A couple of years ago, the NFL began a program in which alumni of teams would come on stage in New York during the draft to announce that team’s second-round draft pick. It made sense. Commissioner Roger Goodell handled the first round and, in this world where the NFL draft continues to grow in stature every year it seems (and as a TV event), why not have some famous retired faces up on the screen as a nod to years past? (If a team doesn’t have a second-round pick, the player announces the third rounder.)
This year, the Cardinals will be represented by fullback Larry Centers, the do-everything-man from the 1990s who was one of the faces of the Cardinals’ historic 1998 playoff run. (He was also the face of the change that team underwent the following offseason, when he was cut much to the chagrin of the fan base, but that’s a tale for another day.) Centers was the offense much of the time, growing from his rookie year in 1990 to grabbing 101 receptions in 1995 and another 99 in 1996 and getting in some rushing attempts along the way (he was never a rushing workhorse but he did have 115 carries one season, a far cry with how fullbacks are used these days.) He was a three-time Pro Bowler, twice doing it in Arizona.
After he was released, he played in Buffalo, Washington and New England, but it’s hard to see him as anything but a Cardinal. The news today reminds me of one of my all-time favorite anecdotes told to me by Kent Somers (I promise, Kent, I was thinking of this before today’s tweet) from the time before I was covering the team. Kent was talking to Centers one day when the all-around star offered up his own catchy slogan: “Larry runs, Larry catches, Larry blocks, Larry Centers.”
Tags: draft, Larry Centers
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The latest in a series of offseason posts looking back:
When all that noise cropped up around the Cardinals in January of 2009 – the stuff about that team being the worst in playoff history, etc., etc., — I remember thinking, “This team is better than the last Cardinal playoff team.”
Turned out both squads ended up shocking the world. Back in 1998, it might have been an even bigger deal.
The Cards barely squeezed into the playoffs as a wild card (remember, the 2008 Cards clinched the division relatively early). Their first playoff game in years would come in Dallas, against the NFC East rival Cowboys – a team that had beaten the Cards 16 of the previous 17 meetings and who had crushed the Cards, 38-10, in Dallas to open the 1998 season. Forget Cris Collinsworth. The general feeling of the Cards was as a team lucky to be in the playoffs, and probable to fall to the Cowboys – a once-great team that was very ordinary by this time.
The numbers added fuel to the critics’ fire, especially the weakness of the Cards’ schedule (Arizona’s opponents had a .395 winning percentage). On the other side, there was a young team with so much future potential, like rookie defensive end Andre Wadsworth, who at that point was improving after his crazy debut in Dallas earlier in the year (Oh, what could have been). Jake Plummer was the quarterback who was definitely a winner. Cornerback Aeneas Williams was a Pro Bowler who was one of the few in the NFL who had proven he could handle star Cowboys receiver Michael Irvin.
The Cards, at that point, hadn’t won a playoff game since 1947 – the year they won the NFL championship. “My Dad wasn’t even born yet,” guard Chris Dishman said. They had history against them, and a still-potent Emmitt Smith (if you would have suggested then that Smith would eventually be a Cardinal …), but the Cards had played the Cowboys close at Sun Devil Stadium late in the year.
Foreshadowing? Not really. Not after the Cowboys scored 38 and 35 on the Cards in the two regular-season games, only to be shut down for seven points in the playoff game. The Cardinals stunned the Cowboys in a 20-7 win, and that Dallas touchdown came late, with the game all but decided. The cornerback tandem of Corey Chavous and Williams had three interceptions, and safety Tommy Bennett added one in the final seconds for emphasis. Wide receiver Frank Sanders hauled in a 59-yard Plummer pass to set up a score and running back Adrian Murrell broke off a 74-yard run to set up another.
That was all the Cards really needed, the way the defense performed. Slaying the Cowboys was about the present but it was also about unloading on the pre-game disrespect. It was about a fan base starving for success.
It was also short-lived.
The Cards turned their attention to the powerful Vikings for the following week, but that didn’t end well. In the offseason, the Cards lost key players like Larry Centers, Lomas Brown and Jamir Miller and never did battle again for a playoff spot until the magical season a decade later –with the 2008 team that supposedly had too many warts itself. That ride lasted a lot longer.
But for those moments in 1998, when it seemed like the Cards were never going to have any success, the Dallas domination was something to savor.
Tags: Adrian Murrell, Aeneas Williams, Andre Wadsworth, Chris Dishman, Corey Chavous, Cowboys, Cris Collinsworth, Emmitt Smith, Frank Sanders, Jake Plummer, Jamir Miller, Larry Centers, Lomas Brown, Michael Irvin, playoffs, Revisionist history, Tommy Bennett, Vikings
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Anquan Boldin’s second catch just now — an eight-yard gain — gives him 536 catches in his Cardinals’ career, making him the franchise’s all-time leader in that category. Former running back Larry Centers, with 535, was the former record holder. Boldin added a 10-yard catch moments later, but he also is down afterward, apparently hurt.
Tags: Anquan Boldin, Larry Centers
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Tim Hightower has nine catches for 100 yards with five minutes left in the third quarter, the first Cardinals’ running back to have 100 yards receiving since Larry Centers had 11 for 108 at Indianapolis on Sept. 1, 1996.
Tags: Larry Centers, Tim Hightower
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