Former St. Louis football Cardinal running back Johnny Roland was in Hannibal recently for the annual Shoeless Joe's Celebrity Golf Classic. Roland played for the football Cardinals from 1966 through 1972 and finished his playing career New York Giants in 1973. His most productive season was in 1967 when he ran for 876 yards and caught passes for another 269 yards on a fourteen game schedule.

After his playing career, Roland made the rounds in the NFL as an assistant coach with the Green Bay Packers, Philadelphia Eagles, Chicago Bears, New York Jets, St. Louis Rams, Arizona Cardinals and New Orleans Saints.

What has changed about the NFL since you came into the league in 1966?

“Everything. It’s almost now a flag football league, we played back in the days when men were men and now it’s flag football…almost.” The game has turned into more of a passing league as opposed to being a running league like back in the day.

Could a  team win now with a 60's style rushing attack from those days?

“Well, I think Seattle is probably the most classic example or running the football. I mean as long as you’ve got the football, the other team can’t score. You’ve got to be committed to it. Second and seven is not such a bad deal considering when you have with second and 10, second and 12 or second and 15 or even third down. That’s when defenses tee off on you is when you get those long yardage situations. “

You played on some good St. Louis football Cardinal teams. What stands out about your time with the Big Red?

“Personally, I was Rookie of the Year (in 1966)." Roland says depth was a problem. “If we got an injury to a key guy, we couldn’t bring a guy off the bench and not miss a beat like during my time (as a coach) with the Bears.”

You also played for Missouri in the mid 1960s under Dan Devine. Tell us about that experience.

“They were good days. Of course we were under the leadership of Coach Dan Devine.  He was a tough task master and disciplinarian and really scared the crap out of you. Thing was, he was such a great guy that you didn’t want to disappoint him. So we just tried extra hard. But we had some guys that had some talent too. You put guys who are trying extra hard and are talented and you can go a long way.”

Roland says the facilties at Mizzou have changed.

“It’s a golden palace there now but that’s the kind of league they play in—the SEC and they get good paydays. They’ve done a nice job of turning the program around. At one time when they were considering the move I thought; well, it may be a good business move. But, as it turned out it turned out to be a good move in terms of on the football field as well.”

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