Cardinals quarterback Jim Hart throws a pass against the New York Giants in 1972.
When Jim Hart began his Cardinals career in 1966, he was an undrafted rookie free agent out of Southern Illinois with five quarterbacks ahead of him on the depth chart.
By the time it was over, he was one of the most decorated players in franchise history.
Hart will be recognized for his stellar 18-year stint with the franchise by becoming the 17th member of the Cardinals Ring of Honor. His induction will come during halftime of a 2017 home game that will be determined at a later date.
Hart said he was delivered the news during a lunch with team president Michael Bidwill in early March.
"I was very excited," Hart said. "Still am. It's a very nice gesture."
Hart owns the team record for career wins by a quarterback (87) and established franchise records for completions (2,590), attempts (5,069), passing yards (34,639) and touchdown passes (209). He was named to four consecutive Pro Bowls from 1974-77 and was the NFC Player of the Year in 1974.
Hart's NFL career began modestly. He said he signed with the Cardinals out of college for a $1,000 signing bonus and a yearly salary of $12,000. He wasn't expecting to make it out of training camp, and actually began to worry when he wasn't cut early on, because it gave him longer odds to latch on somewhere else.
But Hart performed well enough to move up three spots on the depth chart and was offered a practice squad spot.
"One of the coaches was afraid I wouldn't accept a practice squad position," Hart said. "I said, 'Are you kidding me? A week ago I was done and now I'm on the team. Where else am I going to go?'"
Hart took over the starting job in 1967 and was the primary signal-caller for most of the next 15 years. The Cardinals won double-digit games in three straight seasons from 1974-76, and Hart led 10 game-winning drives during that span for a group nicknamed the "Cardiac Cards." He spent the final year of his career in 1984 with Washington.
Hart's 18 seasons with the Cardinals are more than any other player in franchise history, and his 199 games played are third-most, behind only kicker Jim Bakken (234) and wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald (202). The only five players in NFL history with a longer stint on the same team are the Lions' Jason Hanson (21 seasons); the Rams' Jackie Slater (20); the Redskins' Darrell Green (20), the Vikings' Jim Marshall (19) and the Oilers/Titans' Bruce Matthews (19).
"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," Bidwill said in a 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. But an undrafted quarterback going on to play 18 seasons and 199 games may be even more remarkable and unlikely to ever be duplicated. 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."
Hart is excited for the ceremony, especially because he gets to share it with his family and former teammates. He went to Philadelphia last week and announced the Cardinals' second-round draft selection of safety Budda Baker. During that trip, Hart felt camaraderie with the other former players who were there, and it harkened him back to his playing days.
"That's the special thing about it," Hart said. "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."
The other 16 members of the Cardinals Ring of Honor are safety Pat Tillman; quarterback Kurt Warner; owner Charles W. Bidwill; coach Jimmy Conzelman; tackle Dan Dierdorf; halfback John "Paddy" Driscoll; halfback/defensive back Marshall Goldberg; wide receiver Roy Green; cornerback Dick "Night Train" Lane; halfback Ollie Matson; halfback Ernie Nevers; halfback Charley Trippi; cornerback Roger Wehrli; cornerback Aeneas Williams; safety Adrian Wilson and safety Larry Wilson.
Former quarterback Jim Hart will be the 17th member of the Cardinals Ring of Honor