Looking back, some of the largest icons in NFL history are often the ones that can be overlooked. All franchises have had their fair share of historic players, but who were the best of the best? Here, we discuss the four most iconic players to step on the field. We begin our series with the Arizona Cardinals:
Honorable Mentions: Dan Dierdorf, Pat Tillman, Kurt Warner
DB Aeneas Williams (1991-2004)
Selected in the third round of the 1991 NFL Draft by the Phoenix Cardinals, Williams spent 10 seasons with the franchise. Oddly enough, his first collegiate season at Southern University came during his junior season. During that span, he earned six Pro Bowl and two All-Pro nominations. To date, he is second in franchise history when it comes to interceptions (46).
From 1994-2000, Williams totaled 40+ solo tackles. He never missed a game due to injury while with the Cardinals, starting in 160 games. Per Pro Football Focus, he ranks fifth in franchise history in Approximate Value metric (101). He was later named to the NFL Hall of Fame in 2014.
RB Ottis Anderson (1979-92)
As the eighth overall selection in the 1979 NFL Draft, Anderson won Rookie of the Year with the Cardinals after rushing for 1,605 yards and eight touchdowns. In five of his first six NFL seasons, he managed to total 1,100+ yards on the ground.
Despite not sitting in the Hall of Fame, he is in the top 30 among all-time rushing leaders (10,273), and is the franchise leader in the same category (7,999) and touchdowns (46) as well.
Anderson found more success in the later stages of his career, securing Comeback Player of the Year with the New York Giants in 1989. He was also named Super Bowl MVP the following season, as he totaled 102 rushing yards on 21 attempts in a win over the Buffalo Bills.
S Larry Wilson (1960-72)
Having spent his entire career with the Cardinals, Wilson earned eight Pro Bowls and five All-Pro nominations during his 12-year tenure. Per Pro Football Reference’s Approximate Value metric, he ranks as the top defensive player in franchise history (115). He still leads the franchise in interceptions with 52.
Wilson earned All-Decade honors for both the 1960’s and 1970’s rosters. He was also named to the NFL’s 75th and 100th-anniversary teams as well. Overlooked as one of the best defensive backs in NFL history, Wilson continued to make an impact following his career as well. He served as the Cardinals Director of Pro Personnel from 1980-87, then Vice President and General Manager from 1988-93, and finally a Vice President from 1994-2002.
WR Larry Fitzgerald (2004-Current)
Was this a surprise to anyone? In his 17th NFL season, Fitzgerald second all-time in receptions (1,413) and sixth in receiving touchdowns (120). Once eligible, he is likely to become a first ballot Hall of Fame talent. Fitzgerald has been one of the most durable receivers in NFL history as well, having only missed six games in his career to this point.
With 11 Pro Bowls and an All-Decade nomination under his belt, Fitzgerald would likely be on the Mount Rushmore for a vast majority of franchises. Having remained productive with one franchise for this amount of time, his case is clear.