Detroit Lions Gridiron Heroes
Photo courtesy of the NFL Hall of Fame
CB Jack Christiansen, who was inducted in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1970, was the honorary chief of "Chris' Crew," the first defensive backfield celebrated for its collective prowess. Their skill and fame helped change the way football put defensive units together. No longer would running back rejects be shifted to the other side of the line. With the rise of "Chris' Crew", teams looked for players adept at coverage, hitting and intercepting. That defensive backfield was a key cog in the team's three championships in the 1950s (1952, 1953 and 1957).
He was an impact defensive player, and in an era of great change in football, Christiansen was a dominant figure. Christiansen was so dominant that in 1972 Football Digest selected him as one of the top 25 players ever to perform in the NFL. He was an All-NFL defensive back for six-straight years, played in five Pro Bowls (opening the 1956 game with a 103-yard kickoff return) and led the league in interceptions twice. He was a member of the All-Decade Team of the 1950s.
During his career, Christiansen, with 46, ranks fourth on the Lions' all-time interceptions list. Not only was he a defensive standout, but he was a dangerous returner. Teams altered both their passing patterns and punt formations around Christiansen. As a punt returner, he had 85 returns for 1,084 yards, and his 12.8 average still stands as a team record and is third all-time in NFL history. His 21.5 average for the 1952 season (15 for 322) is second all-time to Herb Rich's 1950 mark of 23.0 yards for Baltimore.
He is tied with Lem Barney for the most return touchdowns (11) in team history. Christiansen still has the team record with eight punt return touchdowns. He was the first player in NFL history to record two punt return touchdowns in the same game. In fact, he returned two punts for touchdowns in the same game twice in his career (vs. Los Angeles October 14, 1951 and vs. Green Bay November 22, 1951), and is still just one of three players in league history to accomplish this feat.
Considered too small, Jack Christiansen didn't even plan to play college football. He first thought that he would concentrate as a sprinter on the track team at Colorado A&M (now Colorado State), but he was coaxed out for football as a sophomore and he starred in the very first game he ever played. From then on for the next three years, Christiansen was a star as a return man, on defense, and as a ball carrier. The Lions drafted Christiansen in the sixth round (69th overall) in the 1951 NFL Draft. Jack Christiansen died June 29, 1986 at the age of 57.
Christiansen's Career Lions' Stats
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