Detroit Lions Gridiron Heroes
Photo courtesy of the NFL Hall of Fame
QB Earl "Dutch" Clark was one of the original Lions, coming to Detroit in 1934 when G.A. Richards purchased the team and moved the franchise from Portsmouth, Ohio. Clark, who wore No. 7, was designated a quarterback because he threw passes, but he was really a single-wing tailback. In those days, signals were called by the blocking back, but such was Clark's feel for the game that he was put in charge of calling Head Coach Potsy Clark's plays.
The Clarks led the Lions to their first championship in only their second season in Detroit (1935), and the club was fortunate Dutch was with it. (It was the middle of the Depression, and Clark had "retired" after spending the 1931 and 1932 seasons with the Portsmouth Spartans. He could earn more as athletic director and coach at the Colorado School of Mines.)
For the magnificent sum of $144 per game, Clark became a smash with the Spartans. He was Rookie of the Year and All-Pro, completing more than half of his passes at a time when 35-45 percent was the norm. In 1936, the year after the Lions won the championship, Clark paced a powerful ground attack to 2,855 yards, a record that stood for 36 seasons until the Miami Dolphins took advantage of a lengthened schedule to break it in 1972. Clark gained 628 yards, third best in the league that season, completed 53.6 percent of his passes (league average: 36.5) and was the NFL's leading scorer. Clark even kicked field goals and extra points and is generally considered the last of the great drop kickers. Including Portsmouth, Clark was All-NFL six of seven years, and he was the NFL scoring champ three times.
To this day, he is still tied for the Lions single-game record with 24 points scored vs. Brooklyn October 22, 1934. In 1934 when the Lions kicked off the franchise's Thanksgiving Day tradition, he was the first quarterback for that holiday classic. He took over the reins as player/coach for the Lions in 1937 and '38, but went to the Cleveland Rams when they offered him a job as their coach in 1939. He coached them for four seasons before joining the Army during World War II. Clark was one of 17 members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame charter Class of 1963. He was also selected to the All-Decade Team of the 1930s and to the NFL's 75th Anniversary All-Two Way Team. Earl 'Dutch' Clark died August 4, 1978 at the age of 71.
Clark's Career Stats