowl Champion in 2003 for the New England Patriots, Larry Centers was 7th on the NFL’s all-time receptions list.

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Without Larry Centers and Aeneas Williams, the oldest Bidwill would’ve seen much less than the 25,000 or so die-hard fans that ritually attended the home games to see a poorly ran NFL team that was plopped in the middle of the desert to survive in an outdoor college stadium. Because of his fathers failures to ever seemingly try to produce a consistent winner or winning culture of professional football in the Valley, those loyal, die-hard Cardinal fanatics that supported the team in some of the darkest moments, are the ones that Michael Bidwill owe it to, to have Larry Centers grace Cardinal lore forever. 

 

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