Former NFL quarterback Jim Hart, who was signed out of Southern Illinois University Carbondale as an undrafted free agent by the St. Louis football Cardinals in 1966, was added today to the team’s ring of honor in Arizona.
Hart was a four-time Pro Bowl selection and the 1974 NFL Player of the Year, known for amassing passing yardage in big chunks at a time. He teamed with former University of Missouri wide receiver Mel Gray to form a big-play tandem with come-from-behind tendencies that earned the Cardinals of the mid-70s the nickname of “Cardiac Cards.”
Hart’s name and number were unveiled in University of Phoenix Stadium at halftime of the Cardinals game with St. Louis’ other former team, the Los Angeles Rams.
“The Ring of Honor is reserved for those who have made the most extraordinary contributions to the Cardinals organization and Jim Hart is absolutely in that category,” Cardinals president Michael Bidwill said in a team statement. “When you look back at his career, two things really jump out: excellence and longevity. He is our franchise’s career leader in nearly every passing category, which is commendable in its own right.”
At SIUC, Hart passed for 3,779 yards and 34 touchdowns and, after his NFL career, served the university as its athletic director.
Hart, 73, led the NFL with 30 interceptions during his first full season as a starter but went on to play 18 of his 19 seasons for the Cardinals before joining the Washington Redskins in 1984.
“An undrafted quarterback going on to play 18 seasons and 199 games may be even more remarkable and unlikely to ever be duplicated,” Bidwill said. “The impact he had on the Cardinals was undeniable and we are thrilled that he will have this permanent place of honor within our franchise.”
The Arizona Cardinals invited Hart to announce their No. 1 pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. After receiving a warm welcome, he told the crowd “thanks for remembering.”
Hart completed 51.1 percent of his passes for 34,639 yards and 209 touchdowns which, by the time he retired in 1984, ranked third all-time in NFL history behind only Hall of Famers Johnny Unitas and Fran Tarkenton.
But he was a high-risk, high-reward passer — he tossed 247 interceptions in 201 career games.
His 18 seasons with the Cardinals are more than any other player. Only five other players in NFL history have spent more seasons with one team.
“I was very excited,” Hart told the team’s website. “Still am. It’s a very nice gesture. That’s the special thing about it. I’ll talk to people and they ask me, do I miss the game? No. How I could I play at this age? I miss my buddies, the guys I spent 8 to 10 hours a day with for six months a year.”
Hart’s 199 games for the Cardinals are third-most in franchise history.
The 1974 NFC Player of the Year has a franchise-best 87 wins by a quarterback. He also has the franchise record for pass attempts, completions, passing yards and passing touchdowns.
Hart’s Cardinals won at least 10 games in three consecutive seasons from 1974 through 1976.
Charles W. Bidwill, Sr. (owner), Jimmy Conzelman (coach), T Dan Dierdorf, HB John “Paddy” Driscoll, HB/DB Marshall Goldberg, WR Roy Green, CB Dick “Night Train” Lane, HB Ollie Matson, HB Ernie Nevers, S Pat Tillman, HB Charley Trippi, CB Roger Wehrli, CB Aeneas Williams, S Adrian Wilson and S Larry Wilson are also in the franchise’s Ring of Honor.