Players will come and go, but if you follow a certain team for a long time, you naturally develop a liking for certain players. You might also develop a disdain for some players as well, but that’s a topic for a different day! Let’s take a look at some of the most beloved players to ever have worn a Detroit Lions jersey.
Cornerback – Dick “Night Train” Lane
Lane played cornerback for the Lions for six seasons, from 1960-1965. Named to three Pro Bowls during his time with Detroit, Lane was an incredible open field tackler. In his six seasons with the Lions, he intercepted 21 passes. Lane was inducted into Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1974.
Defensive Lineman – Alex Karras
Karras, one of the fiercest members of the “Fearsome Foursome” defensive line in the 60’s, played 12 seasons in Detroit. He played in 161 games with the Lions, 13th most in team history, and had 17 fumble recoveries. Karras also drew some fame from appearing in movies such as “Blazing Saddles” and “Porky’s”. He appeared in four Pro Bowls during his career.
Cornerback – Lem Barney
One of the best defensive players in team history, Barney played 11 seasons with the Lions from the 60’s-70’s. In his 140 games with the team, he had 56 interceptions and 17 fumble recoveries. Also shining as a kick returner, punt returner, and even a punter, Barney did a little bit of everything. He was named to seven Pro Bowls and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1992.
Quarterback – Bobby Layne
Considered as one of the best quarterbacks in team history, Layne played nine seasons in Detroit from 1950-58. He led Detroit to three NFL championships (’52, ’53, ’57), and was the league scoring champion in 1956 when he also kicked field goals. He was named to three Pro Bowls and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1967.
Running Back – Doak Walker
Although he only played in the NFL for six years (all with Detroit), Walker was one of the most productive players of the 50’s. He totaled 534 points in his career and won the NFL scoring title on two separate occasions. Walker finished with 1,520 rushing yards, 2,539 receiving yards, and 33 touchdowns. He also threw for two touchdowns and kicked 183 extra points. He played in five Pro Bowls and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1986.
Wide Receiver – Herman Moore
11 years a member of the Lions, Moore is one of the best wide receivers in team history. While playing with the team from 1991-2001, he hauled in 670 passes, 9,174 yards, and 62 touchdowns, including an astounding personal high of 183 yards in one game. Moore was named to five Pro Bowls in his career.
Linebacker – Joe Schmidt
One of the hardest hitters in team history, Schmidt played 13 years in Detroit. His “clean but mean” tackling style endeared him to fans of the team in the 50’s and 60’s. He called defensive plays and personnel changes while on the field, as well. Schmidt won the NFL MVP award in 1960. After his playing career was over, Schmidt coached the Lions from 1967-72. He was named to a breathtaking 10 Pro Bowls and received his induction to the Hall of Fame in 1973.
Kicker – Jason Hanson
There are numerous accomplishments that could be talked about throughout Hanson’s career. 21 years in the NFL (327 games, all with Detroit), 495 field goals, 52 field goals from 50 or more yards, and so on. He led the Lions in scoring in each of the first 18 years of his career, while only appearing in two Pro Bowls. Hanson kicked 19 game-winning field goals in the fourth quarter or overtime, and only missed eight extra points in 673 attempts.
Wide Receiver – Calvin Johnson
The best receiver in Lions history, Johnson brought the city of Detroit to tears when he announced his retirement on March 8, 2016. His career totals of 731 catches, 11,619 yards, and 83 touchdowns are second to none. At six-feet-five inches tall and 240 pounds, Johnson brought a unique brand of athleticism to the wide receiver position. In 2012, his 1,964 receiving yards set the league record for most yards in a season. Johnson revolutionized the receiver position during his nine-year career. A six-time Pro Bowl selection, Johnson will likely be in the Hall of Fame when his name first appears on the ballot.
Running Back – Barry Sanders
Was there any question? 10 years, 15,269 rushing yards, and 99 touchdowns will generally get you the top spot on any “endearment” list you can find. Sanders had no less than 1,115 rushing yards in each of his 10 seasons. He was named to the Pro Bowl in each of his 10 seasons, and the Hall of Fame in 2004.