In honor of the Detroit Lions’ 5-0 start, it’s only fitting to do an ode to some all-time great Detroit Lions. The Lions have been a model of futility and suckiness over the course of recent history, but that doesn’t mean there haven’t been some great players don the Lions uniform in the 80 years their franchise has existed. Forget about Scott Mitchell, Wayne Fontes, and Matt Millen. And whatever you do, don’t tell these guys that the team has never been to a Super Bowl and hasn’t won a championship since 1957.
Barry Sanders was the greatest running back of my generation, and I'm still sort of bitter against the Ford Family for allegedly driving him into retirement.
Barry Sanders (’89-’98)
Anyone with a pulse over the last 20 years remembers Sanders running circles around defenses, especially on Thanksgiving as you slipped into your food coma. Nothing was worse than seeing Sanders walk away from the game while he was still on top of his game, presumably because he was tired of the Lions’ front office stupidity. And just think, that was before Matt Millen. Barry retired within striking distance of Walter Payton’s rushing record and having never went to a super bowl. A crime on both counts.
Facemasks are for little girls, according to Bobby Layne
Bobby Layne/Doak Walker (’50-’55)
These two old schoolers are linked together because they were not only teammates with the Lions, but also high school buddies back in Texas. Walker, who played running back and kicker, was all-pro each of the five years he played in the league, and is now in the Hall of Fame. Layne held pretty much every NFL passing record by the time he retired, and both helped lead the Lions to a pair of championships. In case you didn’t think these two were bad asses before, Layne was also one of the last players to play without a facemask.
Herman Moore (’91-’01)
Moore was a fantasy football star back when you had to look up stats in the newspaper, as he caught a then-NFL record 123 passes in ’95 en route to one of his six playoff appearances with the team. Moore has all of the team’s receiving records that Megatron will probably break in a few years, and was a key cog in keeping defenses from stacking the box against Barry Sanders.
Alex Karras (’58-’62, ’64-’70)
Karras, a defensive tackle, was quite the character, especially considering his era, as he constantly fought with coaches and spent his offseasons in the wrestling ring. He was also suspended for a season, along with Louisville native Paul Hornung, for gambling on NFL games. When Karras wasn’t in hot water with the suits, he was busy being a beast in the middle of the Lions D-line. In a microcosm of the Lions’ struggles, Karras’ last game with the the team was his first ever playoff game, a 5-0 loss to the Cowboys in 1970.
Chris Spielman went into Beast Mode before it was known as Beast Mode.
Chris Spielman (’88-’95)
The epitome of a middle linebacker, Spielman was tougher than two rubber bananas in the center of the Lions’ D. The former OSU Buckeye is the Lions all-time leading tackler, and was a four-time pro bowler. Spielman was notorious for bringing the hammer on opposing ball carriers, and was also a tough SOB on Tecmo Super Bowl.
Dick LeBeau (’59-’72)
Before becoming renowned as a defensive guru in the coaching ranks, LeBeau had a 14-year career with the Lions as a defensive back, notching 62 career interceptions. It’s no surprise that LeBeau was also known for his toughness, as he holds the record for most consecutive games played by a cornerback. His playing career combined with his Super Bowl rings as a coach earned him a spot in Canton in 2010.
What other Lions would you put on this list? Dick ‘Night Train’ Lane? Lomas Brown? Leave us some more in the comments section.
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