Cardinals legend and Hall of Famer Larry Wilson has passed away.
The Arizona Cardinals were dealt yet another serving of tragedy early this afternoon, as one of the greatest players in franchise history and one of the most decorated defensive backs of all time has sadly passed away.
Hall of Fame safety Larry Wilson, who spent 42 years with the Cardinals as a star player, coach, and executive, died at the age of 82.
Larry Wilson remains one of the greatest safeties in NFL history
Wilson, who became one of the greatest draft steals in history after being picked in the seventh round of the 1960 NFL Draft, converted to safety after originally playing running back. Wearing the unusual No. 8 as a defensive back, Wilson was named a Pro Bowler eight times in his 13-year career while being named a first-team All-Pro five times. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1978. No matter what metric you use, Wilson’s production puts him up there with the greatest defensive backs in league history.
The league’s best free safety in the mid-1960s, Wilson recorded 52 interceptions, including an astonishing 10 in 1966 alone, during his career. “Wildcat” used his speed and instincts to help make the brand new safety blitz a regular part of every defensive gameplan. His toughness was exemplified when, in 1965, he intercepted a pass against the Pittsburgh Steelers despite playing with two broken hands. While he never won a championship, his leadership was never once questioned.
Wilson continued to remain on the Cardinals’ books from his retirement in 1973 until 2002. While he served as defensive backs coach in 1973 and interim head coach in 1979, he became known for his tenure in the front office, moving from scouting director to personnel director to GM to vice president, a position he held from the 1988 move to Arizona, until 2002.
Film of Wilson might be hard to come by, and his name doesn’t come up in the “greatest safety ever” debate as often as it should, but his career accomplishments prove he is more than worthy of being included in that discussion.