Detroit Lions Gridiron Heroes
Photo courtesy of the Detroit Lions
Perhaps no other player was as versatile and as productive in the 1950s as Doak Walker was, but after playing just six seasons with Detroit from 1950-55, he walked away from the game in the prime of his career. “I’d been on three division champions, two world champions, I’d been to five Pro Bowls, I’d been All-Pro four times,” he told the Detroit News’s Jerry Green in 1986. “What else was there to do?”
The 5-11, 173-pound Texan was the first junior to win the Heisman Trophy, which he did in 1948 while at Southern Methodist. He had won the Maxwell Trophy as a sophomore. Walker’s specialty was the scoreboard. He totaled 534 points, twice winning the NFL scoring title, and still ranks fifth on Detroit’s career scoring list. In just six seasons he kicked enough extra points (183) that he still ranks fourth on the team’s all-time list.
When Walker wound up his six-year career after the 1955 campaign, he had been named All-NFL several times and selected to five Pro Bowls (1951-52, 1954-56). It’s no coincidence that, during his six-year career, the Lions enjoyed their finest years ever with three divisional titles and NFL championship victories over the Cleveland Browns in 1952 and 1953.
Walker also had a knack of making the big plays in the most important games. In 1952, he returned from an injury-enforced layoff to throw a 24-yard touchdown pass to Leon Hart in the divisional showdown against the Los Angeles Rams. In the NFL title game a week later, Doak rushed for 97 yards, and his 67-yard jaunt proved to be the winning tally in a 17-7 victory.
A year later, in the NFL championship, Walker scored the game's first touchdown and then kicked the winning point in a 17-16 triumph over the Browns. During his career, he registered 309 rushing attempts for 1,520 yards (4.9 avg) and 12 touchdowns. He caught 152 passes for 2,539 yards, averaged 39.1 yards as a sometimes-punter (50-1,955) and kicked 49 field goals. As an infrequent return man, Walker ran back 38 kickoffs for 968 yards (25.5 average) and 18 punts for 284 yards (15.8 average). As a rookie, he was All-NFL and was the 1950 Rookie of the Year. Doak Walker died September 27, 1998, at age of 71.
Walker's Career Lions' Stats
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