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Detroit Lions Hall of Fame Players: A Complete History



Andrew Harner

2 minutes ago

Lions Hall of Famers Lem Barney, Joe Schmidt and Barry Sanders (left to right) stand on the field before a 2019 game at Ford Field.© Kirthmon F. Dozier, Detroit Free Press, Detroit Free Press via Imagn Content Services, LLC

How Many Lions Are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame?

As one of the oldest teams in the NFL, the Lions have developed some of the best players to ever grace a professional football field. As of the 2020 induction ceremonies, there are 21 individuals enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, who spent at least one season with the Lions (6% of the 346 individuals inducted). Among them, 15 played a significant portion of their career in Detroit.

Included on this list are one of the greatest running backs to ever play in the NFL, four standout defenders who played at least 11 seasons with the Lions and numerous players who helped lead Detroit to three championships during the 1950s. With titles in 1952, ’53 and ’57, that decade proved to be the greatest dynasty in Lions history. Seven of Detroit’s Hall of Famers were prominently featured on those championship teams.

What follows is a list of every Hall of Famer who has played at least one game for the Lions. The players are listed in order by the number of seasons each spent in the Motor City.

Including his coaching years, linebacker Joe Schmidt is the longest-tenured member among Lions Hall of Famers. He won championships in 1953 and ‘57.© Detroit Free Press via Imagn Content Services, LLC

Joe Schmidt

  • Position: Linebacker, coach
  • College: Pittsburgh
  • Seasons Played: 1953–65
  • Seasons With the Lions: 1953–65
  • Seasons Coached: 1966–72
  • Seasons Coached With the Lions: 1966–72
  • Year Inducted: 1973
  • Stats: 24 interceptions, 3 defensive TDs
  • Awards: NFL Defensive MVP (1960, ’63), NFL Lineman of the Year (’57)
  • Legacy Honors: NFL Top 100 All-Time Team, NFL 1950s All-Decade Team
  • All-Pro: 1954–62
  • Pro Bowl: 1954–63

During a 13-year playing career with the Lions, Joe Schmidt was among the best defenders in the league and revolutionized the middle linebacker position. With 10 straight Pro Bowl and nine straight All-Pro selections, Schmidt burst onto the scene—despite being selected as a seventh-round draft pick. He didn’t miss a start throughout his first seven years in the league, and his prowess in the middle of the field helped the Lions finish in the top three in scoring defense in three of those seasons. Detroit also won a pair of NFL championships during his tenure.

In 1955, Schmidt tied the NFL record by recovering eight fumbles lost by his opponents (the mark was broken in 1963), and his 17 career fumble recoveries are tied for the most in team history among defenders. He set his career high with six interceptions in 1958, a nice continuation of his postseason success in 1957. That year, he intercepted a pass in playoff wins over the 49ers and the Browns, which helped bring the Lions their third NFL championship in six seasons.

Schmidt sustained a shoulder injury in the 1960 preseason, which forced him to miss the first games in his career. Once he came back to the field, however, he returned an interception for the first touchdown of his career. Over his final five seasons, Schmidt started every game of a campaign three times, and in both 1961 and ’65 he had four interceptions.

He announced his retirement in March 1966 and joined the team as an assistant coach. The next season, he was promoted to head coach and was involved in the drafting of multiple future Hall of Famers. Schmidt had a 43-34-7 record in Detroit and led the team to the playoffs in 1970. By the end of his coaching tenure in 1972, he had served the Lions for 20 straight seasons.

Former Lions defensive back Dick LeBeau served as the defensive coordinator for the Titans during the 2017 season. Between his playing days with the Lions and his seasons as a coach, LeBeau spent 59 years in the NFL.© Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Dick LeBeau

  • Position: Defensive back
  • College: Ohio State
  • Seasons Played: 1959–72
  • Seasons With the Lions: 1959–72
  • Year Inducted: 2010
  • Stats: 62 interceptions, 3 TDs
  • All-Pro: 1964–65, ’70
  • Pro Bowl: 1964–66

Dick LeBeau spent 14 seasons as a defensive back for the Lions. Despite season after season of strong play, he is remembered just as much for his time as a defensive coordinator. He was drafted in the fifth round of the 1959 NFL Draft by the Browns but was cut in the preseason. LeBeau then came to Detroit, and by 1960, he was slated in the starting lineup and rarely missed time until he retired in 1972.

LeBeau became a ball-hawking defensive back, intercepting at least four passes in all but one season between 1960 and ’71—which included a career-high nine in 1970. His career total of 62 is tied for 10th in NFL history and stands as the team’s all-time record. In four separate seasons, he snared a pair of interceptions in two different games.

Following his playing career, LeBeau revolutionized NFL defenses by perfecting the zone blitz as a defensive coordinator. When he retired from coaching in 2017, he had spent 59 straight seasons in the NFL.

Alex Karras is interviewed by a reporter from the Detroit Free Press in 1957. He is the most recent Lions player to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.© Dick Tripp, Detroit Free Press

Alex Karras

  • Position: Defensive tackle
  • College: Iowa
  • Seasons Played: 1958–62, 1964–70
  • Seasons With the Lions: 1958–62, 1964–70
  • Year Inducted: 2020
  • Stats: 16 fumble recoveries, 4 interceptions
  • Legacy Honors: NFL 1960s All-Decade Team, Pride of the Lions
  • All-Pro: 1960–61, ‘65
  • Pro Bowl: 1960–62, ‘65

Many Detroit fans long asked the question, “Is Alex Karras in the Hall of Fame?” As of 2020, they can finally answer that question with a resounding, “Yes!” He was inducted as part of that year’s Centennial Class.

Karras had all the qualifications expected of a Hall of Famer, but some off-the-field concerns are believed to have left him out of Canton for so many years. He was suspended in 1963 due to gambling—a negative mark on his stellar on-field record that saw him make four Pro Bowls and earn seven first- or second-team All-Pro selections from the Associated Press.

He was credited with 97.5 sacks in his 12-year career, even though sacks weren’t an official statistic when he played.

Lions Hall of Famer Lem Barney arrives at the 2017 Pro Football Hall of Fame enshrinement ceremonies at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton, Ohio.© Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Lem Barney

  • Position: Cornerback
  • College: Jackson State
  • Seasons Played: 1967–77
  • Seasons With the Lions: 1967–77
  • Year Inducted: 1992
  • Stats: 56 interceptions, 10 total TDs
  • Awards: Defensive Rookie of the Year (1967)
  • Legacy Honors: Pride of the Lions
  • All-Pro: 1968–69
  • Pro Bowl: 1967–69, 1972–73, 1975–76

Throughout 11 seasons with the Lions, Lem Barney was among the best defensive backs in the NFL. With multiple interceptions every season, he is remembered as one of the best defenders in Lions history. He is also tied for 18th all-time in NFL history for career interceptions.

Barney was a second-round draft pick in 1967, and he made an immediate contribution for the Lions. He intercepted Hall of Fame quarterback Bart Starr in the first quarter of his debut and returned it 24 yards for a touchdown. After four weeks, Barney already had six interceptions for the 3-0-1 Lions. He’d cool considerably in the middle of the season, but then he electrified a home crowd with three interceptions in the season finale. That showing gave him an NFL-leading 10 interceptions on the season, which he returned for a league-best 232 yards and three touchdowns. Those touchdowns remain a single-season franchise record.

In 1968, Barney led the NFL with five fumble recoveries and also added another seven interceptions. Over the next two seasons, he had 15 more interceptions. By the end of his career, he had snared 56 interceptions, which ranks second on Detroit’s all-time list. His 1,077 interception return yards and seven touchdowns are both franchise records, and he is also tied for the all-time team lead among defenders with 17 career fumble recoveries.

Yale Lary

  • Position: Defensive back, punter
  • College: Texas A&M
  • Seasons Played: 1952–53, 1956–64
  • Seasons With the Lions: 1952–53, 1956–64
  • Year Inducted: 1979
  • Stats: 50 interceptions, 503 punts for 22,279 yards
  • Legacy Honors: NFL 1950s All-Decade Team, Pride of the Lions
  • All-Pro: 1956–59, 1962–63
  • Pro Bowl: 1953, 1956–62, ’64

After being taken as a third-round draft pick in 1952, Yale Lary was a dependable defender and punter for the Lions for more than a decade. Other than missing two seasons due to military service, he played in all but seven games throughout an 11-year career. He grabbed at least two interceptions every season as a safety, while doubling as the team’s punter. He led the NFL in punting average in three seasons.

In his first two seasons, he helped the Lions win the NFL championship, and he picked up a third title in 1957. In each of those seasons, Detroit defeated Cleveland for the league crown. Following his military service in 1954 and ’55, Lary returned to the Lions and had his best season. In 1956, he intercepted a career-high eight passes and returned one for a 73-yard touchdown. He was joined in the defensive backfield at times throughout his career by three other Hall of Famers.

Known as one of the greatest punters in the history of the league, Lary had an average of 44.3 yards on 503 punts, and he booted a punt at least 60 yards in all but two seasons. He’s ranked 32nd all-time in punting average, but when he retired, he was second only to fellow Hall of Famer Sammy Baugh. Among players whose careers began before 2000, he is ranked third. Lary led the NFL in punting average in 1959 (47.1 yards per punt), ’61 (48.4 YPP) and ’63 (48.9 YPP). His mark from 1963 is tied for the 16th-best mark in NFL history.

Lou Creekmur was a standout offensive lineman who helped the Lions claim NFL championships in 1952, ‘53 and ‘57.© Detroit Free Press

Lou Creekmur

  • Position: Offensive lineman
  • College: William & Mary
  • Seasons Played: 1950–59
  • Seasons With the Lions: 1950–59
  • Year Inducted: 1996
  • Legacy Honors: Pride of the Lions
  • All-Pro: 1951–57
  • Pro Bowl: 1950–57

Lou Creekmur was nothing if not durable. He happened to be a pretty good offensive lineman, too. As a sturdy force up front for the Lions during the 1950s, Creekmur never missed a practice. Nor did he ever miss a preseason, regular season or postseason game during the first nine years of his 10-year career—all while helping Detroit win championships in 1952, ’53 and ’57. Despite that and his many All-Pro and Pro Bowl selections, it took 32 years for him to finally win election to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Creekmur began his career as an offensive guard, but he switched to left tackle after two seasons and dominated that side of the line for many years. He was a 26th-round draft pick of the Eagles in 1948, but Creekmur elected to keep playing in college. The Lions acquired his rights in 1950, and they watched him block for several high-flying offenses. From 1950 to ’57, the Lions never finished worse than fifth in total offense, and only twice did they finish outside the top five in scoring offense.

Toward the end of 1958, Creekmur announced he would be retiring at the end of what would become only the second losing season during his career. When the Lions began the 1959 season at 0–4, they summoned Creekmur—who returned for the final eight games of the season to help salvage a 3-8-1 record.

Barry Sanders carries the ball during a game against the Washington Football Team. He is the most prolific running back in franchise history with 15,269 rushing yards.© H. Darr Beiser, USA TODAY, USA TODAY via Imagn Content Services, LLC

Barry Sanders

  • Position: Running back
  • College: Oklahoma State
  • Seasons Played: 1989–98
  • Seasons With the Lions: 1989–98
  • Year Inducted: 2004
  • Stats: 15,269 rushing yards, 99 TDs
  • Awards: Offensive Rookie of the Year (1989), NFL MVP (1997), NFL Offensive Player of the Year (1994, ’97), Bert Bell Award (1991, ’97)
  • Legacy Honors: NFL All-Time 100 Team, NFL 1990s All-Decade Team, Pride of the Lions
  • All-Pro: 1989–98
  • Pro Bowl: 1989–98

Sanders burst onto the scene as a rookie after being selected with the third pick in the 1989 NFL Draft. Despite missing training camp due to a contract dispute, he finished 11 yards shy of the league rushing title to win Offensive Rookie of the Year honors. Sanders closed his season with a 158-yard, three-touchdown showing against the Falcons. He’d lead the league in rushing in 1990 and then have a breakout season in ’91.

Sanders eclipsed the 1,500-yard rushing mark for the first time that season while adding a 220-yard, four-touchdown game against the Vikings. Detroit won 12 games in 1991, and Sanders helped the Lions to their only playoff victory since 1957. He’d again lead the league in rushing in 1994, ’96 and ’97, which is when he became the third player in history to rush for at least 2,000 yards in a season. He had 10 games with at least 100 yards in 1994, and that included a career-high 237-yard effort against the Buccaneers.

The best season during Sanders’s career was his MVP season of 1997. He gained 2,053 yards and rushed for at least 100 yards in the last 14 games of the season to set an NFL record. Included in that stretch were a pair of games with more than 200 yards, and he added 11 touchdowns during the year. It was the fourth straight season for Sanders with at least 1,500 rushing yards—no other player in league history has accomplished the feat. He nearly added a fifth such season when he gained 1,491 yards on a league-high 343 carries in 1998.

Charlie Sanders (88) leaps for a one-handed catch against the Chiefs. Sanders was among the first tight ends to play a significant role in the passing offense.© Detroit Free Press

Charlie Sanders

  • Position: Tight end
  • College: Minnesota
  • Seasons Played: 1968–77
  • Seasons With the Lions: 1968–77
  • Year Inducted: 2007
  • Stats: 4,817 receiving yards, 31 TDs
  • Legacy Honors: NFL 1970s All-Decade Team, Pride of the Lions
  • All-Pro: 1969–71
  • Pro Bowl: 1968–71, 1974–76

In 1968, in a third-round draft selection, the Lions found a player who would be their starting tight end for the next 10 seasons: Charlie Sanders. As a dependable blocker and adequate receiver, Sanders was among the NFL’s premier players at his position throughout the 1970s. It’s likely he would have played longer, but a severe knee injury ended his career before the 1977 season. After retirement, he stayed with the Lions as a scout, coach and broadcaster.

Playing in an era when tight ends were relied on as blockers more so than pass catchers, Sanders helped evolve the position with at least 40 catches in each of his first three seasons. He retired with the team record of 336 receptions, which wasn’t broken until Herman Moore eclipsed the mark in 1996—while being coached by Sanders. He’s now seventh all-time in team history, but he still has the most receptions, yards (4,817) and touchdowns (31) by a Detroit tight end.

Sanders was the only rookie selected to the Pro Bowl for the 1968 season, and he’d go on to make six more appearances. He closed his rookie season with a career-high 10 catches for 133 yards against the Washington Football Team, and in 1974 he had his career-best yardage total of 146 in a win over the Packers.

Bobby Layne is among the greatest quarterbacks in the history of the Lions. He was the offensive leader on three NFL championship teams.© Detroit Free Press

Bobby Layne

  • Position: Quarterback
  • College: Texas
  • Seasons Played: 1948–62
  • Seasons With the Lions: 1950–58
  • Year Inducted: 1967
  • Stats: 26,768 passing yards, 196 TDs
  • Awards: NFL 1950s All-Decade Team, Pride of the Lions, Lions No. 22 Retired
  • All-Pro: 1952, ’54, ’56, 1958–59
  • Pro Bowl: 1951–53, ’56, 1958–59

Bobby Layne played for four different NFL teams, but many of his best seasons came during the nine years he spent with the Lions. There was, however, a lot of travel in the two years leading up to his acquisition. Originally drafted by the Steelers in 1948, Layne was then traded to the Bears after the draft. Going into the 1949 season, he was sent to the Bulldogs. When he finally arrived in Detroit in 1950, Layne began to develop into a Hall of Fame quarterback.

Layne’s passing offenses finished no worse than sixth in the NFL standings while in Detroit, and he helped engineer NFL championship wins in 1952, ’53 and ’57 (though he did not play in the 1957 title game due to a broken leg). In 1950, Layne led the NFL in passing attempts and yardage, and during the next season, he paced the NFL in attempts, completions, yards and touchdowns. He was steady over the next five seasons, keeping his passing yards between 1,800 and 2,100 each year.

In 1950, Layne threw for 374 yards against the Bears for his top passing performance with the Lions. During his time in Detroit, Layne had three games where he threw four touchdowns. He had a 53-29-2 record with the Lions, and his 15,710 passing yards and 118 touchdowns stood as team records for more than 50 years. Layne struggled in the postseason, however, throwing 12 interceptions to one touchdown, but he did secure a 3–1 record.

Alex Wojciechowicz

  • Position: Center, linebacker
  • College: Fordham
  • Seasons Played: 1938–50
  • Seasons With the Lions: 1938–46
  • Year Inducted: 1968
  • Stats: 19 interceptions
  • Legacy Honors: NFL 1940s All-Decade Team, Pride of the Lions, Polish Sports Hall of Fame (1975)
  • All-Pro: 1939, ’44

Alex Wojciechowicz was a first-round draft pick of the Lions in 1938, and he became a regular on the team’s offense and defense for the next nine seasons. He played in 86 games for Detroit as a rare two-way player. Defensively as a linebacker, he scored his only career touchdown in 1940 on one of his 14 interceptions with the Lions. Included in that total were seven in 1944, which was Detroit’s single-season record for several years, and his career total was a franchise record until the 1950s. He also served as the team’s center. Because of his two-way status, he was known as “Iron Man.”

He was released with two other Lions players following a 0–3 start to the 1946 season, and he was purchased by the Eagles two days later. Wojciechowicz, who became exclusively a linebacker, went on to win a pair of NFL championships in Philadelphia.

Dutch Clark was a player-coach for the Lions in 1937 and ’38.© Detroit Free Press, Detroit Free Press

Dutch Clark

  • Position: All-Purpose
  • College: Colorado College
  • Seasons Played: 1931–32, 1934–38
  • Seasons With the Lions: 1931–32, 1934–38
  • Seasons Coached: 1937–42, ’49
  • Seasons Coached With the Lions: 1937–38
  • Year Inducted: 1963
  • Stats: 1,507 passing yards, 2,772 rushing yards, 36 rushing TDs
  • Legacy Honors: NFL Top 100 All-Time Team, NFL 1930s All-Decade Team, Associated Press Player of the Decade (1930s), Pride of the Lions, Lions No. 7 Retired
  • All-Pro: 1931–32, 1934–37

Dutch Clark, also known as “The Flying Dutchman,” was among the most popular football figures in the 1930s. As a versatile offensive force, Clark regularly scored touchdowns as a quarterback, running back and receiver. Not only that, he was a league-leading kicker in several seasons. While the Lions do not officially retire numbers, there was a ceremony held on Oct. 15, 1939, to honor Clark—and no one has worn his No. 7 since.

Clark’s NFL career began when he was granted a leave from his coaching duties at Colorado College in 1931. In two seasons with the Portsmouth Spartans—who relocated to Detroit and became the Lions in 1934—Clark became an All-Pro talent, but he elected to return to college coaching at the Colorado School of Mines in 1933. He returned to the NFL with the Lions right before the 1934 season and became a superstar. He led the league in rushing touchdowns in 1934, ’36 and ’37. In 1935 and ’36, he paced the NFL in total points scored, and he helped lead the Lions to the 1935 league championship.

Clark played 75 games and amassed 2,772 rushing yards, 1,507 passing yards and 341 receiving yards. He scored 42 total touchdowns and kicked 72 extra points and 15 field goals for 369 career points. In two seasons as player-coach of the Lions, Clark had back-to-back 7–4 records in 1937 and ‘38. He was one of 11 players in the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s inaugural induction class.

Jack Christiansen was a defensive back and return specialist for the Lions throughout an eight-year career.© Detroit Free Press

Jack Christiansen

  • Position: Safety
  • College: Colorado A&M
  • Seasons Played: 1951–58
  • Seasons With the Lions: 1951–58
  • Year Inducted: 1970
  • Stats: 46 interceptions, 3 TDs
  • Awards: NFL 1950s All-Decade Team, Pride of the Lions
  • All-Pro: 1952–57
  • Pro Bowl: 1953–57

Jack Christiansen was a steady hand in the secondary for the Lions after being taken as a sixth-round draft pick in 1951. He worked his way into the starting lineup as a rookie, and he became one of several Hall of Famers in Detroit’s defense to hold down opponents in the 1950s. He led the league in interceptions twice, and he held the NFL record with eight punt returns for touchdowns when he retired in 1958. He remains tied for fourth all-time.

As a rookie, Christiansen established a still-standing NFL record by returning four punts for touchdowns, and three other players have since accomplished the same feat. Christiansen needed just two games to establish the record, scoring twice against both the Rams and the Packers. After helping the Lions win the NFL championship in 1952, Christiansen had a breakout season the following year. He matched the franchise record with 12 interceptions and added three fumble recoveries on the way to another championship.

Christiansen remained a standout and broke out again in 1957, when he led the league with 10 interceptions and picked up his third championship with the Lions. He briefly held the franchise’s career record for interceptions with 46, and he is now fourth all-time. Following his retirement in 1958, he coached in the NFL for 25 years.

Dick “Night Train” Lane

  • Position: Cornerback
  • College: Scottsbluff J.C.
  • Seasons Played: 1952–65
  • Seasons With the Lions: 1960–65
  • Year Inducted: 1974
  • Stats: 68 interceptions, 6 TDs
  • Legacy Honors: NFL 100 Team, NFL 75th Anniversary Team, NFL 1950s All-Decade Team, Pride of the Lions
  • All-Pro: 1955, ’56, ’58, 1961–63
  • Pro Bowl: 1954–56, ’58, 1960–62

After establishing himself as one of the best defensive players in the NFL, Dick “Night Train” Lane came to the Lions to close his career. Lane was traded to the Lions in the 1960 preseason, and he quickly established the fans’ trust by racking up four interceptions through six games, making him a favorite for six seasons. A major knee injury took its toll over the last two years of his career—but even today, he is still regarded as one of the best defensive backs ever to play professionally.

In his first season with the Lions, Lane intercepted Hall of Fame quarterback Johnny Unitas and returned it for an 80-yard touchdown. Two games later, he picked off two passes against the 49ers. In the opening games of the 1961 and ’63 seasons, Lane had two interceptions to set each of those campaigns into positive motion. After 20 interceptions in four seasons, Lane’s career was derailed starting in 1964. He’d play just seven games each of the next two seasons after a knee injury.

Known as one of the most ferocious tacklers of all time, Lane was the only Lions’ player represented on the NFL’s 75th Anniversary Team, which was revealed in 1994. In 66 games with the Lions, he intercepted 21 passes and returned them 272 yards. He also recovered four fumbles. Following his retirement, he remained with the team through 1972 as a special assistant to Lions owner William Clay Ford.

Running back Doak Walker had a short career, but he was an offensive weapon for two Lions championship teams.© Detroit Free Press

Doak Walker

  • Position: Running back, kicker
  • College: SMU
  • Seasons Played: 1950–55
  • Seasons With the Lions: 1950–55
  • Year Inducted: 1986
  • Stats: 1,520 rushing yards, 2,539 receiving yards, 534 points
  • Awards: Rookie of the Year (1950)
  • Legacy Honors: Pride of the Lions, Lions No. 37 Retired
  • All-Pro: 1950–51, 1953–54
  • Pro Bowl: 1950–51, 1953–55

Doak Walker did a little bit of everything for the Lions. As an All-American and Heisman Trophy winner as a running back at SMU, Walker came into the NFL with high expectations. And while his statistics weren’t necessarily eye-popping, his versatility made him a valuable commodity to a team that would win a pair of NFL championships during his tenure.

As a rookie, Walker had 920 yards from scrimmage and 11 touchdowns, while adding eight field goals and 38 extra points. By involving himself in so many aspects of the game, he helped the Lions finish in the top five in total offense every season he played and in scoring offense in all but the 1955 season. He led the league with 43 extra points in both 1951 and ’54, and he booted a career-high 12 field goals in 1953.

He retired after just six seasons to pursue other business interests, and he was immediately honored by the team. His jersey number became the second ever to be unofficially retired by the Lions, but he didn’t make it to the Hall of Fame for three more decades.

Bust of Lions legend Dick Stanfel, 2016 Pro Football Hall of Fame enshrinement ceremony at the Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton, Ohio.© Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Dick Stanfel

  • Position: Offensive guard
  • College: San Francisco
  • Seasons Played: 1952–58
  • Seasons With the Lions: 1952–55
  • Year Inducted: 2016
  • Awards: NFL 1950s All-Decade Team, Pride of the Lions
  • All-Pro: 1953–54, 1956–58
  • Pro Bowl: 1953, 1955–58

Dick Stanfel played the first four years of a seven-year career with the Lions, helping pave the way for a prolific offense that won a pair of NFL championships. The offensive guard was selected with the 19th pick of the 1951 NFL Draft, but he was unable to play that season due to a knee injury he sustained in a college All-Star game. Once he recovered, however, Stanfel became one of the best offensive linemen in the NFL.

He helped the 1952 Lions to the NFL championship by blocking for the NFL’s No. 2 offense. The following season, he was named the team’s MVP as the Lions held the No. 3 rushing attack on the way to a second straight title. He missed several games in 1954 due to a back injury but still contributed to the NFL’s No. 1 scoring offense. The next year, he sustained a spinal injury as the Lions fell to their first losing season since 1949, and he was traded to the Washington Football Team. He made three straight Pro Bowl appearances in Washington and later spent 31 seasons as an assistant coach.

Pro Football Hall of Famer Curley Culp waves to the crowd during the Grand Parade before the 2019 enshrinement ceremony in Canton, Ohio.© Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Hall of Famers Who Made a Stop With the Lions

While the bulk of the Hall of Famers who represent the Lions played most of their career with the team, several other legends only made quick stops in Detroit. The six players who spent three or fewer seasons with the Lions are featured below.

Bill Dudley

  • Position: Running back
  • College: Virginia
  • Seasons Played: 1942, 1945–51, ’53
  • Seasons With the Lions: 1947–49
  • Year Inducted: 1966
  • Stats: 36 offensive TDs, 23 interceptions
  • Awards: NFL MVP (1946)
  • Legacy Honors: NFL 1940s All-Decade Team
  • All-Pro: 1942, ’46
  • Pro Bowl: 1950–51

Bill Dudley came to the Lions via a trade with the Steelers, and he became the highest-paid player in Detroit history. His only full season in Detroit came in 1949, but during his tenure he had 801 rushing yards, 775 receiving yards and 20 touchdowns. Additionally, he played special teams as a punter, kicker and return man. On defense, he had seven fumble recoveries, six interceptions and a touchdown. He spent three seasons with the Steelers before coming to the Lions, and he finished his career with three seasons for the Washington Football Team.

John Henry Johnson

  • Position: Running back
  • College: Arizona State, St. Mary’s (Calif.)
  • Seasons Played: 1954–66
  • Seasons With the Lions: 1957–59
  • Year Inducted: 1987
  • Stats: 6,803 rushing yards, 48 rushing TDs
  • All-Pro: 1962
  • Pro Bowl: 1954, 1962–64

The Lions traded for John Henry Johnson prior to the 1957 season, and he made himself a player to remember by helping Detroit win an NFL championship. Injuries would ail him in 1958, and he faced team discipline in 1959 after missing a team plane. In three seasons with the Lions, he rushed for 1,145 yards and seven touchdowns. He was traded to the Steelers after the 1959 season.

Curley Culp

  • Position: Defensive tackle
  • College: Arizona State
  • Seasons Played: 1968–81
  • Seasons With the Lions: 1980–81
  • Year Inducted: 2013
  • Stats: 13 fumble recoveries
  • Awards: NEA NFL Defensive Player of the Year (1975)
  • All-Pro: 1975, 1978–79
  • Pro Bowl: 1969, ’71, 1975–78

The Lions signed Curley Culp in 1980 after he was waived by the Houston Oilers and the Washington Football Team during the season to bolster a defensive line that was hoping to lead Detroit into the playoffs. The Lions fell one win shy of the division title, and Culp would retire after a handful of games in 1981. He played just five total games with the Lions after building a reputation as one of the NFL’s strongest defensive lineman with the Chiefs and the Oilers.

Frank Gatski

  • Position: Center
  • College: Marshall, Auburn
  • Seasons Played: 1946–57
  • Seasons With the Lions: 1957
  • Year Inducted: 1985
  • All-Pro: 1952–55
  • Pro Bowl: 1956

Frank Gatski knew how to win championships. He joined the Lions in 1957 after picking up seven titles with the Browns from 1946 to ‘56. He won another in 1957—by beating the Browns. Gatski was a true ironman, having played every game of his career and never missing a practice.

Ollie Matson

  • Position: Running back
  • College: San Francisco
  • Seasons Played: 1952, 1954–66
  • Seasons With the Lions: 1963
  • Year Inducted: 1972
  • Stats: 5,173 rushing yards, 40 rushing TDs, 23 receiving TDs
  • Legacy Honors: NFL 1950s All-Decade Team
  • All-Pro: 1952, 1954–57
  • Pro Bowl: 1952, 1954–58

Ollie Matson played one season with the Lions, but he didn’t leave a lasting mark on franchise history. In eight games, he gained just 40 offensive yards and had 61 yards returning kicks, leaving 1963 as the only year in his career in which he didn’t score a touchdown. Matson also played for the Cardinals, Rams and Eagles.

Hugh McElhenny

  • Position: Running back
  • College: Washington
  • Seasons Played: 1952–64
  • Seasons With the Lions: 1964
  • Year Inducted: 1970
  • Stats: 5,281 rushing yards, 38 rushing TDs, 20 receiving TDs
  • Legacy Honors: NFL 1950s All-Decade Team
  • All-Pro: 1952–54, 1956–57
  • Pro Bowl: 1952–53, 1956–58, ’61

Hugh McElhenny closed a Hall of Fame career with one season for the Lions. He was most known for his exploits with the 49ers; while in Detroit he only appeared in eight games. During those few games, he gained 64 offensive yards and had 72 return yards.

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Toronto FC hoping to make MLS Cup run having spent much of 2020 far from home



On a recent Thursday in Hartford, Conn., Toronto FC goalkeeper Quentin Westberg pondered the dichotomy of wanting to reach MLS Cup on Dec. 12, but also desiring to see his family again. Meanwhile, Jim Liston, the team’s director of sports science, was planning a trip to Lowe’s to buy 15 garbage cans so players could have an ice bath after training. As for manager Greg Vanney, he was fretting about his team’s health and the lack of practice time their schedule was affording.

Such is the life of a team as it attempts to not only navigate its way through the COVID-19 pandemic, but has been forced to do it away from home.

Due to travel restrictions between the U.S. and Canada, TFC — like the league’s other two Canadian teams, Montreal Impact and Vancouver Whitecaps — set up a “home” base in the U.S. for the remainder of the season; Toronto were stationed in Hartford. (Vancouver Whitecaps took roost in Portland, ground-sharing with Timbers, while Montreal Impact split use of New York Red Bulls’ facilities in Harrison, N.J.) This was on top of nearly every team spending nearly a month inside a bubble back in July at the MLS is Back Tournament outside Orlando, Florida.

The Reds spent about seven weeks back in Toronto as they played a series of matches against Canadian teams. In mid-September, the remainder of the regular season — and the temporary move to Hartford — beckoned. The vagabond nature of the campaign is what led Liston to joke that he was willing to discuss “whatever five seasons” the team has been through so far. But for Vanney and the players, the campaign has required a special kind of focus.

“A lot of what we’ve done here, and what we try to preach here is just control the controllables, and don’t get too drawn into the things you can’t,” Vanney told ESPN. “Roll with it, and make the best out of whatever the situation is.”

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Toronto has largely succeeded in spite of its odyssey. While there was disappointment at missing out on the Supporters’ Shield to the Philadelphia Union, TFC went 7-3-2 during its Hartford sojourn and finished with the second-best record in the league. But the challenges have still been immense. Simply being out of one’s home environment is difficult enough, but the time spent away from family and loved ones weighs heavy on the psyche, even as Vanney has given players the occasional trip back to Toronto — under quarantine — to reconnect with loved ones.

“It’s just very different, very challenging and emotionally exhausting,” Westberg said of his experience while based in Hartford.

Westberg has arguably had it tougher than most. The TFC goalkeeper is married with four children, including a baby girl who was born in June. For that reason, Westberg and his wife, Ania, made the decision at the end of September that it would be better for her and their kids to head back to his native France so they could be surrounded by family. Westberg called it “the least bad decision,” but there are difficulties nonetheless.

“I’m a very even person, and this year has challenged me a lot,” he said. “I’m still pretty even, but I keep a lot to myself and for sure there’s some difficult days, seeing your family [struggle] from your absence.”

The inability to be home has affected the players and staff in other ways. In Toronto, there are ways of disengaging from the game. Being with friends, loved ones or even in familiar surroundings can be the best medicine in terms of forgetting a bad game or training session. But in Hartford, at the team’s hotel, that escape is nearly impossible even as players try to distract themselves by reading or taking online classes.

“You don’t really unplug,” Westberg said. “You FaceTime family, or this or that, but it’s too short. You’re 100 percent focused on your soccer, and your whole day basically relies on being ready for whatever soccer activity that you have next, whether it’s practice or game. It’s good for your physique, it’s optimal for the way you eat and the way you [train]. But mentally, you’re not as fresh as your body.”

That isn’t to say there are only negatives to the separation. There is also an us-against-the-world mentality that Toronto has adopted, given that their players and personnel are experiencing the season in a way that is vastly different than most other teams. The team staff has done what it can to make their surroundings a home away from home, whether it’s personalizing the locker rooms at Rentschler Field or having hotel staff brand the surroundings in TFC colors. The hotel went so far as to bring in a barista who could consistently give the players their coffee fix. Supporters groups have even sent down banners in a bid to convey the fact that the players are remembered.

The care that TFC takes for players has extended to families back home, with the club supplying meals to loved ones three times a week.

On the logistical side, Liston made sure that one of the gyms used at MLS is Back was brought to TFC’s hotel in Hartford, and he remarked that the food at the hotel is “arguably the best we’ve ever had on the road.”

There have also been efforts to create new routines. Assistant coach Jason Bent, aka DJ Soops, has been in charge of the pregame music selection for the past 18 months — no easy feat for a squad that has a considerable international presence. In Hartford, Bent has set aside Thursday nights to spin music in one area of the hotel. He’ll even go live on Instagram or Twitch for those who prefer to relax in their rooms.

“[We] opened it to players and staff and basically anyone that’s part of our bubble to come relax, listen to music and just enjoy each other’s company,” Bent said. “I enjoy making people happy so if it’s helping everyone even in the slightest, I have no problem arranging the set and spinning.”

For Vanney, the pandemic and operating outside of the team’s home market has meant any number of challenges. He said the team has used three different training facilities in Hartford, with varying field conditions. He recognizes that the trips home are vital for the mental health of his players and staff, but any breaks also mean less time spent on the practice field. The compressed schedule, which at times involved games every three or four days, has had an impact as well. Even the best-laid plans in terms of squad rotation were impacted as minor injuries began popping up.

“We end up with a lot of guys in different positions because they need special kinds of treatment or care to help them get fit and back to health,” Vanney said. “So it ends up being a lot of different things kind of going on all at once, and that’s been the challenge of it.”

Recovery from matches has been complicated by the fact that TFC doesn’t have access to the same level of facilities that it does at home — hence Liston’s emergency trip to Lowe’s to fashion impromptu ice baths for the players. Then there are the different ways the players occupy themselves on the road as compared to home, especially amid the pandemic.

“There’s really no life outside of the hotel,” Liston said. “[At home], you may go walk the dog in the afternoon or go for a walk with your wife or friend or girlfriend or family and you’re out and about. The recommendation [here] is to kind of stay put. So you’ve got a really active population and pro athletes, who we’re asking them to be sedentary the rest of the time, kind of stay in the hotel from a COVID and safety standpoint. That’s not optimal for recovery either.”

There are also the creature comforts of home that are no longer available on the road, which can impact sleep.

“Sleep is the number one tool for recovery, and that’s definitely been a challenge,” Liston said. “We do well-being questionnaires and the scores on quality of sleep, and hours of sleep, just drop.”



Tom Barlow and Brian White seal Toronto’s fate in a 2-1 win for New York Red Bulls. Watch MLS on ESPN+.

Another change has been same-day travel, which has drawn mixed reactions from the TFC players and staff. Vanney and Westberg are generally in favor, saying it reminds them of when they each played in France. Flying back the same night also means a training day isn’t lost. Liston has a different perspective in that he prefers arriving the day before, and then leaving the same day.

“I think [same-day travel] makes for a really long day,” he said. “And there’s definitely a negative impact on performance, taking three bus rides and a plane ride before your game. You’re getting home — it can be 12:30, but it could also be 1:30 in the morning, and that’s where you know our well-being scores and sleep hours and quality just disappear. When you have so many games in succession, you can’t make up the sleep.”

With the playoffs set to begin for TFC on Nov. 24, the end is in sight, even as it makes for a complex — and even conflicting — set of emotions.

“This is the tricky part. I miss them a lot,” Westberg said of his family. “But in a way I want to see them as [late] as possible in December, because obviously, there’s this idea that we want to do well in the playoffs and we want to keep going. TFC has a history of setting high standards and high expectations. It’s a heavy load to carry but also an exciting one.”

Win or lose, it’s a season they’ll never forget.


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Bettman: NHL is mulling temporary realignment



The NHL is considering a temporary realignment of its teams for the 2020-21 season due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, according to commissioner Gary Bettman.

Bettman said Tuesday that restrictions on travel across the Canadian border, as well as “limitations in terms of quarantining when you go from certain states to other states” within the United States, could mean the NHL creates a more regionalized alignment for its upcoming season.

“As it relates to the travel issue, which is obviously the great unknown, we may have to temporarily realign to deal with geography, because having some of our teams travel from Florida to California may not make sense. It may be that we’re better off — particularly if we’re playing a reduced schedule, which we’re contemplating — keeping it geographically centric and more divisional-based; and realigning, again on a temporary basis, to deal with the travel issues,” Bettman said during a 2020 Paley International Council Summit panel with fellow commissioners Adam Silver of the NBA and Rob Manfred of MLB.

The NHL board of governors has a meeting scheduled for Thursday which will provide a progress report and possible recommendations for a season format, based on talks between the league and the NHL Players’ Association. The target date for starting next season remains Jan. 1.

Bettman said the league is considering a few scheduling options for the 2020-21 season. Something that’s off the table: playing the entire season in the kind of bubbles the NHL had in Toronto and Edmonton, Alberta, to complete last season. But Bettman said teams opening in their own arenas is a possibility, along with a modified bubble.

“We are exploring the possibility of playing in our own buildings without fans [or] fans where you can, which is going to be an arena-by-arena issue. But we’re also exploring the possibility of a hub. You’ll come in. You’ll play for 10 to 12 days. You’ll play a bunch of games without traveling. You’ll go back, go home for a week, be with your family. We’ll have our testing protocols and all the other things you need,” he said.

Bettman also indicated that the NHL is exploring “a hybrid, where some teams are in a bubble, some teams play at home and you move in and out.”

The NBA’s board of governors unanimously approved a deal with the players’ union that sets the stage for a season that will open on Dec. 22 and with a reduced schedule of 72 games. Silver said that the commissioners are in communication on COVID-19-related issues, especially the NBA and the NHL, since the two leagues’ teams share arenas and, in some cases, team owners.

Silver said he senses that the NBA will have fans in many of its buildings this season.

“We’re probably going to start one way, where we’re maybe a little bit more conservative than many of the jurisdictions allow,” he said. “What we’ve said to our teams is that we’ll continue to work with public health authorities. Arena issues are different than outdoor stadium issues. There will be certain standards for air filtration and air circulation. There may be a different standard for a suite than there will be for fans spaced in seats.”

Silver said there will be standardized protocols that are consistent from arena to arena, such as proximity between players and fans: “In certain cases, for seats near the floor, we’re going to be putting in testing programs, where fans will certify that they’ve been tested — some within 48 hours, some within day of game.” While Silver supported a continued expansion of the NBA postseason through its play-in tournament, Bettman said that he’s not in favor of expanded playoffs or “playing with the fundamentals of the game.” The NHL had 24 teams in its postseason last summer.


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The Battleground States Where We’ve Seen Some Movement In The Polls



With apologies to The Raconteurs, the presidential race continues to be “steady as she goes,” with little sign of tightening despite a plethora of new polls. FiveThirtyEight’s presidential forecast gives Joe Biden an 89 in 100 shot at winning the election, while President Trump has just an 11 in 100 chance. This makes Biden the favorite, but still leaves open a narrow path to victory for Trump, for whom a reelection win would be surprising — but not utterly shocking.

At the same time, we also have fewer polls from live-caller surveys, which have historically been more accurate and have shown slightly better numbers for Biden, than polls that use other methodologies, such as polls conducted primarily online or through automated telephone calls. Nevertheless, while the overall picture has shifted only a little in recent days, a few battleground states have seen at least some movement in their polls, which has slightly altered the odds Biden or Trump wins in each of those places.

What election stories need to get more coverage | FiveThirtyEight Politics Podcast


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