|No. 8 St. Louis Cardinals|
|Date of birth:March 24, 1938|
|Place of birth: Rigby, Idaho|
|High School: Rigby (ID)|
|Height: 6 ft 0 in (1.83 m)||Weight: 190 lb (86 kg)|
|NFL Draft: 1960 / Round: 7 / Pick: 74|
|Debuted in 1960 for the St. Louis Cardinals|
|Last played in 1972 for the St. Louis Cardinals|
|Career highlights and awards|
|Stats at NFL.com|
|Pro Football Hall of Fame|
Larry Frank Wilson (born March 24, 1938) is a former professional football player, an eight-time All-Pro free safety with the St. Louis Cardinals of the National Football League. Wilson played thirteen seasons and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1978, his first year of eligibility. He was named to the NFL 75th Anniversary All-Time Team in 1994.
Born and raised in Rigby, Idaho, Wilson attended Rigby High School, where a plaque now hangs noting his accomplishments. After graduation in 1956, he played college football in Salt Lake City at the University of Utah, where he was a two-way starter for the Utes.
Despite his skill and adaptability, Wilson was not selected until the 7th round of the 1960 NFL Draft by the Chicago Cardinals. The draft was held in November 1959 and the franchise moved to St. Louis before the start of the 1960 season. Originally a cornerback, Wilson switched to free safety, and it was here that he found his place on the team.
Not long after Wilson made the team, defensive coordinator Chuck Drulis crafted a play that called for the free safety to take part in a blitz. The play was code-named "Wildcat," after Wilson's nickname. When the Cardinals first ran the safety blitz, the pressure was severe since most teams didn't (and still don't) expect a defensive back to take part in a pass rush. This single play also helped to set up today's defenses where a blitz can come from anywhere.
Wilson was named All-Pro eight times in his career and represented the Cardinals on eight Pro Bowl teams. During 1966, he had at least one interception in seven consecutive games, en route to a 10-pick season that led his league. Fellow Idahoan Jerry Kramer, a guard for the Green Bay Packers and author of Instant Replay, called Wilson "the finest football player in the NFL." Kramer described Wilson's play during an October 30, 1967 game, "...he fired up their whole team ... (h)is enthusiasm was infectious." Wilson is renowned for not only playing, but intercepting a pass, with casts on both hands due to broken wrists. On the September 18, 2006 edition of SportsCenter, Mike Ditka challenged Terrell Owens' toughness by not playing for 2–4 weeks due to a broken finger. He cited Wilson's interception with casts on both hands as proof of a tougher football player. He ended his career with 52 career picks for 800 yards and five touchdowns.
Following his retirement as a player after the 1972 season, Wilson stayed with the Cardinals' organization for the next thirty years. He served as interim head coach in 1979 after the dismissal of Bud Wilkinson, and was the franchise's general manager from 1980 through 1993.
Wilson was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1978. In 1999, he was ranked number 43 on The Sporting News' list of the 100 Greatest Football Players, making him the highest-ranked player to have played a majority of his career with the Cardinal franchise. The team has also retired his uniform number 8. He was ranked #9 on NFL Network's list of the "Top 10 Draft Steals" in NFL history. Wilson was named to the NFL 75th Anniversary All-Time Team in 1994.
- Kramer, J. (1968). Instant Replay: The Green Bay diary of Jerry Kramer. New York: The World Publishing Company, p. 173.
- Larry Wilson at the Pro Football Hall of Fame
- Career statistics and player information from NFL.com • Pro-Football-Reference • Databasefootball.com