Position: Defensive End
Born: May 23, 1945; Flint, Michigan
Played For: St. Louis Cardinals (1967-1975)
By Howard Balzer
For years, former St. Louis Cardinals defensive tackle Bob Rowe has wondered why he has been listed as having played in the Pro Bowl in 1968, his second season in the NFL. “If I went, I must have been suffering from a concussion,” he joked. The website, pro-football-reference. com, had him in that Pro Bowl, as did the Cardinals media guide. But Rowe insisted, “I don’t want misinformation out there especially when you’re with other professional football players that you played with. Maybe they know or don’t know, and maybe they don’t care. But I do.”
It was actually Dave Rowe, a New Orleans Saints defensive tackle, that was in that game. Coincidentally, Bob (43rd from Western Michigan) and Dave (53rd from Penn State) were second-round NFL draft choices in 1967 and they were born 28 days apart in 1945. They also both played in the East-West Shrine Game and then the College All-Star game against the Green Bay Packers.
After doing some research, it has been confirmed that Dave was in the Pro Bowl in 1968, the first season Bob was a starter for the Cardinals. Bob recalls being upset that he wasn’t starting during his rookie year. He approached defensive coach Chuck Drulis and told him, “I’m a second-round pick. I’m not a bench-rider. I don’t know if I want to come back to the team next year. He said, ‘Are you out of your mind? Next year, you will be starting.’”
He missed only one game and two starts for the remainder of his career. And, truth be told, Bob did have Pro-Bowl caliber years during his nine seasons with the Cardinals from 1967-75. He played 122 games, starting 111, and according to researcher John Turney, amassed 53.5 career sacks, which did not become an official NFL statistic until 1982. Bob had 5.5 in 1968, which was third on the team, and 24.5 in his final three seasons, including 9.5 in 1973. Five times he led the team and tied for the lead once. He also had 9.5 blocked kicks in his career, including three blocked field goals in one 1972 game against the Baltimore Colts, which earned him an AP Defensive Player of the Week Award.
“I was always extremely quick off the ball,” Bob said, explaining his ability to penetrate for blocked kicks and sacks. “I could get to the guard and be off the ball as fast as any lineman in the NFL.” That also helped him recover nine fumbles during his career. In 1969, he had two interceptions, one of which he returned 18 yards for a touchdown, according to pro-football-reference.com. That came on a screen pass attempted by Minnesota Vikings quarterback Joe Kapp. Bob remembered it being 19 yards, because he jokes, “If I caught it at the 20, I would have been stopped at the 1!”
His final three seasons coincided with Don Coryell’s first three seasons as the Big Red head coach, and the team made the playoffs in 1974 and ’75. Bob has fond memories of Coryell. He said, “He was a player’s coach. He put his players first. As a player, you couldn’t help but get excited because of his intensity; not wanting to let him down or his staff down. He was put on this earth to coach and be very creative and come up with the things that he did that turned offenses in the NFL around.”
It has been a memorable fall for Bob. In September, he was honored during a ceremony at Flushing (Mich.) High School with the presentation of a plaque that will be on display at the school’s Raider Field.