The first day of Cardinals camp Wednesday in Flagstaff brought me back to the spring of 2003.
It was then that the Arizona Cardinals, coming off a 5-11 season under coach Dave McGinnis were looking to make a splash in free agency and defensive lineman Vonnie Holliday was their main target.
Holliday was the 19th overall pick in the 1998 NFL Draft for Green Bay, had 8 sacks as a rookie and was a solid defensive lineman on the free agent market after finishing his rookie contract.
I remember at the time fans and Cardinals brass being excited about the visit that Holliday was making, but I also remember there wasn't a snowball's chance in hell of them actually signing him. I knew he was using the Cardinals to get more money somewhere else and that ended up being Kansas City -- where he signed a five-year, $21.3 million dollar deal with a $4 million signing bonus.
Now, nine years later, Holliday is entering his second season in Arizona after coming over from Washington in the Tim Hightower trade. Wednesday on the show, we joked about how much things have changed around here. With a new stadium, a front office willing to spend money and continuity on the coaching front Arizona is a place free agents want to consider, a destination that is appealing to players.
"It starts at the top with coach Whiz," said Holliday. "He is a coach players want to play for and with the addition of Ray Horton -- that was huge. I wasn't sure that I wanted to pick up and move to the west coast when the trade went down, but there was a lot of talent on this team and this time around I wanted to play here."
When I asked Vonnie if there was ever a chance he would have played here back in 2003 when he visited he looked at me and simply said "no." When I asked him how bad it was he said "bad, real bad."
My how times have changed.