Ex-MU star Wehrli's time has finally come

His time has finally come. One of the most underrated cornerbacks in NFL history has been given his due credit. Roger Wehrli was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday, Feb. 3.

In his second time as a finalist for the Hall, he was chosen by the 40-member selection committee and will join former Dallas Cowboys receiver Michael Irvin, Buffalo Bills running back Thurman Thomas, Oilers offensive lineman Bruce Matthews, and two nominees of the veterans' committee - tight end Charlie Sanders and guard Gene Hickerson in the Class of 2007. Inductions will be Aug. 4-5 in Canton, Ohio, prior to the Hall of Fame game between the Pittsburg Steelers and New Orleans Saints.

Wehrli, an inaugural member of the Mizzou Athletics Hall of Fame (inducted in 1990), was also inducted into the College Football Hall of fame in 2003 in a class that included quarterback Joe Theismann (Notre Dame) and running back Barry Sanders (Oklahoma State). The College Football Hall of fame is located in South Bend, Ind. His trademark #23 jersey is one of only five retired by the MU athletic department.

Roger Russel Wehrli (MU 1965-68) was born in St. Louis, Mo., on Nov. 26, 1947. The last recruit in Dan Devine's 1965 class, the former track star from little King City High School in King City, Mo (population, 1,000 – Northwest Missouri), has now gone full circle.

He started on the freshman team in 1965 and then was a varsity letterman each of his final three seasons. "I wasn't highly recruited out of high school because I came from a small school, but I got a great opportunity," said Wehrli in a 2003 interview. "During my career at the University of Missouri, I had some wonderful times and made lasting friendships."

After playing on Missouri's freshmen team in 1965, Wehrli started at defensive back and punt returner from 1966 to 1968, helping the Tigers compile a 21-9-1 record during that span. His best season came in 1968, when sportswriters named him a consensus All-American.

That year, he led all NCAA Division I players with 40 punt returns for 478 yards, and led the team with seven interceptions. Wehrli capped off the Tigers' 8-3 season with an interception during its 35-10 victory over the University of Alabama in the Gator Bowl. He was named the Big Eight Conference Defensive Player of the Year in 1968.

Nearly four decades after he first wore a Tigers uniform, Wehrli still holds school records for career punt returns (92), and yards gained on punt returns in a game (156), season (478) and career (1,062).

The St. Louis Cardinals chose Wehrli in the first round (19th overall) in the 1969 National Football League draft. At 6'1, 190, he was a seven-time All-Pro cornerback who played 14 seasons with the St. Louis Cardinals, starting as a rookie in 1969. It didn't take long for him to make an impact on the league and the Cardinals.

He became a pro-bowler in 1970 and continued that form in 1971, 1974, 1975, 1976, 1977 and 1979. His blanket-like coverage helped define a team that was best known for its offensive play. The "Cardiac Cards" win NFC East titles in 1974 (10-4) and 1975 (11-3). He retired from the NFL in 1982 with 40 career interceptions.

Wehrli, currently resides in the St. Louis metro area.

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